What must my essay include?
A synthesis essay is one that combines ideas from several sources to develop a new theory or thesis statement. In the case of your final essay, you may quote or paraphrase from no fewer than three of our in-class readings (including either of the films or Bob Dylan’s song). You may also use your own experience as part of the essay. If you are writing about “loss,” you would want to highlight ideas from the in-class readings that deal with loss in order to develop your own new idea about loss. You are not limited to writing about loss though. You may write about being out of your comfort zone. You may write about exploration and the human spirit. You may write about any other theme that has occurred to you throughout the course of this quarter.
All essays must include titles. Your title should encapsulate the theme and/ or subject matter of your essay in as few words as possible. If you look back at the readings from class you may find inspiration. “Open Door” is an essay about the importance of being open to the unknown. “Mother Tongue,” which may be the cleverest title from class, is a pun that refers to someone’s first language, which in English we call a mother tongue, but in Amy Tan’s essay it also refers to the way her mother speaks English. Her title kills two birds with one stone, so to speak, because her essay is both about her’s English and about the English language in general (which is also Tan’s mother tongue).
Your introduction must catch your reader’s attention as well as identify the topic. You may also think about introducing your voice here. Think back to Amy Tan’s essay for a moment. She introduces herself as a humble speaker who wants to have a conversation about the English language. She doesn’t set herself up as an expert who might talk down to her readers. Rather, she puts herself on their level. You may try using the template we made from Amy Tan’s essay to introduce your essay. But you may look at other examples as well. I think Rebecca Solnit catches my attention because her first two sentences sound so shocking. Eight years olds shouldn’t be getting drunk, I think. But when I think about it deeper, I think her introduction makes sense because the essay is about getting out of your comfort zone. Getting drunk is not the comfort zone of many 8-year-olds (of some, maybe, but that’s another story). What’s more, when you get drunk for the first time you might get dizzy. You may also get dizzy when you’re out of your comfort zone, so I see a connection there. As for Maxine Hong Kingston, I think her introduction attracts attention because her mom is about to tell her a secret. Usually secrets are really interesting. It turns out that this secret is interesting. I’m still not sure whether to believe Maxine Hong Kingston’s aunt was a real person or made up by her mother to scare her. You should strive to write an introduction that’s appropriate for your subject matter, but remember the introduction must do three things: catch a reader’s attention, introduce your topic (and your voice), and lead to the thesis statement.
Thesis Statement: By the time we get to your thesis statement your topic should be made clear. Your thesis statement should tell me what you’re going to say about your topic. For example, if you’re writing about getting out of your comfort zone you need to tell me why. You may argue that getting out of your comfort zone leads to personal growth and better prepares you for dealing with the unforeseen crises that life will present you. Finally, before you transition into the body of your essay, you want to say a sentence of two about why your thesis is important for readers to understand. If you can give readers a sense of why they should read your essay here, there’s a better chance that they’ll read it and enjoy reading it. I would say it’s important to understand that getting out of your comfort zone better prepares you for dealing with unforeseen crises because your life, like mine, will encounter unforeseen crises. To some extent, we’re all still living through one of those in this pandemic. To recap, your thesis should tell me what you’re going to say/claim about your topic and it should end by telling me why I should care.
The body of your paper should be a conversation between you and your sources that shows how you derived your thesis statement. In many ways, the body is the product of all of the reading you’ve done in preparation for this paper. One reason I ask you to keep track of notable quotes from all of our readings is because this essay calls for you to show some of your work. You want to include quotes from the readings, but you also want to use them as doorways into your own thinking. This is why you write a few sentences about why the quotes you’ve chosen stand out to you in your reading response. In this section you might want to focus on the relationship or connections between different readings. Discussions on Canvas have prepared you for this. Everyone successfully discussed how the short film Kitbull and the song “Like a Rolling Stone” related to Rebecca Solnit’s “Open Door.” In your discussion, you may also bring in your own experiences as illustrations of ideas from one of the essays. You may talk about how your experience mirrors Amy Tan’s or how the kitten in the short film reminds you of yourself or someone you know.
Here you want to think about the “so what?” question. Why is all of this important? Do you want to call your readers to action? Do you want them to think deeply about a social problem? Do you want them to care about a personal problem of yours? However you answer those questions, your conclusion should convince readers of the importance of your thesis. You don’t want to simply restate your thesis. You want your readers to feel it, to think about it.