The general subject of the semester is literacy. Because this is a synthesis paper, it will go beyond simply reporting your own gut feelings, but will rather use outside sources and evidence to give your paper depth and credibility.
Your Writing Task
Choose one of the three topics below:
- Since the beginning of the recent presidential campaign, we have heard an enormous amount about "fake news." Politicians seem to see only two categories: "fake" and "real," with no middle ground. For this paper:
- Develop your own working definition of "fake news," based on information from outside sources (not just your own feelings),
- Deal with the question whether there is a middle ground between "fake" and "real" news,
- Discuss the difference between "fake news" and plain error, and finally,
- Come up with a strategy by which a reader can tell the difference between "fake news" and "real news."
- Scholars who are writing papers have always struggled with credibility of sources; the advent of the Internet has simply made the issue more intense because anybody with a computer can put up a web page and claim that an assertion is true. What resources are available to the undergraduate scholar for evaluating the reliability of outside information—particularly of Internet sources? What strategy can you suggest for finding reliable information, particularly in an area where you are not an expert? (And why would your strategy work better than simply guessing or accepting everything that is thrown at you?)
- In "Mother Tongue," Amy Tan suggests that questions for standardized tests can imply certain cultural assumptions. Do some research on cultural bias associated with nationally normed or standardized tests such as ACT, PSAT, SAT, or Miller Analogies. Based on your experience with any of these tests and your research, do you think that cultural bias is a controversial issue worthy of discussion? What is your position on this issue? (Note that this is not a paper about Amy Tan or about "Mother Tongue." It's about cultural bias and standardized tests.)
Hints for Success:
A successful synthesis paper has several characteristics.
- It limits its topic. You only have five pages to work with, so you cannot hope to deal with everything related to cultural bias or reliability of source material.
- It has a tight focus on its limited topic: It does not go wandering off to other topics the writer thought of in passing.
- It does not get stuck in ozone speculations.
- It tells the truth. Wild guesses, conspiracy theories, and discussion of the writer's favorite opinions do not count.
- It depends on evidence to support its point. You are not an expert in any of these fields, but you can write something worthwhile by using evidence from other experts. A paper that depends on the writer's feelings, opinions, and guesses is worthless, even if outside sources show up as slogans in the paper.
- It is more than a collection of quotations. Just stringing a lot of quotes together does not make a point, even if you cite them and avoid plagiarism. You need to do the work of interpreting and synthesizing.
Length: The equivalent of a five-page paper. A five-page paper should be between 1520 and 1820 words long, not counting title, your name, etc. The Works Cited page does not count as part of the five-page minimum.
- The paper will have in-text citations and a Works Cited page (which does not count toward the minimum page count).
- The in-text citations and the Works Cited page will follow the MLA format. A "mixed format" with some aspects of APA and some of MLA is not acceptable.
- It will refer to at least four sources.
Format: Standard MLA format. (12-point Times Roman type, double-spaced, 1" margin all around, MLA header.)
Submitting the paper:
- The English Department wants electronic copies of all your essays this semester, so please upload the final product to the drop box in Blackboard. Some students (especially those who use Google
Docs) have trouble figuring out how to do this, so ask if you are uncertain how to proceed!
- If you have any trouble getting the Blackboard upload to work, simply print a copy and bring it to class.
- Final copy: Friday, April 13, 2018
The body of the essay is worth 150 points.