Synthesis Essay

Synthesis Assignment: Evaluating Environmental Positions, Arguments, and Support

Evaluating arguments requires that the reader engage in complex thinking. The importance of this skill can’t be minimized for Americans: early in our history, Thomas Jefferson advocated for a public school system based on his belief that a functioning participatory democracy needed citizens to be well educated enough to make informed choices. To this end, students will learn to evaluate arguments, decide which points-of-view are the most convincing and/or logical, and incorporate those elements into their own opinions, thereby developing new combinations of thought. During this essay cycle, we’ll acquire some basic skills to aid us in this endeavor and write an essay that will engage with the basic questions of our course theme.

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First, it is important to understand that this type of thinking and writing activity is the backbone of much of our society; politics, science, and academia all exist as a constant dialogue between opposing or complimentary viewpoints. Participants in these areas are constantly researching and negotiating different information in an attempt to produce a new approach to an established issue or unresolved problem.

Our synthesis essay is quite formal and will require you to do the following in three broad sections:

Briefly summarize the origins of the preservation/conservation debate by providing historical context and establish a thesis statement (claim) that covers your position. Your position can be preservationist or conservationist, a mixture between the two, or an outright rejection of both.
Explain your position within the preservation/conservation debate using at least three points of discussion supported by two or more outside sources. Use these sources to demonstrate how your opinion has been informed. In other words, your discussion should show how your position has been influenced and/or changed by these sources. You may use any source found through research or any material I have assigned thus far in class (It is fine to use Roosevelt or Muir or any reading we’ve covered as well as your own research).
Support your position by using an example found through research that demonstrates that your position applies to the current day. To complete this portion, you’ll need to find a journal article that discusses a specific issue/park that helps you explain your position within the preservation/conservation debate. Your journal article should be peer-reviewed, come from a professional/academic journal, be at least 8 pages in its original context, and be no more than 15 years old in its publishing date.
I recommend that you use the UM library searchable online databases, Journal Finder, or OneSearch.

Purpose: The primary goal of the assignment is to evaluate at least two arguments/position statements and produce an informed opinion based on those artifacts.

Audience: Write for an assembled college audience, both faculty and student. Imagine yourself as having accepted an invitation to speak on the topic in front of a group.

Requirements: Your essay must be at least 4 pages long (about 1200 words) and include material from at least three sources. Successful essays often employ many sources beyond the minimum. Use at least two sources to explain your position in the preservation/conservation debate. The other source should come from an academic or professional journal and should be used as an example in the last third of the essay. The week it is due, I will create a submission link within the lesson and you will submit your essay by the time limit.

Format: Your essay must be in MLA format with in-text citations which refer to an accompanying Works Cited page (which is not included in the page limit). You may use a website like: to aid in your MLA format. Be aware that not using source work for the essay or formatting it incorrectly will greatly affect your grade and standing in the class.

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