Chapter 5: Writing a Summary and Synthesizing

5.4 Informative vs. Argumentative Synthesis

Svetlana Zhuravlova

In academic research and writing, synthesizing of the information from the obtained available resources results in novelty, discovery, reaching to the common sense on a debatable issue, clarifying the perplexity of the subject under the discussion,or making the point on a controversial topic. Your rhetorical goal for writing a synthesis essay will be identified by the given assignment. In your First-Year Writing courses, you may write an Informative/Explanatory Synthesis and/or an Argumentative Synthesis.

What is an Informative/Explanatory Synthesisis?

In informative writing, you are explaining the discussion points and topics to your readers without taking a position of one side or another, without showing your opinion. Even if the topic is debatable and highly controversial, instead of promoting your personal opinion, you have to objectively introduce the ideas of others, explain and show how their information is related to each other’s, how the information may connect and diverge. You are not showing your agreement with some authors and disagreement with the others. You should stay neutral both in your comments on the found information and in your conclusions reached at the end of the discussion.

Organize the discussion among the authors of your sources as was explained in Section 5.2 under “How do You Synthesize?

  • Example: Numerous authors wonder if this is a natural progression over time because of the laws that have changed or a shift in ideals that redefine what free speech is supposed to be…  Author N believes that [free speech] is not controlled enough in the interest of the people, while Authors B and D believe that, in an ideal world, opinions would be formed and spoken without repercussion and merely be a part of language…

 At the end of the discussion, draw your neutral conclusionon the topic:

  • Example: The question if speech has become limited, affecting the right to freedom of speech, lies in the hands of the people and the justice system itself.

Additional examples for Explanatory Synthesis here

 What is an Argumentative Synthesis?

Everything you learned about Argumentative Writing in chapters of this textbook is true and valid for writing an Argumentative Synthesis. The main difference may be that you are to support your ideas with evidence found in multiple sources, show and explain how the authors’ opinions relate, who of your authors agree and who disagree on the controversial issue, while your comments on the information retrieved from these sources and your conclusions will clarify your own positionin the debate.

First, you start the debate with the assertion that sets the goal for the debate, its controversy:

  • Example: Societal changes are a large part in the debate of free speech and its limitations. The debate is about whether offensive speech should be punished when it is said with the intent to psychologically harm a group or person, or if immoral or scandalous speech should be off-limits.

Then, you are moderating the debate among the experts

  • Professor of Law E disagrees…
  • His thought is echoed by Professor R from the University of …
  • Authors F and S also discuss and assess…
  • Following in their steps, Authors D and T express…
  • Unfortunately, in opposition to their respect, Author X asserts that…
  • This brings us back to the view point of Authors F and S, who argue that…

Finally, conclude the discussion and finalize your position:

  •  Thus, hateful and immoral speech – which typically associates itself with low-value because of harmful words – will continue to find its limitations in the world even if it is not through government operations… 

When you synthesize, you are a part of the discussion and a leader of the discussion that you have initiated. You are introducing the voices and ideas of others, so you should be flexible and fair to all participating authors. You should avoid personal attack, as well as other logical fallacies in your comments on the information borrowed from your source materials. Read more in 6.5 Logical Fallacies




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