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7.1 Assignment for Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essay

Warm Up: Your Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essaybuild-your-brain.jpg

In the beginning of Jane Tompkins’ “Indians: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History,” after providing some context for her relationship to the subject at hand, she identifies and describes a specific problem that must be resolved. She asserts that it “concerns the difference point of view makes when people are giving accounts of events, whether first or second hand. The problem is that if all accounts of events are determined through and through by the observer’s frame of reference, then one will never know, in any given case, what really happened” (Tompkins 102). She then takes her reluctant readers (colleagues/professors on the other side of the “theory wars”) on an adventure through extensive research of secondary and primary sources–even firsthand accounts–which help her to identify the problem and discover much about herself. Ultimately, she formulates a solution based on analyzing and evaluating a variety of sources. In essence, she synthesizes the knowlege and experience to come to a conclusion that “Reasons must be given, evidence adduced, authorities cited, and analogies drawn. Being aware that facts are motivated, believing that people are always operating in side some particular framework or other [including theory and worldview] is a pertinent argument when what is under discussion is the way beliefs are grounded. But it doesn’t give one leverage on the facts of a particular case” (Tompkins 118). Tompkins uses inductive reasoning and clever argumentation, persuasive appeals and rhetorical strategies, to persuade her reluctant reader that one can and must come to a sufficient truth on which to make moral judgements on issues that require them, and this is her major claim. She resolves “What this means for the problem I’ve been addressing is that I must piece together the story of European-Indian relationships as best I can, believing this version up to a point, that version not at all, another almost entirely, according to what seems reasonable and plausible, given everything else that I know” (Tompkins 118). Ultimately, she also asserts that the way history is taught needs to change, but that unfortunately, she is a Professor of Literature, not a History Professor. The good news is that the way history is taught has changed quote a bit since the 80’s. 

Now it is your turn to put aside any bias you may have and to “piece together” your objective research on question or issue facing this nation. Once you have determined your conclusion (major claim), you will work to persuade a reluctant/resistant (perhaps uninformed) reader to consider (maybe even accept) your position though the carefully constructed “story” and experience of your research, as Tompkins did, with advanced analysis, evaluation and synthesis of a variety of perspectives. Through your close work with Tompkins’ text, you were introduced to a nuanced, inductive argument–something you are now challenged to do. Tompkins, in particular, provides an excellent model for the project you are about to undertake. 

This essay is due on the last day of class. 

  1. Use Tompkins’ essay as a model for your own. 
  2. From the list below, choose ONE of the issues facing the United States. I have identified the issue and provided you with required sources, which you must analyze, evaluatecompare, and synthesize in your paper. 
  3. While you may already have a position on the issue you select, do not formulate your conclusion/major claim until thoroughly researching a diversity of perspectives on the issue. Practice the critical thinking skills you have learned in this course and keep an open mind. You may want to review previous modules, but you should give your mind and heart over to the research and the process of discovery–about the issue and about yourself. Tompkins shares a lot with her readers, and this in turn strengthens her argument. You should do the same.
  4. Conduct extensive research on the question/problem and distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., as Tompkins did, and then narrow them down to best represent a diversity of perspectives in your paper. You are not restricted to U.S. sources. You must analyze and synthesize a total of 8 perspectives, which includes the ones that are required. Tertiary sources and other research will undoubtedly be needed and used, but they do not count in the 8 required perspectives (because they do not represent perspectives).
  5. Once you determine your conclusion/major claim, identify your audience, which should be resistant to your position. Like Tompkins, you are going to take them through your research to lead them to your conclusion.  
  6. Use inductive reasoning and Tompkins’ structure as a model for the writing of your essay:
    • narrate history and personal relationship (experiential, observational, and or intellectual) to the question/problem; if you have no history or relationship to the issue, you may use someone you know–be creative. Like Tompkins, begin with a strong appeals to pathos and ethos to engage your readers;
    • establish broader, national context for question/problem–this is your kairos;
    • establish exigency; 
    • present/define question/problem;
    • summarize, analyze, compare, and evaluate authors AND their arguments representing a diversity of perspectives (key: it is not enough to look at the primary text, as you must look at the writer and the original source of publication to evaluate bias, as Tompkins did);
    • synthesize research and response to it;
    • present your conclusion, your resolution or solution to the question/problem (which may side with one or more of your sources), and provide reasons and evidence to support it–this should be a minimum of one, well-developed page, not just a final paragraph;
    • if applicable, share any new question/s or problem/s encountered as a result of your research and critical thinking (as Tompkins did in her last paragraph).  
  7. Adapt Tompkins’ style and tone with your own; it is particularly effective for a resistant audience, a way of showing (rather than “telling”) and persuading them to arrive at your conclusion. Yes, you may use “I,” as you are taking your audience through your epistemological adventure, but be strategic with it. 
  8. Note: Remember, rarely is this type of argument (often called “Rogerian”) meant to utterly convince an audience; in fact, it is enough to just get a resistant audience to reconsider their own position/perspective in light of reading your comprehensive research and synthesis. One might also say that many people do not have fully informed opinions on subjects–this paper counters that. Arguments at this level are not about “winning,” and this is not a course in debate. This is about persuading an uninformed or reluctant reader (one who does not agree with you) to reconsider their position. 
  9. TIP: Your reader should not know your position until the end of the paper; as Tompkins did, you are arguing inductively. Also, do not insult your uninformed/reluctant audience. Tone matters. Take perspectives seriously, even when they are the opposite of your own. Most of you will review Tompkins before starting this.  

Choose from this list of Contemporary Issues Facing the United States 

You must choose one of the following three options (A, B, or C) for your paper–papers not on one of these topics will receive a zero.

(Note: While the Grossmont College Databases, especially Opposing Viewpoints, are excellent and should be used for your paper, you should also have no problem finding a plethora of perspectives on any of these current issues.)

A. Should the United States give reparations to African-Americans for Slavery?

Required Sources:

  1. “The Case for Reparations,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
  2. “The Case Against Reparations,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Kevin D. Williamson.
  3. Jordan Anderson, Letter to P.H. Anderson, (August 7, 1865) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

B. Should the United States open its border with Mexico?

Required Sources: 

  1. “Trump Officials Make Case for Border Wall” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  by Mallory Shelbourne 
  2. “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Alex Tabarrok
  3. “Here’s the Reality About Illegal Immigration in America” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel 

C. Should college be free in the United States? 

  1. “America Wakes Up from Its Dream of Free College” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Adam Harris 
  2.  “Free College Could Make America College-Free” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Ryan Craig 
  3. “The Case Against Free College Tuition”  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.by Richard Vedder 
  4. Statement by Senator Bernard Sanders on College for All Act (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Final essay should be:

  1. a clear response to ALL of the directions; 
  2. 8-10 pages in length;
  3. in correct MLA format and style, including in-text citations and the Works Cited page (do not include a cover page); 
  4. well organized with effective transitions between ideas and paragraphs;
  5. efficient with regards to close work with sources, including, but not limited to, precise and concise summary and the smooth integration of direct quotes, block quotes, and paraphrases;
  6. the product of original, deep critical thinking, both with regards to content and form.
  7.  meticulously proofread and primarily free of sentence-level errors;  
  8. contain a minimum of eight sources representing diverse perspectives (including the ones I have provided).
  9. contain additional tertiary research.

This essay will be run through VeriCite. The program ensures originality by comparing submissions to billions of sources of academic content, publisher’s content, and against your own submissions—far beyond just Grossmont and Cuyamaca. Papers receiving a VeriCite score over 15% may result in a zero on the assignment and academic probation from the college. A VeriCite report on an essay below 15% is usually acceptable A high plagiarism percentage on VeriCite is typically over 25% (yellow, orange or red), and it almost always represents academic fraud. Please do your own work, handle your sources responsibly, and contact me if you have any questions or concerns. 

Additional Review and Resources

For this assignment, I assume you know how to do college-level research. If you feel as though your last English course did not prepare you for the type of research and critical work with sources required by this assignment, below are some resources you may find helpful:

If you have any questions, please ask them well in advance of the due date. Questions sent the night before or the day the essay is due will probably not be answered. If you experience problems uploading this essay, call the 24-hour Canvas Hotline: 1-844-600-4953. Not being able to download the paper is not an acceptable excuse. All final essays must be run through Vericite. Papers not downloaded in time will receive a zero.

Rubric for Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essay CriteriaRatingsPtsThis criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThis essay is a comprehensive response to the directions and illustrates a deep understanding of Tompkins’ argument (it is modeled after it); the author makes a nuanced inductive argument that effectively uses the rhetorical situation, persuasive appeals, and targeted rhetorical strategies to persuade an uninformed/reluctant audience.This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.150.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe essay is 8-12 pages in length. Long block quotes and/or images are not used to meet page count.This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.50.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe essay is in correct MLA format and style, including in-text citations and the Works Cited page (a cover page is not included). This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.50.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe essay is well organized with effective transitions between ideas and paragraphs.The audience should be clearly guided through the argument.This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.50.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome The author works closely and critically with a minimum of 8 perspectives, introducing, summarizing, and contextualizing each of them, (i.e., academic meaty sentence, bias, etc.), and smoothly integrates direct quotes, block quotes, paraphrases with their own ideas and words. Quotes are not awkwardly dropped in and are are not used to begin or end paragraphs.Direct work with the texts is a must.This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.100.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe essay is meticulously proofread and primarily free of sentence-level errors.Essay must represent advanced, college-level reasoning, reading, and writing skills.This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.100.0 pts
                                                         Total Points: 500.0 

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