7.1 Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essay Assignment


7.1 Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essay Assignmen

  • Points 500

Warming Up for Your Final Tompkins-Style Synthesis Essay


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 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 come to a sufficient truth on which to make moral judgements on issues that require them. 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 argues that the way history is taught needs to change. This is her conclusion/major claim, one that she may have had trouble arriving at without research, and one she would have been less likely to convince her reluctant reader of if she had not taken them through her epistemological adventure.

Now it is your turn to put aside any bias you may have and to “piece together” your objective research on a current question or issue facing this nation. Once you have determined your conclusion (major claim), you will work to persuade a reluctant/resistant reader to consider (maybe even accept) your position though the story 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.


  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, evaluate, compare, 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 five perspectives in addition to the ones you are given to total 8 perspectives. Tertiary sources 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 uninformedand/or 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–as want to, 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;
    • 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 two, well-developed pages, 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” as well) is NOT 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. Most of you will review Tompkins before starting this.

List of Contemporary Issues Facing the United States and Required Sources

You must choose one of the following three options 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. 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. “Millennials May Eventually Shift Public Opinion on Slavery Reparations,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. PBS News Hour.
  4. Jordan Anderson, Letter to P.H. Anderson, (August 7, 1865) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

B. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation to the Supreme Court

Required Sources:

  1. “Why Judge Kavanaugh Should Be Confirmed to the Supreme Court” by Travis Weber and Gacek, The Family Research Council: EF18H23.pdf
  2. “The Boy’s Club that Protects Brett Kavanaugh” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Emily Witt
  3. “Trump Picked Kavanaugh. How Will He Change the Supreme Court,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Politico Magazine. (You are required to use two of these perspectives)
  4. “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Liked to the Senate About,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Lisa Graves, Slate.
  5. If you are shooting for an A on this paper, you must watch and use the testimonies of Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, available on YouTube. It is suggested that everyone at excerpt part of them.

C. Hip-Hop in the United States

  1. “Can Hip-Hop Inspire a New Generation of Architects?” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  2. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.“Jazz Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis Calls Rap Music ‘more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee’,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. by Ben Kaye.
  3. “This Is America,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.by Childish Gambino.
  4. “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back,” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. John H. McWhorter


Final essay should be:

  1. a clear response to ALL of the directions;
  2. 8-12 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:


NOTE CHANGE IN DUE TIME FROM 11:59pm to 10:00am!

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Rubric for Final Essay

Rubric for Final Essay

Criteria Ratings Pts

This 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.

150.0 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe essay is 8-12 pages in length. Long block quotes are not used to meet page count.

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 is CR/NC.

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.

50.0 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeThe author works closely and critically with a minimum of 8 different perspectives /sources, including, but not limited to introduction (including AMS), summary, and rhetorical strategies of analysis, comparison, and synthesis of each source; as well as the smooth integration of direct quotes, block quotes, and paraphrases. Quotes are not awkwardly dropped in and are are not used to begin or end paragraphs.Direct work with the texts is a must.

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.

100.0 pts