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GSW 1120: Gattozzi: Argument + Synthesis

Course guide for Professor Gattozzi's GSW 1120 courses


What makes writing art is its ability to surprise. Great writing is when someone communicates information in a new, surprising way. The same is true for film, music, sculpture, etc.

This comes from the ability to read differing viewpoints on a subject and relate subject matter across disciplines. A transcendent argument in finance arrives from knowing algebra, Microsoft Office, macroeconomics---and literature, film, and music.

This writing skill is called synthesis. You read a bunch, respond to the reading + generate your own argument. You synthesize one source with another to arrive at a third argument of your own.  

The bummer is there isn’t certainty of what makes “good” writing. There may be some general consensus, but there’s no magic other than writing, messing up, fixing it, messing up again, and fixing it some more.

There are some elements of argumentative writing, though, that are useful.

Watch the video below for some information on strategies to structure an argument.

Then view the information boxes below for examples of solid ways to construct a thesis, organize support paragraphs by subclaims, to develop your objectivity by conceding counterargument then refuting it—whether you plan on developing an individual paragraph by integrating one quote or multiple quotes from different sources.  


The video below highlights a few useful strategies to create a thesis statement.

There's no prescriptive list of what makes an organized, powerful thesis. The video posted in the Overview, though, has some solid ideas.

Some best practices are to begin your essay with exposition, to engage the reader and define your credibility by summarizing what the audience should know about the research question your project will investigate.

Keep your answer to the question, your thesis, focused and concise (two main points are better than seven).

List thesis after all intro / exposition is completed. That may be in line 4. That may be the middle of page 2. You choose--just be strategic about where to write the one sentence declaring your argument.

Paragraph Subclaims

Stating your thesis is a start. Throughout the project you're tasked with supporting the large claim, your thesis. You'll do that by developing somewhere around 2-5 subclaims articulating your thesis.

Some best practices here include leading each paragraph with an explicit subclaim, writing content describing how the subclaim fits in your argument, integrating a direct quote that generated the subclaim idea, then analyzing what the quote means and writing linking content to describe how it supports your thesis.

A subclaim paragraph can be informative. A minority of your paragraphs will be informative and will provide the reader exposition they'll need to understand your argument. For example, you can write an informative paragraph defining a difficult concept or giving exposition on a person, place, or event your reader must understand to make the critical leap within your argument.

Most subclaims, though, will be persuasive. These guide the reader through your argument, step-by-step, by explicitly reinforcing your thesis, a main point supporting it, and include analysis of a quote(s) along with descriptive content linking how your response to the quote supports your thesis.


Most argument are lost due to bias. Think about any time you've been in a group setting. Trying to get a consensus on what movie to see, what restaurant to hit, what time to leave, etc is a drag.

A powerful argumentative tool is to use counterargument, to concede why your argument may not be right. This shows you understand more angles to the issue than your peers (A person who's seen it may think seeing The Avengers again is a waste of time . . . ).

You can show you're the most critical thinker in the room by making the argument for and against your choice. This shows you're not biased, have thought about the issue, and can move ahead to reinforcing your argument by refuting the counterargument (Although seeing The Avengers twice is repetitive, the benefit of seeing it twice is . . . . . ).

Within your project you have the option of interjecting counterargument within a subclaim paragraph, after a subclaim paragraph, or as a stand-alone section of one or more paragraphs. Again, there isn't a prescriptive "correct" place to address counterargument. It's simply a strategy that's useful to reinforce your argument periodically throughout the project.


Rebuttal is the siamese twin to counterargument. Individually, they're only living if linked.

The purpose of counterargument is to show you're a critical-thinker, one dynamic enough to see various sides of an issue.

For counterargument to be powerful, wherever you decide to use it, refute it in a rebuttal subclaim or section. Lead by conceding the counterargument exists then write content arguing why the counterargument is misguided.

One Source Synthesis

Before reading about any topic you have preconceived notions about what's true. Then you read. Your initial stance is affirmed in some ways. You also find other threads in the subject, ones you never knew existed. These threads, either drastically or in tiny degrees, change you viewpoint. Using ONE SOURCE SYNTHESIS in a body paragraph is a great way to show your authority and persuade your audience.

One Source Synthesis is a pragmatic way to develop your argument by leading with a topic sentence subclaim, then describing the context of your argument then integrating ONE direct quote per paragraph to show you've researched the topic, can follow a documentation style, and are capable of responding to what you've read.

The trickiest part of One Source Synthesis is knowing how to write content leading into the quote and knowing how much to write afterward. Here are some rules of thumb

* Introduce author, article / book title and context of quote before quote

* Reader should know what they're supposed to take from quote before reading it. Explain context in your own words.

* Introduce quote and list quote in same sentence by using present tense verb transition (says, explains, clarifies, etc)

* Punctuate quote based on what kind of source you have

* End punctuation goes inside quotes for web-based sources

* End punctuation goes outside quotes for sources with a page number

* Majority of paragraph should occur after quote. Write 4-8 lines describing what quote means + how it relates to your argument

* Balance of your voice to quoted material in paragraph should be 80% YOU / 20% quote(s)

Visit MLA and Works Cited LibGuide tab for info how + examples of to introduce summary, paraphrase, and direct quotes.

Multiple Source Synthesis

The most dynamic, interesting ideas arrive when a writer makes connections between two seemingly disparate viewpoints into a third, new idea.

This is multiple source synthesis.

What separates multiple source synthesis from simply stacking quotes in a paragraph is your voice.

Your job is to describe the connections you've made between source(s) by using a linking verb when introducing a case of multiple source synthesis (agrees, disagrees, negates, clarifies, seconds, argues against, concurs, connects, etc).

Multiple source synthesis may be useful in the following contexts:

* Validation--if an initial source may be biased, introduce a second unbiased piece of evidence. Describe to your reader how second quote can support accuracy of first.

* Concede / Refute--We've established the power of using the concede / refute strategy to develop a subclaim. One application of this is to present two pieces of evidence that disagree. Describe to your reader the debate present. Then establish your position.

* Expand--Some would say your main job as a writer is to set up complexity then clarify what's true. One way to do that is to use multiple source synthesis as a building block to show multiple sides of an issue, how one quote expands on a previous quote.

Create Infographics

In some contexts you may want to give readers a visual representation of many stats, quotes, etc. One option is to create an infographic. Doing this can break up the monotony of integrating a direct quote in each paragraph. It can also show off your design chops if your skill set is more visual.

Make sure to cite all information included in the infographic. You can use any infographic program you're comfortable using yet Piktochart is a free, popular option.

If you choose to integrate an infographic, explain it to your reader just like a direct quote. Let them know what's coming, what it will tell them, then afterwards describe how it supports your informative or argumentative subclaim.

Create Videos

Another visual option to compliment your argument is creating a video and imbedding it into your essay. For example, if your essay's thesis is that too many novices get injured lifting weights--create a YouTube video demonstrating a quick and easy way to lift correctly. No need to find a source if you already have the knowledge. Publishing a video is a great way to support your argument, broadcast your expertise, and generate social media followers that can earn you credibility in a professional space.

You can use your mobile or another device to film a video. My suggestion for a delivery mechanism is to create a YouTube channel, upload the video there and embed it into your essay from YouTube. That way there's no issues in someone being unable to open a file extension.


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Subject Guide

Rob Snyder's picture
Rob Snyder
152 Jerome Library

Bowling Green State University



Guide content created by Bryan Gattozzi ( with input from Rob Snyder.