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Synthesis

Aim:
This slideshowpage gives information and examples of how to describe different opinions, how to analyse them, and how to give your own opinion.

Background:
Synthesis is the result of comparing two contrasting ideas. The original idea is called a 'thesis' and the second, opposite idea is called an 'anti-thesis'.

In academic writing it is often necessary for writers to consider different points of view and decide whether to support one point of view, the other point of view, a combination of them, or neither of them. This can be followed by, and support, the writer's opinion.

In the following example, notice how the writer summarises the arguments of the two authors before giving the synthesis.

Here are some examples:

Thesis

This study has therefore revealed that children who play computer games on a regular basis experience a number of medical problems. The evidence suggests that the most serious problem is crooked posture, which is caused by their being hunched over their computers for considerable periods of time. Another common problem associated with playing computer games over long periods (when the same moves are constantly repeated) is that of pain in the hands. (extracted from p. 141)

Brown, M.J. (2000). The impact of computer games on children’s physical health. Journal of Physical Health, 23(1), 129-142.


 

Anti-thesis

It is claimed that computer games have negative physical effects on eyesight, hands and posture. However, all of these are caused by the computer hardware and equipment, not by the software. The same physical effects occur from prolonged usage of computers for any reason, such as word-processing. In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome was identified as a workplace ailment caused by office programs, not games. These physical effects can all be reduced or eliminated by better hardware and more attention to ergonomics, such as higher-resolution and higher-contrast screens, and supportive furniture.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

Synthesis

Example 1.

The effects of playing computer games on physical health are controversial. Although Brown (2000, p.141) states that computer games can cause physical problems such as bad posture and pain in the hands, Smith (2003) argues that these problems are caused by the hardware, not the games. In my opinion the games cause physical health problems because they encourage long periods of computer use on harmful hardware.

Example 2.

The effects of playing computer games on physical health are controversial. Brown (2000, p.141) suggests that computer games can cause physical problems such as bad posture and pain in the hands. However, Smith (2003) points out that these problems are caused by the hardware, not the games. I believe that the physical health problems are caused by games as they encourage long periods of computer use on harmful hardware.

Example 3.

The effects of playing computer games on physical health are controversial. According to Brown (2000, p.141) computer games can cause physical problems such as bad posture and pain in the hands. Smith (2003) disagrees, and argues that these problems are caused by the hardware, not the games. I contend that the physical health problems are due to the long periods of computer use on harmful hardware which occur when children are playing computer games.

The words in red are useful for synthesising.

Grammar Notes:

  • 'because' is followed by a clause (a noun phrase and a verb)
  • 'as' is also followed by a clause
  • 'due to' is followed by a noun phrase
  • 'due to the fact that' is followed by a clause
  • as the references are modern ones (all after 2000) the synthesis uses the present tense.

Related materials:  contrast clauses, cause and effect, and suggesting solutions in a formal way.

Practice Exercise

Write your synthesis in the box, then, click the 'Check this Answer' button to see a possible answer. Your language and content do NOT have to be the same as the possible answers, and the possible answers are only intended as suggestions for content and examples of correct grammar.

Question 1.
As was noted earlier, the majority of computer games produced today have violence as their principal theme. Despite the growing concerns of parents and teachers in the past decade, it would appear from my research that violence in computer games is becoming increasingly realistic and explicit. We are thus faced with the familiar question: Does playing violent computer games lead to aggressive behaviour in young people? This is clearly a highly complex issue. Research conducted in the past decade has revealed that young people who regularly play violent computer games have a tendency to be more aggressive than those who do not. Perhaps not surprisingly, my findings tend to support this position. (extracted from p. 116)

Walker, A. (2001). Computer games and adolescent aggression. In N. Peters (Ed.), Research into the effects of computer games (pp. 108-124). London: St Martin’s Press.

On the issue of violence, the modern media surrounds us with violence. Movies such as 'The Matrix', television programs such as the news, newspaper reports of sports such as boxing, and radio dramas often involve violence. It is difficult to watch TV for one evening without seeing an explosion, car chase, death or violence. Children's programs are especially violent, as is shown by Tom and Jerry. If young children are expected to realise that it is only a cartoon, teenagers playing computer games can also recognise that it's only a game.

In addition, many computer games are non-violent, for example, 'The Sims' is a very popular game of social interaction, and football playing and management games involve almost no violence.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

1. 

 

Question 2.
Clearly, one of the most serious problems associated with playing computer games is that they are highly addictive. Parents often find that when their children start playing games they simply cannot stop. There is some evidence that as a result of their compulsive involvement in computer games, some young people tend to ignore more important activities such as homework and reading. There are also concerns that their solitary absorption in computer games prevents them interacting with family and friends.

Davies, S. (2003). Computer games and personal development. Family Forum. Retrieved from http://www.ff.org.
 

Popular activities of any sort can be addictive. Some people are addicted to sport, and some to television, for example. Both these examples, and many others, can be harmful to one's health and social life if done too much. In addition, the quality of a computer game is an important factor that may cause people to play it a lot, in fact, some players think that a good computer game should be addictive.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

2. 

 

Question 3.

Doubts about the value of English are raised when we consider the economic performance of certain EFL and ESL countries in recent decades. In the post-World War II period Japan and Germany have been two of the most dynamic economies in the world. In the case of Japan, where English is learned as a foreign language, it would be reasonable to argue that very few employees possess high levels of proficiency in the language. While it is true that English levels in Germany are higher than in Japan, it must be remembered that the language is still learned as a foreign language. Unlike Hong Kong, it is not used as the medium of instruction at secondary and tertiary levels in Germany; nor has it enjoyed the status of an official language (e.g. in government and the law). Another point to consider is that English is widely used as a second language in Asia (e.g. the Philippines, India) and Africa (e.g. Kenya, Zimbabwe). If (as some business people in Hong Kong claim) the use of English is so important to a country’s economic development, why are ESL countries like the Philippines significantly less prosperous than EFL countries like Japan and Germany? (extracted from p. 25)

Extracted from Chan, A.(2003). EUL: English as a useless language. English Review, 5(3), 22-34.

Chan (2003, p.25) argues that the value of English is doubtful for two reasons, firstly the economic success of countries where English is rarely spoken, such as Japan, and secondly because of the lack of economic development of some countries in which English is widely spoken, such as India and the Philippines.

However, there are many factors that influence the economic performance of a country. These include location, history, raw materials, education, politics and culture.

Chan may therefore be overestimating the importance of English as a factor in the economic success of a country, and therefore unfairly criticising it.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

3. 

 

Question 4.

One problem that Internet users have to deal with is the huge quantity and variety of sources of possible interest to them. This creates problems of how to select relevant information. The problems are aggravated by a lack of effective search tools. Many search facilities are limited in their capabilities and are consequently not able to deal with the volume of available resources. Some search engines often return a huge number of results to users’ queries, and the details provided in the search output often lack enough detail to enable users to assess the relevance of the sites which are listed. However, other search engines source a limited number and kind of sites. This makes the list of sites they provide both restrictive and possibly biased. It is hard for the untrained eye to detect these restrictions.

Source: Cuisinier B. (2000). A guide to studying on the Internet. London: Lockstone Publishing.
 

Although, for a novice user, the results returned by Internet search engines may appear confusing and any bias may not be obvious, these problems are becoming less serious.

Firstly, although some search engines have problems, there is a wide range of engines available. Users can choose a search engine which suits them and gives informative and relevant results.

Secondly, modern search engines often identify sponsored links. If users find that their search engine refers them to sites that give irrelevant commercial links, they can use a different search engine.

Finally, as the Internet becomes more mature, users become more experienced. Therefore they can increasingly use search terms or advanced search functions which give better results.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

4. 

 

Question 5.
It is a fact that many individuals use the Net to share their opinions with a potentially huge audience via their own Web pages. Some of these individuals are fully qualified to write with authority on their particular field of expertise. Others, unfortunately, are not qualified and their views are really little more than personal opinions and beliefs rather than fully supported, credible arguments. Clearly, a set of criteria is needed to help students distinguish between reliable information and that which must be viewed more critically. One criterion is that of authorship, a second the status of the website, while a third is the credibility of a document itself. There are various checks that a student can perform to determine these, and it is crucial that they do so.

Source: Chan, W.K. (2001). Using information found on the Web. IT Journal 6(2).
 

Although Chan's (2001) criteria are theoretically appealing, they are so time consuming that they are impractical.

To check whether an author is an expert involves searching the Internet for references to that author's work, and analysing whether those references are just from people with similar opinions, or from other experts.

While it is relatively easy to determine whether a website is a high-status educational or government domain, it is much more difficult to discover the reliability of a commercial site.

The credibility of the document may also be difficult to determine, as it may have all the components of a reputable page, such as links to supporting evidence, but the content may still not be credible.

Finally there are many genuine academic debates with many valuable points of view. There is no clear distinction between beliefs and different interpretations of evidence in many areas. Therefore Chan's criteria may be too simple.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

5. 


 
 



 
 
 


Answer Key

Here are the answers:

Question 1.
As was noted earlier, the majority of computer games produced today have violence as their principal theme. Despite the growing concerns of parents and teachers in the past decade, it would appear from my research that violence in computer games is becoming increasingly realistic and explicit. We are thus faced with the familiar question: Does playing violent computer games lead to aggressive behaviour in young people? This is clearly a highly complex issue. Research conducted in the past decade has revealed that young people who regularly play violent computer games have a tendency to be more aggressive than those who do not. Perhaps not surprisingly, my findings tend to support this position. (extracted from p. 116)

Walker, A. (2001). Computer games and adolescent aggression. In N. Peters (Ed.), Research into the effects of computer games (pp. 108-124). London: St Martin’s Press.

On the issue of violence, the modern media surrounds us with violence. Movies such as 'The Matrix', television programs such as the news, newspaper reports of sports such as boxing, and radio dramas often involve violence. It is difficult to watch TV for one evening without seeing an explosion, car chase, death or violence. Children's programs are especially violent, as is shown by Tom and Jerry. If young children are expected to realise that it is only a cartoon, teenagers playing computer games can also recognise that it's only a game.

In addition, many computer games are non-violent, for example, 'The Sims' is a very popular game of social interaction, and football playing and management games involve almost no violence.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

1. Your answer is:

A possible answer is:
A number of conclusions based on research into the effects of violence in computer games seem to be flawed. Walker's findings (2001, p.116) show that 'young people who regularly play violent computer games have a tendency to be more aggressive than those who do not'. If this research compares children who have been equally exposed to violence in other media, Smith's (2003) arguments about violence in the media are not relevant. In addition, Walker only examined violent computer games, so Smith's argument about non-violent computer games is irrelevant.

Back to the questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 2.
Clearly, one of the most serious problems associated with playing computer games is that they are highly addictive. Parents often find that when their children start playing games they simply cannot stop. There is some evidence that as a result of their compulsive involvement in computer games, some young people tend to ignore more important activities such as homework and reading. There are also concerns that their solitary absorption in computer games prevents them interacting with family and friends.

Davies, S. (2003). Computer games and personal development. Family Forum. Retrieved from http://www.ff.org.


 
Popular activities of any sort can be addictive. Some people are addicted to sport, and some to television, for example. Both these examples, and many others, can be harmful to one's health and social life if done too much. In addition, the quality of a computer game is an important factor that may cause people to play it a lot, in fact, some players think that a good computer game should be addictive.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

2. Your answer is:

 

A possible answer is:
The effects of computer games on young people is a controversial topic. Davies (2003) argues that addictive computer games are addictive and cause children to spent too little time on reading, homework and social activities. However, Smith (2003) states that any popular activity can be addictive, not just computer games. He also claims that good computer games perhaps should be addictive. Although this may be true, it does not address the topic of whether computer games are harmful. Therefore he does not refute Davies' argument. I believe that to solve this problem, parents and teachers should educate their children to lead balanced lives.

Back to the questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 3.

Doubts about the value of English are raised when we consider the economic performance of certain EFL and ESL countries in recent decades. In the post-World War II period Japan and Germany have been two of the most dynamic economies in the world. In the case of Japan, where English is learned as a foreign language, it would be reasonable to argue that very few employees possess high levels of proficiency in the language. While it is true that English levels in Germany are higher than in Japan, it must be remembered that the language is still learned as a foreign language. Unlike Hong Kong, it is not used as the medium of instruction at secondary and tertiary levels in Germany; nor has it enjoyed the status of an official language (e.g. in government and the law). Another point to consider is that English is widely used as a second language in Asia (e.g. the Philippines, India) and Africa (e.g. Kenya, Zimbabwe). If (as some business people in Hong Kong claim) the use of English is so important to a country’s economic development, why are ESL countries like the Philippines significantly less prosperous than EFL countries like Japan and Germany? (extracted from p. 25)

Extracted from Chan, A.(2003). EUL: English as a useless language. English Review, 5(3), 22-34.

Chan (2003, p.25) argues that the value of English is doubtful for two reasons, firstly the economic success of countries where English is rarely spoken, such as Japan, and secondly because of the lack of economic development of some countries in which English is widely spoken, such as India and the Philippines.

However, there are many factors that influence the economic performance of a country. These include location, history, raw materials, education, politics and culture.

Chan may therefore be overestimating the importance of English as a factor in the economic success of a country, and therefore unfairly criticising it.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

3. Your answer is:

A possible answer is:
Many governments promote English language learning for education and business, but the cost and benefits are controversial. Smith (2003) criticises Chan (2003) for overestimating the importance of English as a factor in the economic success of a country. However, as the Government promotes English on economic grounds, I believe that both authors highlight problems with the Government's position, and that therefore further research into this issue is necessary.

Back to the questions


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 4.

One problem that Internet users have to deal with is the huge quantity and variety of sources of possible interest to them. This creates problems of how to select relevant information. The problems are aggravated by a lack of effective search tools. Many search facilities are limited in their capabilities and are consequently not able to deal with the volume of available resources. Some search engines often return a huge number of results to users’ queries, and the details provided in the search output often lack enough detail to enable users to assess the relevance of the sites which are listed. However, other search engines source a limited number and kind of sites. This makes the list of sites they provide both restrictive and possibly biased. It is hard for the untrained eye to detect these restrictions.

Source: Cuisinier B. (2000). A guide to studying on the Internet. London: Lockstone Publishing.

 

Although, for a novice user, the results returned by Internet search engines may appear confusing and any bias may not be obvious, these problems are becoming less serious.

Firstly, although some search engines have problems, there is a wide range of engines available. Users can choose a search engine which suits them and gives informative and relevant results.

Secondly, modern search engines often identify sponsored links. If users find that their search engine refers them to sites that give irrelevant commercial links, they can use a different search engine.

Finally, as the Internet becomes more mature, users become more experienced. Therefore they can increasingly use search terms or advanced search functions which give better results.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

4. Your answer is:

A possible answer is:
Search engines can be hard to use and can return paid results before useful ones. Cuisinier (2000) criticises search engines for returning too many results with not enough, or biased, information. According to Smith (2003), the situation is improving as users have a choice of search engines, and sponsored links are now often identified.  However, I believe that there is still room for improvement, as searching the Internet is still too time-consuming. I suggest that search engines need to improve their ability to understand questions in sentence form.

Back to the questions


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 5.
It is a fact that many individuals use the Net to share their opinions with a potentially huge audience via their own Web pages. Some of these individuals are fully qualified to write with authority on their particular field of expertise. Others, unfortunately, are not qualified and their views are really little more than personal opinions and beliefs rather than fully supported, credible arguments. Clearly, a set of criteria is needed to help students distinguish between reliable information and that which must be viewed more critically. One criterion is that of authorship, a second the status of the website, while a third is the credibility of a document itself. There are various checks that a student can perform to determine these, and it is crucial that they do so.

Source: Chan, W.K. (2001). Using information found on the Web. IT Journal 6(2).

 

Although Chan's (2001) criteria are theoretically appealing, they are so time consuming that they are impractical.

To check whether an author is an expert involves searching the Internet for references to that author's work, and analysing whether those references are just from people with similar opinions, or from other experts.

While it is relatively easy to determine whether a website is a high-status educational or government domain, it is much more difficult to discover the reliability of a commercial site.

The credibility of the document may also be difficult to determine, as it may have all the components of a reputable page, such as links to supporting evidence, but the content may still not be credible.

Finally there are many genuine academic debates with many valuable points of view. There is no clear distinction between beliefs and different interpretations of evidence in many areas. Therefore Chan's criteria may be too simple.

Smith, A. J. (2003). Synthesis. Retrieved from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The English Language Centre Web site: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/synthesis.aspx

5. Your answer is:

A possible answer is:
Students need practical strategies to check the reliability of information on websites. Chan (2001) suggests three criteria for judging whether the information on a website is reliable. These are authorship, status of the website, and credibility of the document itself. Smith (2003) believes that it is too time-consuming to examine a website for these criteria, and that the criteria are therefore impractical. As Smith does not suggest an alternative, I believe that Chan's criteria should be used, but the extent of checking the criteria should be balanced with the time available.

Back to the questions

 

Last updated on: Friday, March 23, 2012