Formal Essay #2: Synthesis and Evaluation of Research
Setting the Stage: Mapping a Research-Based Academic Conversation
In the next two weeks, we’ll carefully read accounts (Carr’s “The Juggler’s Brain,” and “Weapons of Mass
Distraction,” (just chapter 2 and 3) and “Routine Process of Cognition”) documenting the relationships between
attention, distraction, disinformation, and perception. Further, we’ll take into consideration the implications of this
research on our behavior and beliefs. Your goal in this assignment is to demonstrate a sound understanding of
the evidence provided regarding these relationships, synthesizing the information into a meaningful overview of
Your purpose in writing this assignment is thus twofold:
First, your essay will represent a synthesis of information documented in the relevant research, drawing
together information from the various studies and the research documented and utilized by Carr.
Second, your essay should (eventually) move from synthesis of the research into an evaluation of its
implications for human behavior – particularly behavior related to our interactions with technology, text,
and/or information environments.
As noted above, this essay requires at least two primary modes of interpretation. While you may choose to
present your work as a seamless academic essay, you may also wish to divide your work into three distinct parts:
Introduction (Context); Synthesis (Overview of Research); and Discussion (Analysis & Evaluation).
Your introduction (.5-1 page) should establish the context for the research and preview the central points
of connection among the readings you’ll discuss in your work.
Your synthesis should represent the bulk of your material (@ 2.5-3 pages). It should discuss the central
points of connection you wish to highlight within the readings, distinguish various methods and questions
posed by the authors and researchers involved, and ultimately provide an interpretation of what this set
of studies tells us about the relationships between attention, distraction, misinformation, and perception.
Your discussion (1.5-2 pages) should step back from the research, in order to evaluate the reliability of
the findings and methodologies utilized. Your discussion should call attention to potential strengths and
weaknesses in the data or research (methods, design, etc.). It should illuminate any questions that
remain in play, demonstrating areas where further interpretation or research may be relevant. Finally, it
should explore the implications of the research in terms of what it may tell us about our behavior or
understanding of technology.
Your work should demonstrate that you’ve:
Read all three research reports closely – for purposes of understanding, analysis, and interpretive
Drawn support for your synthesis and interpretation from the texts themselves, using effective attribution
and quotation when necessary.
Used transitions effectively to draw appropriate relationships between the various sources.
Carefully distinguished between summary and synthesis in your work. Naturally, your synthesis may use
summary to introduce each piece, BUT a synthesis is not a glorified summary. A synthesis is an act of
intellect that combines an array of different concepts or sources into a coherent whole. Your work should
not simply restate what each of the pieces says in isolation (summary); it should create a coherent
interpretation of what the series of studies tells us, when read as a collection of related data.
Your work should be approximately 5 pages long, double-spaced, with default margins. You should employ basic
parenthetical citation (MLA or APA) to reference the text, and include a standard work cited/reference page at the
end of your material.
Your final grade for Formal Essay #2 will be assessed according to criteria below. You will have the opportunity to
revise your work within one week of receiving it back with my initial comments. For information on submitting
revisions, please see the course syllabus.
Criteria for Evaluation:
Objective #2 (CS): Develop appropriate and relevant content – by selecting, structuring, and sustaining
central ideas in written work.
o The writer has created a structure that logically and clearly demonstrates key points of synthesis.
o The essay has a clear thesis that “sums up” the points of connection between the studies provided.
o The supporting paragraphs are organized around clear, recognizable, and key points of overlap,
distinction, and evaluation of the studies.
o The structure is characterized not by article-by-article summary, but by organization of key
interpretative categories the writer has used to make sense of the relationships among studies.
Objective #8 (IL): Evaluate information and incorporate sources within written work – by reading sources
critically and selecting appropriate information.
o The writer uses illustrations, quotations, and references to the text to support their interpretation.
o The writer demonstrates critical awareness of the nuances of relevant studies, including the central
methods, data, and findings discussed.
o The writer effectively describes their evaluation of the studies in the final portion of the essay.
Objective #9 (IL): Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose – by smoothly and
purposefully incorporating a range of source materials in written work.
o The writer demonstrates versatility and skill in smoothly incorporating source material within their
o The writer discusses and describes the significance of all relevant studies in their work.
o The writer effectively addresses more than one source in nearly every paragraph.
Objective #5 (CS): Develop control over language – by revising for clarity and editing for effective syntax,
grammar, mechanics, and spelling.