Intertexuality and Synthesis Incorporating outside sources effectively
Intertexuality is incorporating outside sources into an essay built on your ideas/ arguments/ assertions.
Synthesis happens when your ideas and the outside sources come together to form a cohesive, organized essay.
Outside sources come in many forms: Books Magazine articles Newspapers Movies/ television Interviews Internet Music
In composition classes, the primary purpose of your writing is to present an idea or supposition (the thesis) that you set out to support using outside sources (intertexuality). The trick is to effectively and adequately SYNTHESIZE the sources to support your ideas and therefore “prove” your thesis. Remember, the essay is YOU forwarding an idea or argument . Your thesis Supported by outside sources
There are several ways to use an outside source to support your thesis. <ul><li>Introduce </li></ul><ul><li>Illustrate </li></ul><ul><li>Support </li></ul><ul><li>Argue </li></ul>
Introduce You can use an outside source to introduce the topic or a specific idea or argument . In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Travelled,” the speaker stands at a crossroads, trying to decide which path to follow. He laments that, “And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black” (11-12), making the decision his alone to make. He could not rely on someone else who had gone before to tell him which path to take. (Incorporation of reference to establish the idea of choice/ crossroads. ) In life, sometimes the most difficult decisions are those we must face alone. Even when we have the advice and support of loved ones or those we respect, we realize that their choices may not be ours. (Transition from the reference to my personal response/ idea/ argument.) I recently faced such as crossroad. I was faced with two choices that would literally change the course of my life, and knew that only I was responsible for which path to take. (The thesis. Now, as the reader continues they expect to hear about a decision I had to make that was mine alone, but I have used Frost’s poem to create in their mind the image of two paths.)
Illustrate You can use an outside source to illustrate a specific point you want to make. My decision to seek a divorce was not an easy one, not one I made at the spur of the moment over a blueberry muffin and coffee. The fact that it was heart wrenching, painful, and fearful was bad enough, but I could never have predicted the way others would treat me, as if I had committed a terrible crime. (Tell me– I am introducing one of the struggles I faced.) I felt much like Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote to a friend: This might be worse than being widowed. Overnight I’ve suffered the same losses– companionship, financial and practical support, my identity as a wife and partner, the future I’d taken for granted. I am lonely, grieving, and hard- pressed to take care of my household alone. But instead of bringing casseroles, people are acting like I had a fit and broke up the family china. (137) (Incorporation of a quote from Kingsolver’s essay “Stone Soup” to help SHOW what I was experiencing) At a time I most needed support, many friends and family were divided evenly– those who adamantly insisted on how relieved I should be (which I wasn’t), and those who loudly and persistently advocated continuing with the marriage (which was not possible). (Closing the loop- synthesizing HOW Kingsolver’s quote illustrates the confusion and loneliness of the decision.)
Support You can use an outside source to support the topic or a specific idea or argument . Abuse of methamphetamines is a serious and growing problem in our communities. (Here, I am making an assertion) According to the documentary “American Meth,” statistics show that arrests for meth-related crimes has increased forty-five percent since 2000, and those in drug rehabilitation centers for meth addiction has increased a staggering eighty-two percent in the same time period. (Using a paraphrase from the outside source to support what could have been an opinion otherwise. Note– while the documentary “American Meth” is real, these statistics are not from it. They are for illustrative purposes.) While we can argue the causes, point the finger of blame on the economy, poor parenting, bad schools, or lack of adequate policing, the fact remains the problem is growing. We should stop the blame game and find real, workable solutions. (Notice that I can use the word “fact” in this, because I have provided real support for my assertion.)
Argue You can use an outside source to establish a point of argument Henry David Thoreau says in his most famous work, “Civil Disobedience”: It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. (686) (Incorporation of reference to establish the idea of humankind’s duty to each other.) In all due respect to the Transcendentalist philosopher, it is absolutely the duty of humankind to devote itself to the eradication of wrongs. While it is impossible for one person to engage in a fight against every wrong in the world, choosing to ignore a wrong, to “wash his hands of it” is, ethically, to give his support. (By disagreeing to his statement, I am establishing my argument. Also, notice that I don’t say “I believe” it is absolutely the duty of humankind… How does that change the tone of the piece?)
Outside sources can be incorporated in any type of writing: narrative, expository, argument… any idea can be strengthened by incorporating support. Remember, intertexuality means more than introducing a reading at the beginning of an essay. Find ways to work your readings or other sources throughout your essay to build a strong final product.