What is a "synthetic" or interdisciplinary paper?
This course is entitled University Writing and Critical Thinking. This task is part of the Critical Thinking component of the course.
- Analysis is breaking something down into its component parts.
- Synthesis is combining things and drawing connections between two separate things.
- Put another way a synthethic paper is one that has two different topics that draws out the connections between the two topics.
- For example, Michael Harner discussed two things in his article. The first was hallucinogenic plants and the second was medieval withcraft. He showed the connection between the two topics and therefore advanced our understaning of both.
- In Sheila and the Swastikas, Ronald Siegel discussed sleep deprivation and its connection to seeing entoptic phenomena or dreaming while awake.
- There are many other examples we could have read about. For example, throughout human written history there is a description of the Incubus and the Succubus which are devils perceived to be sitting on a person's chest when they are half awake and half asleep. According to medical doctors this is a result of blood pooling in the chest while sleeping on one's back.
- In other words, think of a synthetic paper as two topics: A and B.
- The thinking and writing task is not just to regurgitate information or summarize A and then B but to also describe the CONNECTIONS between the two phenomena.
- Other examples of a synthetic topic might include:
- The connection between the particular hallucinations induced by DMT and the descriptions of large headed small bodied "aliens."
- The connection between rock art or petroglyphs and the visions of shamans or medicine and medicine women. In other words, some rock art was made by religious people for serious religious reasons completely unrelated to grafitti or doodling.
- The connection (comparison and contrast) between hallucinations as described by medical subjects taking certain drugs and the descriptions of "near death" experiences.
- It is not enough for this assignment to describe a particular hallucinogen (topic A) without relating it in some way to another subject (topic B) and drawing some connections, conclusions, and having a thesis about the connection. It is not sufficient to just describe mushrooms, or LSD, or Ecstasy without relating it to some other topic. The other topics might be (as examples) things like Huichol shamanism, Beatles lyrics, or Raves.
- Sometimes the paper may be an investigation if there is, in fact, any connection. For example, a paper might explore the evidence of Joan of Arc’s visions being the result of ingestion of Mandrake and conclude that there is insufficient evidence and that her visions might actually have been religiously authentic and not induced by hallucinogenic plants.
- The topic you select should be of interest to you.
Analyze your prospectus and be able to verbally and specifically state what the two topics are (Topic A and Topic B) and what the connection or connections are that you are going to explore in your research.