Specifically for this assignment we will use an interactive map of westward expansion from 1860 to 1890. You can access it at this URL: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/asset/akh10_int_expansion/ Once you have the map open, click on the boxes for Major Cities, Railroad Networks, Improved Agricultural Land, and States and Territories. At the bottom of the map, you will notice the decades 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1890. Click on each of these decades in succession and you will see the ways in which the country changed. The goal of this assignment is for you to interpret, synthesize, and analyze what you are seeing on the map. You will make a well-organized argument, support that through research, and then write a conclusion for your findings.
Analysis is the process whereby the researcher separates something into its component parts. In an analytical essay, the writer examines a subject relative to its own terms, and explains the problem by studying the individual parts. In contrast, synthesis requires that the researcher examine individual unrelated parts in an effort to discover something new. A good essay will utilize both analysis and synthesis. Instead of examining the simple facts of a problem, the writer will go beyond the obvious, making connections between different pieces of evidence to discover something new.
As an example, consider a modern map of the world illustrating the growth of the internet over the last thirty years. It demonstrates the new ways in which the world is connected by facilitating the spread of ideas through instantaneous communication. Access to much of the information that once required us to physically travel to a library is now accessible through a computer at home (or a mobile phone in your pocket). Social media has also given us the ability to discuss and debate ideas, not only with our friends and family, but with people we may have never met. We all have the power to disseminate knowledge around the globe within a matter of seconds.
If you were writing a paper on this topic (this is an example only, as your paper will focus on the period from 1860 to 1890) you could analyze this larger topic by focusing on a specific aspect like use of the internet in online education. You might make the argument that the internet has enabled more non-traditional students to pursue a higher education. Your synthesis would include understanding the connections between your outside research and your argument.