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Analyzing & Synthesizing History

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Okay, so for the past two weeks, all we've been doing in history class is analyzing one of the prescribed subject's bullets. I seemed to pretty good at it; researching information and organizing (pretty much analyzing it). After we finished one of the bullets, I felt like I knew the 'bullet' very well. Then, when the teacher asked us to sum it up, or synthesize the bullet into a short essay, my mind went blank. I don't why, really. Maybe it was the realization that in IB (or maybe just IB History), there's won't be any notes written by the teacher for you to memorize and spew back (as one of my friends said: read & regurgitate) in a paper like we did last year.

We were given about 40 minutes to write. It was only until after 20 minutes that I actually began writing -- and it was with the help of the teacher.

So this brings me to my question: How do you synthesize an essay? How can you put information you can write essays over, and summarize them all in three paragraphs? The idea of doing such a thing is daunting because in your head, you want to list all these details that start flowing in your brain, but in essence you can't. That would take too much time and effort.

If anyone's curious, it was the first bullet in Prescribed Subject 1: Origins and Rise of Islam:

  • social structure and the religious beliefs in pre-Islamic Arabia; economic context; the commercial
    importance of Mecca; influence of tribalism

Edited by Dreamer94

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I thought that IB History was kinda read, know, and regurgitate to an extent. You should understand the material and realize cause & effect relationships and that sort of thing, but a lot of it is having the information and then "spewing" it out. My history teacher tells me there are no "style" points. It doesn't matter if my thoughts flow well or sound eloquent. I just need them to be coherent and complete.

I know what you mean because I had a slow starting time. I hated timed essays for history. I didn't know where to start! But it's one of those things that comes with practice--good practice. You need to allot yourself proportionate times to brainstorm & outline, write, and review. The basic outline is very important! Just list the major points you want to cover and 2 examples, if you can think of them. You want the big details first. If you can recall the smaller ones, that's great. But you have to have time to write them! So big comes first.

I'm not familiar with the bullet you provided. To answer your question more concisely, read your question and make sure you understand it. Then aim to spend about a paragraph [the length depends on the nature of the subtopic and on your ability to recall info about it] answering each part of the question. Sometimes there is only one part in a question. This is trickier, but break it down into what major aspects influence this thing that you're being asked to write about. I hope that makes some sense.. haha. So if it was "What caused _____" that's easy. If it's "Describe ______" you want to cover in breadth and some depth. But covering a wider range of subtopics is more important than covering one in great detail. You should show you understand the multiple parts of what you're being asked while also showing the examiner that your knowledge of each isn't completely superficial. This balance is hard to make and will take time and practice. Good luck and let me know if I need to clarify anything.

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Okay, but how do you regurgitate? I know there has to be a thesis statement when you answer the question. Then supposedly the ideas start flowing in. That's the part I have a problem in. I always have these ideas in my head, but I can never frame them in a sentence in the given time.

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You have problems with a thesis? Hmm. Like I said before, you don't need to worry about showing them that you can write well. Leave that for English :P<br>I wrote a timed essay on Lenin yesterday, so I'll use that example. The question asked to name some positive and negative parts of his legacy & which was the most positive and most negative. Now that I think about it, my thesis wasn't exactly ideal, if I remember it correctly haha. But you'd want your thesis to revolve around answering the question. You might say something like Lenin's actions led to both positive and negative consequences in terms of economy and the political situation that he left behind. <br><br>If you were asked to write an autobiographical piece about 2 things that influenced you to be the person you are today [sorry I don't know anything about you, so I can't give you a personal example], a potential thesis might be something like "My childhood shaped me." You're probably thinking.. Two things?! How do I narrow it down to two things? How do I choose? Quite honestly, it doesn't matter <i>what </i>you say but how much you can support what you say. So you don't have to spend a lot of time debating on the "best" answer. Just pick two things that you can talk about well enough. Now you're thinking... Childhood.. there's a lot to talk about there. Which two things? What you'd do is just pick two events from your childhood. Go for originality, but your main goal is to be able to support your answers. So if you're thinking that everyone is going to say the same thing, who cares?! I don't know if that's pertinent to you, but that's the best I can do haha. <br><br>So once you have your thesis, make a quick outline of what you want to talk about. Have some supporting evidence. Then just take it one paragraph at a time and write the details that are relevant to your point. <br><br>Edit: I don't know what to make of the codes haha. oh well<br>

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