Analysis, Inference, and Synthesis

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate analysis, inference, and synthesis in academic writing
Cartoon character making a questioning face.

Figure 1. Inference involves both evidence AND logical reasoning.

In this workshop, we’ve looked at three of the most important moves in academic work: analysis, inference, and synthesis.

  • Analysis is the process of methodically breaking something down to gain a better understanding of it.
  • Making an inference means coming to a conclusion based on evidence and reasoning (in some cases, “reading between the lines”).
  • Synthesis is the combining of two or more things to produce something new.




Writing workshop

  1. Read this passage from the essay, then answer the question that follows:
    The western “cowboys and Indians” mystique, perpetuated in novels, rodeos, and Wild West shows, was rooted in romantic nostalgia and, perhaps, in the anxieties that many felt in the late-nineteenth century’s new seemingly “soft” industrial world of factory and office work. The mythical cowboy’s “aggressive masculinity” was the seemingly perfect antidote for middle- and upper-class, city-dwelling Americans who feared they “had become over-civilized” and longed for what Theodore Roosevelt called the “strenuous life.”

    This paragraph contains an example of “inference,” in that the author makes an inference about why Wild West figures like Buffalo Bill Cody were so popular in America in the 1880s and 1890s. In your own words, what reason does the author suggest here for the popularity of the Wild West myth?

  2. Read the following two passages from the essay, then answer the questions that follow:
    Although about 90% of rodeo contestants were men, women helped to popularize the rodeo and several popular women bronc riders, such as Bertha Kaepernick, entered men’s events, until around 1916 when women’s competitive participation was curtailed.
    In an attempt to appeal to women, Cody recruited Annie Oakley, a female sharpshooter who thrilled onlookers with her many stunts. Billed as “Little Sure Shot,” she shot apples off her poodle’s head and the ash from her husband’s cigar, clenched trustingly between his teeth. Gordon Lillie’s wife, May Manning Lillie, also became a skilled shot and performed as, “World’s Greatest Lady Horseback Shot.” Female sharpshooters were Wild West show staples. As many 80 toured the country at the shows’ peak. But if such acts challenged expected Victorian gender roles, female performers were typically careful to blunt criticism by maintaining their feminine identity—for example, by riding sidesaddle and wearing full skirts and corsets—during their acts.

    Let’s use these passages to think specifically about the role of women in the Wild West myth.

    In her essay, Brand mentions the “aggressive masculinity” of the mythical “cowboy” (see the passage in part 1 above). In what ways did female participants in Wild West shows and early rodeos perform this “aggressive masculinity”? (List at least three– you may have to infer, or read between the lines).

    In what ways were women stopped from participating fully in the “aggressive masculinity” of Wild West performance? (List at least two– again, you may have to infer).

    Based on these observations, we may be able to use synthesis to make an argument about female participants in Wild West performances. In your working document, write a thesis sentence about women in Wild West performances. You can write one from scratch, or use the following template:

    “As the myth of the Wild West exploded in popularity, female performers found themselves in a complicated position. On the one hand ________________________________ . On the other hand __________________________ .”


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