In the Writing Center, I hear students say over and over the following sentence: “I did everything the professor wanted and I still got a D!” This handout explains why and what you can do to change that on future assignments.
Always do much more than the assignment: the assignment is the bare minimum the professor expects. You have to do planning to get a great paper. You can get handouts on planning at the WAC web site http://www.csuohio.edu/writingcenter/WAC
You will get a C or lower if you only report or summarize information. Synthesizing refers to knitting the information together in your unique way: what professors really want is YOUR thinking, not what they’ve already read. A good writer asks himself or herself one important question all the time: so what?
Some students want to do well, and they think that if they follow the assignment exactly in the order it is written, then they will receive a good grade. Their papers often do not have a focus and have terrible organization. That’s another reason for the poor grade.
No matter what your assignment says, most professors want a clear thesis or focus, which is a one-sentence statement that is the theme or main idea of your paper. You cannot get one of those instantly—you need to think through all your reading materials, consider your own values and attitudes, and merge them into a clear sentence. That takes time. You also have to place this thesis or focus early enough in the paper so that the professor knows it.
Ask your professor about the assignment if you’re unsure what to do: you can call, e-mail, or visit during office hours. They want you to do well.