The ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE & COMPOSITION paper requires the candidate to write three types of essays. This paper tests the candidate’s reading and writing skills; and as such, examiners and teachers agree that top scores are awarded to those students who can confidently analyse how authors of no-fiction prose use various techniques to convey meaning and create effects. In addition, the students have to write three well organized and insightful essays, each with a different purpose.
These THREE types of essays fall under:
- Synthesis Essay
- Argumentative Essay
- Analytical Essay
The main purpose of a synthesis essay is to make insightful connections from several published documents – called sources – related to the issue at hand, each less than a page long. One source will be an image – a photo, a chart, map, cartoon, or other visual presentation also related to the issue.
FIFTEEN minutes are allotted to the reading of the sources.
A Typical Synthesis Essay Question
Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying seven sources.
This question requires you to synthesize a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. When you synthesize sources you refer to them to develop your position and cite them accurately. Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument. Avoid merely summarizing sources.
Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.
After this, you are expected to write an essay that takes a position on the issue and incorporates, or synthesizes at least three of the sources into your discussion. Thus, in order to write a successful synthesis essay, you must gather research on your chosen sources, discover meaningful connections through your chosen sources, and develop a unique and interesting argument or perspective.
A Synthesis Is Not a Summary
A synthesis is an opportunity to create new knowledge out of already existing knowledge, i.e., other sources. You combine, “synthesize,” the information in your sources to develop an argument or a unique perspective on a topic. Your thesis statement becomes a one-sentence claim that presents your perspective and identifies the new knowledge that you will create.
In short, a synthesis essay must do all the following:
- It accurately reports information from the sources using different phrases and sentences.
- It is organized in such a way that readers can immediately see where the information from the sources overlap.
- It makes sense of the sources and helps the reader understand them in greater depth.
- The writer clearly promotes an idea; understands how to use a variety of sources, including non-print text (pictures, graphs, etc.), using this “synthesis” to support that idea.
- The writer uses quotes or phrases to extract key information as well as demonstrating understanding in using these quotes or phrases.
The essay must be thesis-driven, so form a thesis based on the prompt:
What you plan to argue + How you plan to argue it = Thesis
What Do I Need to Write One?
Writing a successful synthesis essay will require you to do four things:
- Read accurately and objectively;
- See relations among different viewpoints;
- Define a thesis based on these relations, and
- Support the thesis effectively.
You will not discuss all the points in every source; but you should use e some of the sources, and you should use points from each that are appropriate for the thesis of your own essay.
How Do I Write It?
A synthesis essay may be developed in several ways, including the following:
READ CAREFULLY First, skimming through the readings and look for similar issues in each essay. Reflect on those issues, and jot down your ideas. Reread and decide on one topic that will unify your essay. Note each essay’s thesis and main points.
Finally, take notes and write your . . .
THESIS SUPPORTED BY EXAMPLES. Develop a thesis based on common points among the works, and Support the thesis with appropriate examples from each work. This strategy works well with essays that approach a subject from highly diverse viewpoints.
COMPARISON AND CONTRAST. Discuss the similarities and differences in the writers’ viewpoints and draw whatever conclusions are possible from your comparison.
ARGUMENT. If you have a clearly defined opinion about the subject, support that opinion by incorporating the valid viewpoints of the writers of the essays you have selected,. Still, try to analyze weaknesses of any ideas you feel are not valid; identifying conflicting ideas as well as overcoming opposing viewpoints!
In particular, your essay will show whether you can . . .
- judge the best sources to back up your position.
- incorporate other writers’ claims or explanations into your own argument.
- draw on sources in the order that develops your argument in the most logical, persuasive way.
What Steps Should I Take In Writing This Essay?
REMEMBER: Keep in mind that your goal is to support and illustrate your own ideas with the ideas of others to make a point. Similarly, early in your paper, mention the titles and authors of the sources you will be discussing. Quote or paraphrase brief passages from the sources to show how the essay illustrate, agree with, or disagree with each point you make. Whenever you quote or paraphrase, cite the author properly.
INTRODUCTION: It helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about; it gives your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying.
Usually one paragraph contains a one-sentence statement (thesis) that sums up the focus of the essay.
BODY PARAGRAPHS: These are organized by theme, point, similarity, or aspect of the topic.
- Each paragraph deals with one specific point/idea that relates to the thesis.
- Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence – letting the reader know what the paragraph is about and includes information from more than one source.
- Indicates where information comes from with either lead in phrases and verbs of attribution: According to _______ states_______ affirms_______ explains OR with MLA citation (use parenthetical).
- Shows the similarities or differences between the different sources in ways that make the paper informative.
- Represents the texts fairly — even if that seems to weaken your paper! Try to avoid relying on one source and just filling in others to meet the required number of sources.
- Direct quote vs. Paraphrase – When drawing a source to your argument, you have a choice of paraphrasing (summarizing in your own words and making it easier to incorporate someone else’s ideas smoothly into your own words) what the author says, or quoting some of his or her words directly (within quotation marks, of course). Several quotes may make your essay appear to be more of a copy and paste exercise than a synthesis. So, if an author uses a particularly striking phrase or unusual wording that would be difficult to paraphrase accurately, then an occasional direct quote would make your essay more vivid.
Refuting Opposing Viewpoints
There are moments you may want to include a counterargument or refutation pointing out weaknesses in the evidence likely to be used by someone who disagrees with you. Essentially, a counterargument is highly desirable because it weakens your opponent’s position while strengthening yours. It adds potency to an essay that cannot be achieved in any other way.
Please note that there is no rule that tells you where in your essay to put a counterargument. Sometimes it fits best near the end of an essay, just before the conclusion. At other times it should be stated early in the essay. It can also be discussed briefly in each paragraph. Just practise doing it!
CONCLUSION: Your conclusion may cover some of these . . .
- Remind readers of the most significant themes and how they connect to the overall topic.
- Go beyond a mere summary — offer the reader insight into the significance of the exploration of the topic.
- Your conclusion provides a bridge to help your readers transition back to their daily lives. Ultimately, it helps them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down.
Having a Conversation With Your Sources
Since your aim is synthesis, you need to weave the three sources into your own discussion of the prompt using them to support and develop the position you have chosen to take. The exam writers offer a helpful image of how to do that: they call it having a conversation with your sources. This means responding to each person’s comments, building on them, using them to enrich your own views about the topic as well as trying to understand the author’s position and adding your own ideas to the discussion. This becomes a fruitful conversation!
A Word About Plagiarism
Be certain to properly cite your sources!
Go back over your paper and make certain you have properly cited all sources. You can use verbs of attribution or use parenthetical citations.
Accidental plagiarism most often occurs when writers are synthesizing sources and do not indicate where the synthesis ends and their own comments begin!
Good luck in all your endeavours.