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Writing for the AP Exam
» Writing the Rhetorical Analysis
» Writing the Persuasive Argument
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Writing for the AP Exam » Writing the Synthesis Essay

Writing the Synthesis Essay Writing the Synthesis Essay


The AP English Language Synthesis Essay



First and foremost: The synthesis question requires a PERSUASIVE ARGUMENT. You are presenting your opinion in response to a given question; however, unlike the free-response question, you must use the facts and ideas presented in the provided sources.


Use the sources to support or augment your OWN argument. Do not summarize the sources and allow those writers to speak for themselves—you are using what they say for your OWN purposes.



Basic Essay Structure


KEY: Argue your own idea, using your own reasons and reasoning—but you must use evidence from the provided sources.



  1. Open with an engaging hook.
  2.  Identify/clarify the issue at hand.
  3. Present a clear, direct thesis statement.


Body Paragraphs:

  1. Topic sentence: Give one reason in support of your thesis.
  2. Explain as necessary.
  3. Present specific supporting evidence (viz., quotes from the provided sources—but you may also bring in other evidence).
  4. All sources are documented.
  5. The writer explains the significance of the specific supporting evidence (e.g., what does the evidence show or suggest as true?)


Concluding Paragraph:

  1. Draw further significance from the reasons and evidence presented.
  2. Bring the paper to a thoughtful ending. (Be philosophical! Show your wisdom!)



Strategies for the New English DBQ Essay


Crucial Fact: You will write a persuasive argument in response to a given prompt. You will argue for your opinion, supporting it with evidence from the provided sources.


Key Understanding: The test writers will give you a smattering of sources reflecting different views on a unifying issue. The sources will all be distinct. Consider the source of the information when determining its value and claims.



Step 1: Read the prompt. Consider the question. Determine your opinion. (It is best to read for a purpose—viz., finding claims with which you agree and disagree.) It might be worth your time to consider possible ideas before reading.


Step 2: Create an organization chart, such as a T-Chart. You might be asked an agree/disagree question or perhaps to give a list of ideas (such as what is most important to consider in a given situation). As you read, briefly list claims/information/facts in your chart that are deemed important. In parentheses, put the sources of that information. Understand that some source could contain multiple useful facts or claims—sometimes ones that could be listed on either side of your chart.


Your simple chart might look like this (taken from Mr. Wevodau’s notes from the 2007 AP Synthesis “museum” prompt):


Things to consider when acquiring new museum artifacts:

Money, how to use wisely (Source A)

Organization/Museum focus (A)

Museum audience (B)

Marketing (B)

Museum focus/what kind of collections to have (C)

Historical Accuracy (E)

Authenticity/morality (F)



Step 3: As you read, add ideas to your chart. Also, mark the readings. Underline or circle key lines or ideas. Look for quotable claims. Look for points that you agree with as well as points that you disagree with (remember, addressing the opposition is central to effective argumentation). In general, mark the texts such that you can easily return to them and find exactly what you need.  

Also, as you read, question the claims made by the writers. Do you note any logical fallacies or unsupported claims? What does the write assume to be true? Is it true? When you read statistics, consider the presumed cause of any numerical changes. What is the presumed cause? Might there be other causes? Question! Question! Question! Read critically—do not swallow what you see as the truth. You are evaluating the sources and the claims—not bowing down at the altar of some intellectual genius.

When you finish each source, consider writing a few notes at the bottom that capture the essence of the article.


Step 4: From your chart, choose the ideas/concepts that you will use to support your opinion. You should have time to write three fully developed body paragraphs.


Step 5: Plan to address the opposition (if appropriate to the prompt). Plan to write one paragraph addressing the opposition’s views, explaining why you still ultimately disagree with their position.


Step 7: Outline your paper. Determine an opening strategy. Consider how you want to close your paper. Organize your body paragraphs—noting that each paragraph will address and support a particular idea that itself supports your thesis.


Step 8: Write! Don’t forget that your thesis statement must appear in your introductory paragraph, taking a firm, clear position.



Benefits of this approach: This system allows test-takers to compile ideas taken from various sources in one location (viz., the organizational chart). By annotating the sources as they are read, students can quickly locate quotable material. As envisioned, this strategical approach should save time.  

Related Files

pdf pdf file: You need Adobe Acrobat Reader (version 7 or higher) to view this file. Download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for PC or Macintosh.
doc doc file: You need the Microsoft Word program, a free Microsoft Word viewer, or a program that can import Word files in order to view this file. To learn more about the free Microsoft Word Viewer, visit the Microsoft Word website.

Edward Wevodau
Colleyville Heritage High School
5401 Heritage Avenue
Colleyville, TX 76034