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AP Language and Composition » AP Exam Test Prep » AP Exam: The Essays » Argumentative Writing: Synthesis and Position » Argumentative Synthesis Essay

Argumentative Synthesis Essay

Synthesis Essay

o      You will be presented with an introduction to and a description of an issue that has varying viewpoints associated with it.  Accompanying this is a selection of sources that address the topic.  These sources can be written texts that could include nonfiction, fiction, poetry, drama, visual texts, photos, charts, art work, cartoons, etc.  After reading and annotating the sources, the student is required to respond to the given prompt with an essay that incorporates and synthesizes at least THREE of the sources in support of your position on the subject. You will NOT be given “extra points” for incorporating more than three sources.  You will NOT pass this essay if you fail to cite sources at any time.

o        Use the sources as springboards or buttresses for your argument. Do not let the sources drive your essay.

o        The College Board wants to determine how well a student can read critically, understand texts, analyze texts, develop a position on a given topic, support a position on a given topic, support a position with appropriate evidence from outside sources, incorporate outside sources into the texts of the essay, cite sources used in the essay

o        Use the sources and your observations, readings, and experiences to support your thesis.

o        This essay is a chance to demonstrate your ability to develop a “researched idea” using not only your personal viewpoint, but also the viewpoints of others.

o        Don’t be alarmed by the length or complexity of the sources. You will choose your position, and you will choose which texts to incorporate.  As long as you address the prompt and cite the required number of sources, you will be fine.

o        You must be able to analyze the argument each source is making.  What claim is the source making about the issue? What data or evidence does the source offer in support of the claim? What are the assumptions or beliefs (explicit or unspoken) that warrant using this evidence or data to support the claim?

o        Ask the questions:

§         What are two or three possible positions that I could take on this issue?

§         Which of these positions do I want to take? Why? Keep an open mind, and choose the position that will allow you to have the best essay and supporting details.

§          Many of the best essays don’t have a simple and “easy” thesis but instead take a more critical approach that recognize the complexities of the issue.

o        Essay Layout

§          Argumentative essay in which you take a position on a particular topic and support the viewpoint with appropriate outside sources (provided), while indicating the weaknesses of other viewpoints (counterargument).

o        Common Errors

§         Not taking a clear position or wavering between positions

§         Substituting a thesis-oriented expository essay (informing the reader of the different topics/positions) for an argumentative essay

§         Being reluctant to engage in verbal combat because “everybody’s entitled to his or her opinion” so there’s nothing to argue about

§         Slipping out of focus

§         Lacking clear connections between claims and the data, and the warrants needed to support them

§         Trying to analyze style or rhetorical strategies instead of arguing a point (wrong essay…that would be analysis!!!)

o        Carefully read the prompt and all introductory material. Many times the extra information will provide you with time-saving information.

§         With visual texts

·         Identify the subject/s

·         Identify the major components

·         Identify verbal clues such as titles, date, cartoonist, and dialogue

·         Notice position and size of details of images

·         Identify the primary purpose

·         How do the details support the purpose?

o        Pre-writing: Make marginal notes beside the text; highlight, underline, and circle key elements. Mark each source as "Agree/Disagree/Qualify." Clearly mark and decide which position you will take and which sources will support your viewpoint.

o        Opening Paragraph: Specifically address the prompt and clearly state your position on the topic (thesis with 3 ideas). You may use anecdotes, personal experiences, observations, startling facts/statistics, etc. to “catch” your reader’s attention. Avoid cliches, exaggerations, made-up facts, or weak personal experiences.

o        Body Paragraphs: Use transitions to connect ideas.  Build up to your strongest point with each paragraph.  When citing sources, all you need to do is put the source in parenthesis (Source A) or say, “According to Source A…..”

o        Use a mixture of direct quotations, summary, and paraphrased quotations when incorporating your sources. Remember that you MUST establish a position and each source you choose MUST support and develop your position

o        Conclusion: Restate main idea but do not simply summarize.  Try to powerfully connect ideas or find another source that somehow unites all items discussed.

Synthesis Essay

Ø      It will most likely be first. You will know it is the synthesis because it will be the longest and will include sources.

Ø      Highlight your specific task in the prompt.

o        Many people wrote that Global Warming existed or did not exist; they failed to realize the prompt asked you to take a position on the key issues that leaders should consider when making policies that may affect global warming.

Ø      Use the 15 minutes to peruse the sources and make notes about how each source fits into the assigned topic. Does it support it? It is against it? Does it offer an interesting insight?

Ø      You must take a position.  You cannot qualify on this prompt unless it specifically says qualify in the prompt.  Even if it says “qualify,” essays are considered stronger when they choose a side. Your reader should know exactly where you stand by the end of your essay.

Ø      The best essays addressed the counterargument/counter-position in the first body paragraph or introduction and then built their position and support in the next three paragraphs.  They briefly mentioned the counterargument in the conclusion or last body paragraph but the essay clearly demonstrated one position.

Ø      Don’t simply summarize the sources.  Have a position and develop your position by incorporating and analyzing the sources.

Ø      Don’t be intimidated. You have an opinion. Imagine Oprah asked you for your position on the topic or someone offered you a million dollars for your position; you would find something to say in this circumstance. 


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