Synthesis Essay Introduction

  • Posted by: Alexander Daniels
  • 04 May 2020

hi everyone this is mrs. Brad Byrne and today I’m going to be telling you about the first of the three AP language essays the synthesis essay and you’ll be working on this essay type all year long but it’s the first one we’ll start with I will put this video in your class notebook so you have access to it if you’d like to watch it later okay for a lot of students the synthesis essay looks very intimidating at first but once you get used to it at the end of the year it will probably feel like the easiest essay type and that’s because the synthesis is kind of like a miniature research paper where your sources are provided for you and research papers can be intimidating but by the end of the year you realize that with a synthesis a lot of the work is already done because you already have stuff to work with they’re giving you all the sources that you need and you just use what’s there so you don’t have to think up as much stuff when you’re doing the synthesis you basically just need to pick a side and then support it okay so first what is the synthesis essay first of all the synthesis is always question 1 and there are 40 minutes allotted for each of the three essays for a total of a hundred and twenty minutes which you can divide up however you’d like but the synthesis is always question one and it’s always preceded by a fifteen minute reading period which is actually before the 120 minute essay block starts so it’s recommended that you always start with the synthesis essay and get it out of the way and then if you’d prefer you can do the analysis and the argument essay in whichever order you’d like but always do the synthesis first and it’s good to know that you can actually start writing during the 15 minute reading period that time is set aside for you to look at the sources but if you want to actually start writing your essay during that time that’s fine also even though it’s called a synthesis essay remember that this is actually an argument essay with sources so even if the prompt doesn’t really look like an argument prompt it is a persuasive or an argument essay and you always need to pick aside when you’re writing a synthesis essay that means you need a clear really specific thesis statement with your position this year we’re going to talk about how there are usually only three ways of responding to an argument prompt whether it’s the synthesis or the open-ended argument and those are yes/no and okay but yes and no are basically you’re for it or against it thesis statements and you already know how to do those basically the idea is your position with your reasons so for yes I support this because of XY reasons or no I don’t support this because of that it’s not a good idea to actually put I or first-person in your thesis statement it’s better to stay in the third-person and just be very direct however you’re not banned from using the first-person point of view when you do write ap essays so it can be appropriate at times but not in your thesis statement the third option is qualified support and that’s the okay but this is the trickiest type of thesis statement however a lot of students do end up preferring to write this kind of an essay and it can be the most sophisticated argument the danger with okay but is that you seem to be wavering or you seen wishy-washy like I kind of support this but on the other hand I see some other reasons against it and if you do that then you won’t have a good score because it will just seem like you couldn’t make up your mind a good qualified support is going to be just more cific about what kinds of situations or what conditions would be in place for you to support that position so basically saying that something is a good idea only sometimes or in certain cases and you just have to be very clear about that and make sure that you stick to that position throughout the entire essay the worst thing you can do is seem to change your mind halfway through the essay you really need to pick a position and then stick with it the whole time okay so I mentioned that with the synthesis essay you already have your sources there a synthesis always comes with six sources that are labeled source a through F and they always give you sources that you can use no matter which argument side you take so they’ll give you sources that contain facts and evidence and arguments for both sides one source is always going to be a visual and that’s because one of the goals for AP language is that you learn to use visual texts or visual information in your arguments and interpret that you have to use three sources if you don’t use three sources you will not pass the synthesis essay the highest score you can get if you cite two sources would be a four which is not equivalent to passing you need to get at least a five to have like a c-minus type essay so you have to use three but unlike in your document based question for AP History there is no benefit to using more than three sources so it’s not recommended that you do that remember that time is of the essence you really don’t have time to read closely all six sources because that wouldn’t leave you enough time to write the essay you only have enough time to choose just three sources you’re going to use at that point you can stop looking at the at the sources you can write all over the sources as you read them but if you get to a point where you realize I’m really not going to use this source because I I don’t understand it or it’s a line graph and I really hate graphs so I know I’m not going to use this source then just don’t look at it anymore just flip to one of the other sources because you only have to use half of them in the synthesis essay you can directly quote the sources or you can paraphrase from them in the case of a visual you’re going to be explaining the visual it’s not actually required that you have direct quotes from the sources and the synthesis essay although you will have to do that in the rhetorical analysis essay but in any case you always need to cite anytime you’re taking from a source with parenthetical citations you’ll see that the cover page for the synthesis prompt basically gives you the the citations that you should use so you don’t have to figure it out but if you decide to use source a source B source e then just make all of your citations in that style or if you prefer to cite by using the author’s last name in parentheses then just be consistent with that don’t make a work cited because it’s not required and it’s just a waste of time okay so when it comes to building or organizing your argument these are the basics throughout the year you’ll learn about different ways to structure or organize an argument beyond the basic five paragraph structure that you’ve learned since middle school but the college board really wants you with the synthesis to put the sources and conversation with each other they always use that metaphor and it means that they don’t want you to look at the sources just in isolation but really use the sources and especially pull out certain strands from the sources that relate to each other so that you can build a coherent argument that means that the organization as far as your paragraphs is going to come from your argument not from the sources so each paragraph should start with an idea in the topic sentence or claim should lay that out it’s actually best to weave the sources together so you might use say source D and source F in the same paragraph you don’t want to have like a source a paragraph and then a source B paragraph and then a source C paragraph because then it just seems like you’re summarizing the sources and if you summarize the sources you will not get a good score you have to use the sources to support your argument and that means you’re going beyond summary you’re just pulling selectively from the sources and then really explaining them and elaborating on them one thing you should never do is cite something from a source if you aren’t sure that you understand what it means even though you all are really smart readers some of these sources are going to be pretty complicated and they might be about topics that you don’t have a lot of prior knowledge about so if you don’t understand something you really can’t hide that in your writing and it will lower your score if it seems like you’re using a source but you don’t really understand what it means or it doesn’t really support your argument remember that you can always use sources that you disagree with especially when you’re addressing the counter-argument and most high scoring AP essays will in some way address the counter-argument and kind of explain why the other side is wrong okay as an example I’m going to show you last year or 2018 synthesis prompt just so you can see what to expect this is the prompt it’s always question 1 and the prompt is always set up in the same way so the first part of the prompt gives you background you should not um rephrase or quote this background in your essay it’s just for your knowledge and in this case the prompt is asking you about eminent domain it says eminent domain is the power governments have to acquire property from private owners for public use the rationale behind eminent domain is that governments have greater legal authority over lands within their Dominion than do private owners eminent domain has been instituted in one way or another throughout the world for hundreds of years and they really need to say that because many AP students will have no idea what eminent domain means and they’ve never even heard of it before so if you do get a prompt and you don’t know anything about that topic don’t worry that’s actually quite common and they always give you the necessary background info so that you can still write about it and quickly take aside the next paragraph is really important because it is going to give you the actual prompt it’s kind of buried in there and you need to pay close attention to this paragraph even though it looks similar in every synthesis it has that key question that you need to answer buried in it so it always is going to say carefully read the following six sources including the introductory information for each source then synthesize material from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent well-developed essay that defends challenges or qualifies okay that part is the same in every prompt but here’s what you have to do defend challenge or qualify the notion that eminent domain is productive and beneficial whenever you find that prompt that’s really asking you or telling you what to do in your essay always make sure that you are highlight that or underlining it at the bare minimum and I actually suggest that you copy that down on the prompt it only takes a few seconds and it’s well worth the time to copy down in your own writing the actual prompt or the part of the prompt that’s telling you what to do because you are in a rush and it’s actually pretty common for students to write an essay that relates to the topic but doesn’t really do what the prompt was asking you to do okay the next part of the prompt is always the same again your argument should be the focus of your essay use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it avoid merely summarizing the sources indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from whether through direct quotation paraphrase or summary and then it tells you that you can cite them as source a source speed or using these descriptions so just use this as your guide when you’re citing the sources and remember that you must cite three of them okay so most of the sources are going to look like this one they’re going to give you the works cited entry at the top but you really will just be using the author’s last name or however it told you to cite that on the cover page or you can just cite it as source F you’re going to have sources from a variety of different publications and you can use any three that you’d like so as you read this you can just make notes quickly decide you know which argument will this support and go ahead and highlight or underline anything that you think you might use as a quote and you can write all over this okay here’s the visual source that was included in this packet and this time it was a cartoon rather than a photo or a chart so it says having defeated the wolf the three little pigs lose their house to a greater foe one is saying what the hell eminent domain and the other Pig is saying what the heck’s a Walmart if you understand the cartoon then definitely use it and talk about it if you can relate it to your argument but if you don’t understand the point then just skip it and use another source so if you were going to have a thesis statement about how eminent domain may sometimes be beneficial for a public interest but should never be used for the benefit of corporations or for private investment than you might be able to relate this Walmart cartoon which is suggesting that perhaps someone’s house or their private property was basically taken by the government where they were forced to sell it by the government for a corporation such as Walmart if you understand it then you can build that into your your argument ok so just a quick recap of your synthesis priorities the first priority is to understand the prompt really don’t skimp when you’re looking at that prompt and make sure that you copy out that sentence that’s telling you what you have to do make sure that you really read and study that background information whether or not you know anything about this topic and last year most students did not know anything about eminent domain but they were able to still finish the essay successfully because of that background next you want to pick a thesis statement and write a clear statement with reasons you might not be able to do this until after you look at the sources but make sure that once you pick a thesis statement you stick to it you don’t have time to change your mind at all next you’re going to sketch out a plan you do not have time to write out a rough draft but you can make a sketchy outline maybe on the page with the prompt so that you can just plan what your paragraphs are going to be about right a quick introduction if you can think of a really brilliant hook if you have an anecdote or a paradox or some kind of catchy thing from pop culture that you can relate to it then definitely use that as a hook if not you don’t have to have a really fool developed introduction so don’t spend a lot of time thinking of a brilliant hook I see a lot of essays where the writers spent a lot of time on the introduction came up with a great hook but then ran out of time when they were developing the argument later so if you know you can’t think of anything for a hook you can always leave some space at the top and then write in your thesis statement and then you can go back at the end to try to fill that in make sure that you use and cite three sources remember that’s a requirement just to get a five but it doesn’t do any good to use more than three make sure that you’re explaining and elaborating upon those sources the actual summary of the sources or the paraphrasing should only be a small percentage of your essay should not be the majority of your essay the majority should always be in your own words when it comes to the conclusion you just want to wrap it up you want to appear to finish you don’t have to have a really developed conclusion you would especially don’t have to just go back and restate all of your points that you’ve already said it’s a short essay they’ll remember what you said if you’re really short on time you can just kind of close it out at the end of a body paragraph but it’s always good to have a short conclusion just to say why this matters or try to relate it to some kind of bigger issue in society and then finally you want to save about five minutes to reread your essay just to check for errors and remember you don’t have time to write out a final draft so it is acceptable to cross things out to scratch out a word that’s misspelled or if you change your mind about the wording you can squeeze it in they’re not grading you on handwriting it doesn’t have to look perfect they know that it’s a timed draft so it can be a little messy it just has to be legible okay so if you have any questions about the synthesis essay feel free to email me and you’ll be working on this soon and practicing several times and you will get better