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How to Write a Synthesis Essay for AP Language and Composition Class

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Dr. Emily Norton
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
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Synthesis writing is an invaluable skill for any student because it enables them to participate in academic discourse. Basically, this guide on how to write a synthesis essay for AP Language and Composition class provides a detailed definition of a synthesis essay. In this case, it identifies summary, analysis, and synthesis as crucial aspects of essays. Then, the manual discusses the rubric and adaptive nature of the writing process, which are unique features for synthesis essays written in the Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition class. Also, the guide deconstructs the synthesis essay writing process into four primary stages: finding context, prewriting, writing, and post writing. Further on, the manual mentions writing strategies for the development of persuasive synthesis essays and points out common mistakes that students make during essay writing. In turn, the guide concludes with a sample essay that enforces the regulations of the guide.

General Aspects of Writing a Synthesis Essay for AP Language and Composition Class

Synthesis writing is an academic writing skill that students perfect in AP Language and Composition class. Basically, the learning process imparts a vast amount of knowledge to students, which is discipline-specific. At lower levels of education, it is enough for an individual to reproduce the learned content in the examination. Towards the completion of college, students should possess the ability to critically examine an issue in the context of disciplinary principles and present their argument to an academic audience. Consequently, writers should learn the synthesis essay writing process because it facilitates academic discourse.

How to Write a Synthesis Essay for AP Language and Composition Class

Definition of a Synthesis Essay

A synthesis essay is a form of scholarly writing that allows authors to communicate their positions on an arguable topic. For example, the writing of a synthesis essay follows a systematic procedure. Basically, it employs three main techniques for clear presentation to the target audience: summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing. Also, summarizing is useful for informing readers concerning the borrowed ideas. In this case, this method enables them to contextualize and interpret the cited information. Then, authors illustrate their analysis through detailed explanations regarding the essential parts of a borrowed idea. Based on the analysis, writers synthesize an original position through the re-ordering of the essential pieces of evidence in a logical manner. In turn, authors assign the analysis and synthesis aspects the most significant proportion of the synthesis essay’s word count.

Rubric for Writing a Synthesis Essay for AP Language and Composition Class

The rating of a synthesis essay employs a 9-point scale, which has well-defined minimum expectations for awarding of a score. Basically, the highest rating for any synthesis essay is 9, which meets the following requirements:

  • Demonstrates an exceptional writing style and command of the language.
  • Identifies appropriate sources and documents the sources correctly.
  • Critically analyses each source and integrates it to form a cohesive argument.
  • Clearly states a position that addresses the prompt.
  • Meets all technical requirements of the essay.

A 4-point essay suggests that students misinterpret the prompt, use a few sources, incorrectly analyze sources, and show a minimal control of language. In turn, these ratings of essays continue to drop as the quality of papers fall further away from the minimum expectations of a 4-point essay. Notably, synthesis essays full of summary receive a score of 2 or less.

Adaptive Writing Process

The writing process of a synthesis essay is highly flexible. For instance, authors maintain the freedom to organize the body of their essay in whichever form they determine to be the most effective in conveying their message. Moreover, the structure of the concluding paragraph changes depending on the length of the essay, where a short essay conclusion excludes the recap of the essay’s main points. Nevertheless, students should not veer too far from the standard essay writing process because it is a benchmark for excellent written communication.

Complete Process of Writing a Synthesis Essay

1. Finding the Context

Deconstruction of the prompt. Before writers take any action, they must understand the prompt of a synthesis essay. Unlike typical essay instructions, the synthesis essay prompt has two distinct elements: the introduction and the task. Firstly, the introductory segment provides authors with background information that builds up to the writing task. Then, the task element outlines the expectations of the instructor for that particular synthesis essay and mentions any relevant technical requirements. In this case, students should carefully examine the prompt and identify keywords and other information that are important to the successful completion of the essay. Also, they can achieve this goal through underlining or highlighting essential parts of the prompt when writing a synthesis essay for AP Language and Composition Class.

Topic definition. Based on the information from the prompt, authors are in a position to create a synthesis question that may yield a working topic. After reading the synthesis essay prompt, students generate a synthesis question, which is simply a short question that requires authors to take a position on a given issue. In this case. a synthesis question is crucial because it ensures that writers propose a direct response to the essay prompt. Moreover, authors can develop a working topic using their pre-existing knowledge of the controversial issue. Nonetheless, a working topic is not a mandatory outcome of this stage because authors may lack prior knowledge to answer the synthesis question successfully.

2. Prewriting

Research. Depending on the essay prompt, the research stage can either be ‘active’ or ‘passive.’ Firstly, active research occurs in a situation where the instructor provides students with absolute autonomy in the selection of the texts to support the synthesis perspectives. During active research, writers must evaluate each source’s authenticity and reliability for academic research. Secondly, passive research takes two forms. In this case, the instructor may select a text that students should use as a conceptual lens for the interpretation of any self-identified sources. Alternatively, the instructor provides a fixed list of sources for responding to the synthesis essay prompt. In turn, the latter approach is common because it replicates the structure of the AP Language synthesis essay question.

A final list of sources. Once students find viable sources, the next step is the critical reading of each source to establish their value in supporting the author’s position. In this stage, authors engage the text itself as opposed to the reading of abstracts and commentaries on the sources. Basically, the creation of a one-paragraph annotated bibliography or a succinct summary for each source is an essential activity. In this case, the method creates a quick reference for the main ideas of the individual sources. Then, a comparison of annotated bibliographies or summaries should aid individuals in selecting the final set of sources. After the selection process, authors read texts and assign attributive tags to specific excerpts of the text, which contain the necessary information for referencing purposes.

The creation of an outline. The outline of a synthesis essay is a guide for the writing stage. For example, the outline has primary elements: topic, tentative thesis statement, body paragraph content, and concluding points. At this point, the title of the essay is apparent to the author. Basically, writers develop a working thesis statement, which merely mentions the key phrases and defines a position on the topic. Then, the outline documents the argument of each body paragraphs and notes the sources relevant to the paragraph. Also, the outline needs to indicate a clear distinction between supportive content and critique. Finally, the outline contains a note form conclusion, which authors will use to create the closing paragraph of a synthesis essay.

3. Writing

Thesis statement development. Authors frame the thesis statement as a straightforward answer to the synthesis question. In a synthesis essay, the thesis statement has one primary goal, which is to state the author’s position on the topic unambiguously. Also, the thesis statement may hint at the rationale of the author’s position. Then, authors should create a thesis statement, which reflects a deep understanding of the link between the sources and his or her position because the minor arguments in the body paragraphs should demonstrate a high level of coherence and unity. In turn, a concise overview of the controversial topic precedes the thesis that appears at the end of the first paragraph of a synthesis essay.

First draft. In the first draft of the essay, writers simply expand the outline. Basically, authors create a well-worded explanation to convert the note form outline into a detailed and readily understood essay. Then, the crafting of the essay prioritizes the synthesis over the summary, which implies that authors should provide the minimum required summary of sources for a reader to understand their argument and focus on presenting their contribution to the conversation. Also, each topic sentence must define a clear minor argument, which is a building block of the main argument. In turn, students should ensure that there is an apparent link between the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Moreover, authors should consider traditional essay structure guidelines.

4. Post-Writing

Second draft. The first draft undergoes a meticulous revision and editing. Basically, a revision of a first draft covers content and presentation issues, for example, logical fallacies and suitability of sources. In this case, the editing process eliminates any essay structure, grammar, and formatting problems in the essay. Moreover, it is an excellent practice to do revision and editing after taking a break from the writing process because it makes it easier for authors to identify mistakes while conducting personal editing. Upon completion of revisiting and editing drafts, the second draft represents the author’s best version of the synthesis essay.

Peer review. Peer review may significantly improve the quality of a synthesis essay, although it is not a mandatory stage of the synthesis writing process. Basically, authors receive feedback from their peers, which acts as a check of the effectiveness of the personal editing process. In this case, the critique of a peer reviewer is a representation of the target audience’s reaction to the synthesis essay. Also, students should consider the corrections proposed by peer reviewers and enforces them in the final draft of a synthesis essay.

Forms of Synthesis Essays

Argumentative Form

The argumentative technique of writing a synthesis essay borrows heavily from the standard argumentative essay but differs because authors must defend the validity of their supporting evidence. During the authorship of a standard argumentative essay, an author merely provides evidence to support the evidence. In an argumentative synthesis essay, a writer focuses on demonstrating to readers that all evidence is high quality and not susceptible to critique. Therefore, the “synthesis” aspect of the argumentative synthesis essay is very dominant because the argument presentation assumes that the audience has some knowledge of the controversial issue. In this case, it makes its center on justifying the author’s rationale rather than sole presentation.

Expository Form

An author may create a synthesis using the expository approach. Basically, an expository synthesis essay is identical to the conventional expository essay. In this case, authors propose an argument in the thesis statement and identify sources to support the main claim. Nonetheless, an expository synthesis essay does not merely inform the audience of the existence of support for the main claim. Instead, it analyses the supporting evidence and generates a judgment of the strength and efficacy of the evidence. Moroever, authors may gauge the suitability of the supporting evidence in an expository synthesis essay. In contrast, the evaluation of the supporting evidence is not an apparent feature of a typical expository essay that aims to inform.

Writing Strategies

Argumentative Writing

An argumentative approach to a synthesis essay hinges on two key elements: a critique of competing arguments and justification of the proposed claim. Basically, authors should spend adequate time researching the controversial issue to ensure that they have a good grasp of the discourse on the topic, which enables them to identify the main criticisms of their proposed position. Moreover, students must discuss these critical perspectives of their claims and provide adequate responses that either illustrate the weaknesses of the criticism or dismiss the criticism entirely. At the end of the synthesis essay, no doubts should exist in the mind of the audience concerning possible flaws in the argument.

Expository Writing

The expository approach of writing a synthesis essay requires an author to find the balance between summary, analysis, and synthesis. For example, the attainment of equilibrium in the demands of an expository synthesis essay is quite challenging because the audience requires detailed explanations and synthesis of the explanation in equal measure. Then, there is no fixed rule on the distribution of word count for the individual content element of the essay. Consequently, students make situational judgments on the proportion of the essay that addressed each distinct element with the sole target of creating a rationally persuasive essay, which displays critical thought on the authors’ part.

Argument Development

Argument Presentation Structure

The “they say, I say” argument presentation structure is at the heart of any synthesis essay. Basically, each synthesis essay begins with the examination of existing research and findings on the topic of interest. In this case, the existing literature represents the voice of other scholars, which represents the “they say” element in the synthesis essay’s argument presentation structure. Then, the “they say” segment of the argument precedes the “I say” portion. For example, “I say” is symbolic of the author’s new contribution to the discussion, which implies that it can only exist in the context of previous arguments. Also, the “they say” and “I say” segments of arguments may appear as unique pieces in arguments, but this is not the case. In turn, authors hold the burden of mapping the line of thought between the arguments of others and their contribution, which is the “synthesis” aspect of the synthesis essay.

The Risk of Plagiarism

Originality is a fundamental principle in the extending of an academic conversation when writing a synthesis essay for AP Language and Composition class. Based on the published positions, authors compose their main claim, which is a reflection of their understanding of the fundamental principles and theories of their field of study and the tenets of the topic of interest. However, students must make their extension of the discourse obvious, which ascertains that it does not overlap excessively with another author’s position, repeat the claims of other authors, or suggest a link between others’ opinions without defining the link itself. In turn, the ready differentiation between an individual’s contribution and existing claims prevents the author from plagiarism, either intentionally or unintentionally, by establishing the argument’s originality.

Common Errors

Reasonable vs. Correctness

Often, students find themselves writing a synthesis essay in a manner that suggests that their position resolves the controversial issue entirely. The fact that a synthesis essay demands that an individual takes a stand on a given debatable topic does not necessarily culminate in an “I am right, and you are wrong” outcome. Students must make a strong argument for their positions with the singular goal of proving that they are reasonable but not to suggest its unchallenged correctness in comparison to other claims. An attempt to prove the outright correctness of an argument is a mistake because there may be two or more logically sound approaches that an individual may employ in arguing out a contentious issue.

Overuse of Sources

In the struggle to write a persuasive synthesis essay, most authors are susceptible to the ‘quantity vs. quality’ pitfall in handling their sources. Synthesis essay instructions rarely mention an upper limit for the sources that an author may use because the appropriate use of sources is one of the examinable aspects in an AP language and composition class. Students should understand that the use of many sources does not translate into a strong argument automatically. A student may use only many sources, which have relatively similar contributions to the discourse. In this case, the use of only one the sources would be adequate to argue out the similar contributions. Besides, the use of too many distinct sources may result in shallow explanations, which leave the audience overwhelmed rather than convinced.

Sample of a Synthesis Essay

Eminent Domain: The Future of Property Ownership

I. Sample Introduction

The property ownership right is one of the freedoms protected under the American constitution. Eminent domain allows the government to repossess land at any time and provide just compensation. The withdrawal of choice in the matter attracts much attention from various stakeholders in real estate. The eminent domain law undermines equity and has limited legal value in the 21st century despite having the constitutional backing.

II. Sample Body Paragraphs

A. Case Law

Federal courts have ruled in favor of the government in most eminent domain cases. In Colt v State of Illinois, Supreme Court Judge Allan Whittle concluded that the government retains the right of condemnation of any property if it intends to use the land in the pursuit of national interests (Blinder, 2016). This judgment resulted in Colt losing his land because the government required the land to build a post office. Blinder (2016) acknowledges that Gabe v United States and Jones v State of Florida reached similar judgments. Case law on eminent domain suggests that eminent domain is enforceable in nearly all cases where national interests are in play.

B. Eminent Domain

Some leading experts in property law argue that eminent domain is an old-fashioned law. Dicky Martins, a senior partner in Martins & Associates, posits that eminent domain in its original form is exploitative because its subjects hardworking individuals to significant losses in their investment, although it is constitutional (Jones, 2018). Martins approaches the issue of eminent domain form the perspective of a property owner, but he implies that constitutional backing does not necessarily translate into fairness and correctness. Therefore, the constitution protects the eminent domain, but it has reached a point where amendments are necessary.

C. Issue

In a recent eminent domain case, a Circuit Court judge made the first ruling that did not follow case law. Delaware Circuit Court Judge Mercy Plats notes in her judgment of Burke v State of Delaware that eminent domain is not applicable in a case where the merit of ‘national interest’ is unclear and ruled in favor of Burke (Coles, 2020). In Burke, Plats emphasizes that tag ‘national interest’ must be defined because politicians are presenting privately funded projects as ‘public’ projects under cover of public interests. Hence, Plat’s decision has come under much scrutiny because people consider it unconstitutional while she asserts that the judgment stands under the doctrine of equity.

III. Sample Conclusion

Eminent domain is under the protection of the constitution. Before Plats’ judgment, eminent domain had a strong foundation in the case law. However, recent judgments and professional opinions suggest that there is no relief for property owners, which is equivalent to ignorance of the doctrine of equity. As a result, lawmakers should revise the eminent domain law as quickly as possible while sitting judges redefine case law.

Note: This essay employs fabricated sources and servces only as an example.

Summing Up on How to Write a Synthesis Essay for AP Language and Composition Class

  • The thesis statement of a synthesis essay is a concise answer to the synthesis question.
  • During the research stage, the summarization of sources aids in recognizing the relationships between different arguments.
  • The authors must take time to create an outline and adhere to it.
  • The finding context, prewriting, writing, and post-writing stages of a synthesis essay writing are equally important.
  • A student should work to illustrate the reasonability of a position but not its absolute correctness.
  • Authors should select an appropriate number of sources that can adequately support their position but do not dilute the analytical and synthesis aspects of the essay.
  • The “they say, I say” argument presentation format is invaluable in synthesis essays.
  • The synthesis aspect takes precedence over the summary and analytical elements of the synthesis essays.

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