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Writing the Synthesis Essay

Best Handouts Life

AP Language Synthesis Research Assignment (Sandy Jameson) -- Complete packet for students to develop their own synthesis essay prompts and sources as a group project and includes suggested topics. Then, individually develop an annotated bibliography and write a sample response. Finishes off with a reflection on the research process.

Synthesis Essay Packet for Researched Argument (Margaret Lee) -- Assignment focuses on developing the prompt and preparing seven one-page sources.

Synthesis Package Assignment -- My version of above assignments, adapted for pre-AP English sophomores.

Synthesis Prompt Template (Eileen Bach) -- Already formatted like the College Board prompt in Word format.

Synthesis Prompt Template (Rolf Gunnar) -- Already formatted like the College Board prompt in Word format.

DBQ Template -- form for analyzing sources.


Rubrics & Scoring Guides

Generic Synthesis Essay Rubric -- standard AP descriptors for 0 - 9 scale.

Synthesis Essay Scoring Guide -- 0 to 9 with related 100 possible point values. My favorite.

Synthesis and Citation Rubric -- 0 to 9 with related letter grades.

Synthesis Essay Rubric -- content and style, four levels

Synthesis Essay Rubric -- 25 points possible, four levels

Writing Synthesis Essay

Publishers

People’s Publishing has two titles focused specifically on the Synthesis prompt --Writing the Synthesis Essayand Analysis, Argument, and Synthesis Samplers.

 

Prepared Essay Packets (32)*

Generous teachers and their students have shared synthesis prompts they have developed. Quality and difficulty of the packets varies, but all follow the College Board format. When known, teachers are named on the materials. A special thanks to Jodi Rice and Eileen Bach for collecting and sharing many of these.

Questions

*Eight packets have been removed from this website at the request of the unattributed original developers, the Los Altos High School English Department (Animals in Captivity, Celebrity Role Models, Food We Eat, Freedom of Speech, Gun Control, NCAA athletes, Teens and Technology, and Youth Violence and the Prison System).

 

DBQs: Data-Based Question

ResearchThe Data-Based Question is a mainstay of Advanced Placement social studies courses and close kin to the Synthesis Essay.

Prompts, Scoring Guides, Student Sample Essays, and Commentaries are available on the College Board Exam Sites for each Advanced Placement social studies area.

DBQ Scoring Guides are particularly helpful, since they specifically list evidence available to support the prompt -- from source details and expected prior student knowledge.

See the Roosevelt prompt, samples, commentary, and scoring guide for an example. Full College Board Packet.

DBQ & Synthesis Matrix -- compares both formats.

Writing the DBQ handouts from several teachers. Similar but different enough to make each worth viewing.

 

 

Greatest Idea

Websites

The Synthesis Prompt by Rolf Gunnar -- includes advice, six prompts, tips, and a rubric. Great site overall.

eSynthesis -- Provides online prompts and sources for Affirmative Action, Standardized Tests, Study Guides, and Teamwork.

Copy/Paste by Peter Pappas -- Amazing free resources including more than a dozen DBQs available on iTunes. Also offers a booklet on how to publish an iBook on iTunes yourself. A real Wow!

New York Times “Room for Debate” -- The Times invites four or five knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues. Promotes debate through writer selection. Excellent source for opposing opinions on current events, whether you or your students are the ones designing the prompt packet. I would suggest that only two of your sources could come from this reference.

DBQ Questions and DBQ Main Page offer sample DBQ prompts.

Revolution of 1989 in Germany cleverly sets up an online DBQ, rubric and all.

College Board References

College Board Special Focus Materials: Using Sources

Articles from the College Board website --


PowerPoints & Prezis

Writing the AP Synthesis Essay -- Prezi by Debra Kendall.

Visual, Persuasive, and Rhetorical Analysis -- Prezi by Ingrid Rodriguez.

An In-Depth Look at the Synthesis Essay Question -- PowerPoint by Randi Lundgren.

Sample Synthesis Essay Question -- Television draft prompt from 2007 annotated.

DBQ vs. Synthesis and How to Respond to a DBQ

 

Videos

OK, so I am a Matthew Singleton fan. Someone else talking...and talking well.


Other videographers --

“Introduction to the Synthesis Essay” from Educator.com.

“The Synthesis Essay” by Ms. Boeckle.

 

Synthesizing*College Board Synthesis Essays

Links are to the FULL released exam which includes the referenced synthesis prompt and its sources. Please go to the College Board English Language and Composition Exam Question website for samples, scoring guides, and commentary.

Each answer requires the student to synthesize at least three sources in the essay.

College Board also released two draft synthesis essays that did not actually appear on the test, with samples, commentary, and scoring guide for the first. AP Synthesis Materials.

2007 Television Draft
Television has been influential in United States presidential elections since the 1960’s. But just what is this influence, and how has it affected who is elected? Has it made elections fairer and more accessible, or has it moved candidates from pursuing issues to pursuing image?
     Based on 6 sources. Take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that television has had a positive impact on presidential elections.

2007B Invasive Species Draft
Invasive species are nonnative plants and animals that thrive outside of their natural range and may harm or endanger native plants and animals. As producers and consumers in our global society, we affect and are affected by species introduced accidentally or intentionally to a region. Currently, some people argue for stricter regulations of imported species to avoid the possibility of unintended negative consequences. Others, however, claim that the economies and basic resources of poorer nations could be improved by selective importation of nonnative species.
     Based on 7 sources. Write an essay in which you evaluate what a business or government agency would need to consider before transferring a hardy but nonindigenous species to another country.

2007 Advertising
That advertising plays a huge role in society is readily apparent to anyone who watches television, listens to radio, reads newspapers, uses the Internet, or simply looks at billboards on streets and buses. Advertising has fierce critics as well as staunch advocates. Critics claim that advertisement is propaganda, while advocates counter that advertising fosters free trade and promotes prosperity.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay in which you develop a position on the effects of advertising.

2007B Museum Artifacts
Museums are collections of artifacts. Although museums can represent interests from fine arts to whaling, people who visit museums sometimes fail to realize that every exhibit, every display case, represents a series of human decisions.: some individual or group of individuals has to decide to include a particular piece of art or specific artifact in the museum’s collectiuon.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay in which you develop a position on the most important considerations facing the person responsible for securing a new work of art or an artifact for a museum.

2008 Global Warming
Global warming (an increase in Earth’s external temperatures) has been blamed for a host of recent worldwide issues, including an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes, higher temperatures and droughts, and various other environmental changes. Some strategies that are used to curtail global warming may affect global politics and economics.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay in which you take a position on the key issues that leaders (in science, politics, business, etc.) should consider when making policies that affect global warming. Removed because this prompt is part of the AP Coure Audit Secure documents and should be accessible only to registered teachers.

2008 Penny
In 2001 United States Representative Jim Kolbe introduced legislation to Congress to eliminate the penny cpin in most transactions. Although this legislation failed, there are still consistent calls to eliminate the penny as the smallest denominatrion United States coin.
    
Based on 7 sources. Write an essay in which you develop a position on whether or not the penny should be eliminated.

2008B National School Curriculum
Some nations have a defined national school curricuum, while others, such as the United States, do not. As a result, students in high school English classes in the United States can read texts that vary widely from school to school, while students in other countries may all read the same books in high school.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay that develops a position on whether or not there should be specific texts that all students of high school English must read.

2009 Space Exploration
Explorers and tales of explorations tend to capture the human imagination. However, such explorations have financial and ethical consequences. Space exploration is no exception.
     Based on 8 sources. Develop a position about what issues should be considered most important in making decisions about space exploration and synthesize at least three of the sources for support.

2009B Individuality vs. Conformity in Public Schools
Mass public schooling has traditionally proclaimed among its goals the following: (1) to help each student gain personal fulfillment and (2) to help create good citizens. These two goals -- one aimed at the betterment of individuals and the other aimed at the betterment of society -- might seem at odds with one another. At the very least, these two goals are a cause of much tension within schools at every level: schools want students to be allowed or encouraged to think for themselves and pursue their own interests, but schools also believe that it is right in some circumstances to encourage conformity in order to socialize students.
     Based on 7 sources. Choose an issue related to the tension in schools between individuality and conformity. You might choose an issue such as dress codes, mandatory classes, or the structure of the school day. You do not have to choose an issue that you have experienced personally. Write an essay in which you use this issue to argue the extent to which schools should support individuality or conformity.

2010 Information Technology
Much attention has been given lately to the ubiquitous presence of information techn ologies. Our daily lives seem to be saturated with television, computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and MP3 players, to name just a few of the most common technologies.
     Many people extol the ability of such technologies to provide easy access to information and facilitate research and learning. At the same time, however, some critics worry that the widespread use of information technologies forces our lives to move too quickly. We encounter images and information from the INternet and other sources faster than we can process or evaluate them, and even though electronic communcation has been enhanced, both the quality and quantity of face-to-face interaction is changing.

     Based on 6 sources. In an essay, evaluate the most important factors that a school should consider before using particular technologies in curriculum and instruction.

2010B Daylight Savings Time
In much of the world, the time that regulates our lives is altered by daylight savings time. Each year, we set our clocks back an hour in the fall and then move them forward an hour in the spring. This annual shift is thought to have been invented by Benjamin Franklin, who in 1784 wrote a letter to a French journalist suggesting that Parisians could economize on candles if they simply woke up earlier in the summer. Daylight saving time was adopted by the United States in the twentieth century and is regulated by the federal government. Even though daylight saving time has been widelty adopted, it still has detractors.
    
Based on 6 sources. Synthesize at least three of the sources into an essay that evaluates daylight saving time and offers a recommendation about its continued use.

2011 Locavores
Locavores are people who have decided to eat locally grown or produced products as much as possible. With an eye to nutrition as well as sustainability (resource use that preserves the environment), the locavore movement has become widespread over the past decade.
     Based on 7 sources. Imagine that a community is considering organizing a locavore movement. In an essay, identify the key issues associated with the locavore movement and examine their implications for the community.

2011B Green Living
Green living (practices that promote the conservation and wise use of natural resources) has become a topic of discussion in many parts of the world today. With changes in the availability and cost of natural resources, many people are discussing whether conservation should be required of all citizens.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay that develops a position on the extent to which government should be responsible for fostering green practices.

2012 United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has delivered communications for more than two centuries. During the nineteenth century, the USPS helped to expand the boundaries of the United States by providing efficient and reliable communication across the country. Between 1790 and 1860 alone, the number of post offices in the United States grew from 75 to over 28,000. With this growth came job opportunities for postal workers and a boom in the cross-country rail system. The twentieth century brought substantial growth to the USPS, including large package delivery and airmail. Over the past decade, however, total mail volume has decreased considersbly as competition from electronic mail and various package delivery companies has taken business away from the USPS. The loss of revenue has prompted the USPS to consider cutting back on delivery days and other services.
     Based on 8 sources. Write an essay that argues a clear position on whether the USPS should be restructured to meet the needs of a changing world, and if so, how.

2013 Memorialization
The need to memorialize events or people is complex; in some cases, monuments honor moments of great achievement, while in other cases, monuments pay homage to deep sacrifice. A monument’s size, location, and materials are all considerations in planning and creating a memorial to the past.
     Based on 7 sources. In an essay, examines the factors a group or agency should consider in memorializing an event or person and in creating a monument.

2014 Value of a College Education
Many recent college graduates have faced record levels of unemployment. This situation has led people to question what they value about higher education. Some high school students and their parents are wondering if a college education is worth the cost. Others, however, believe that a college education prepares students for more than just a job or career.
     Based on 6 sources. Write an essay that evaluates whether college is worth its cost.

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Updated 12 June 2016.