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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, within the group each individual develops an annotated bibliography and writes a sample response. As a group, students complete a synthesis essay assignment, pooling all the best resources. 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 (Timm Freitas) -- 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.

Synthesis Source Evaluations & Conversations (Tim Freitas) -- Excellent form for analyzing sources, even includes a comic strip activity that helps focus on citation.

Synthesis Workshop -- PowerPoint for Students developing their own synthesis prompts.

DBQ Template -- form for analyzing sources.

Student Synthesis Prompts -- Sample Student Prompts by Alfonso Correa’s students. He asked them to create a prompt in small groups, with five sources, two of which had to be visual.


Rubrics & Scoring Guides

Writing Synthesis EssayPublishers

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


Teachers Pay Teachers

Read ‘Em and Weave Synthesis Essay Unit (Angie Kratzer) $12.00 4.9* -- Includes 10 lessons.

Synthesis Essay Workbook (Jenna Copper) $5.00 4.9* -- Includes original pompt used to teach process.

Thesis as Enthymeme Bundle for AP English Language and Composition (Rhetor’s Toolbox) $5.40 5.0* -- Focuses on thesis development and sophistication.


Prepared Essay Packets (52)*

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, Eileen Bach, and Krista Dedriksen for collecting and sharing many of these.


The Synthesis Dinner Party

In groups, students host a dinner party, and guests are four of the writers (sources) in the unit. Students provide a seating chart, a wonderful meal for their guests and direct the conversation. Includes directions, handouts, rubrics, and iluustrations from student parties. This packet includes directions for three Dinner Party projects — Education, Trancendentalism, Cancel Culture, but you can develop your own specific application of the project to your chosen readings. Synthesis Dinner Party Packet and Powerpoint.


DBQs: Data-Based Question

ResearchThe Data-Based Question, a mainstay of Advanced Placement social studies courses, is close kin to the Synthesis Essay. DBQ Scoring Guides are 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 (Full CB Packet).

DBQ & Synthesis Matrix -- compares both formats.

“Is the Hot Dog a Sandwich?” is a famous and fun DBQ, especially appropriate for AP Language (Full-size chart).

Writing the DBQ handouts from several teachers. Similar but different enough to make each worth viewing.
DBQ 1 , DBQ 2 , DBQ 3 , DBQ 4 .

DBQ Questions and DBQ Main Page offer sample DBQ prompts.


Greatest Idea


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 should come from this reference.

New York Times “300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing” -- excellent practice for the synthesis essay.

new The Flip Side is an email service that provides balanced resources on issues where there are multiple valid perspectives. After you sign up, you will get daily emails on varied subjects.

Open Educational Resources

Free, standards-based online courses that provide teacher resources, study guides, graphic organizers, videos, activities, and more. The Big History Project and three World History Project courses are designed for high-school world history — Origins to the Present, 1200 to the Present, 1750 to the Present. World History Project AP® is aligned with the College Board APWH CED. Wow! BUT, useful also for Advanced Placement Language Synthesis essays. Do your Advanced Placement Social Studies Teachers a favor!

Yes, you have to join, but it is free. Kinda actually part of the name! Then, you set up your courses and your students join for free as well. Within each course, everything in each unit can be downloaded, printed, and/or sent to Google docs — lesson plans, teaher and student guides, videos, activities, scoring rubrics, articles (with working sourced links in the bibliography) — literally, everything! Google Docs Instructions.

Project X is a gem. Each student is a historian of the future, and data is their crystal ball. As our species confronts the challenges of the twenty-first century, we carry the knowledge and burdens of history. In Project X, students use that knowledge of the past to predict the future.

Project Score is a “choose your own adventure” approach to writing in social studies. Flexible, scaffolded writing instruction, providing specific rubric-based strategies, focused on evidence-based revision, combined with automated essay-scoring, gives you an organized, creative way to teach writing in social studies. Choose from 25 Writing Prompts with all necessary sources, eqch of which can be completed in approximately two weeks. Organized as investigations or DBQs, these could also be used as Advanced Placement Language synthesis topics. For example, this is Prompt 6: “How Does Language Make Humans Different?”

The Teacher Resources section is incredible (yes, as in unbelievable). Graphic organizers, online tools, posters, visual aids, vocabulary, maps, literacy supports, how-to guides, course brochures, state standards alignment. Just check out this one PDSF for the OER Project Teaching Guide from the Course Planning Page.

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



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, student samples, scoring guides, and commentary. Some may also include activities or additional references.

Chief Reader David Jolliffe explains why College Board developed this newer format and explains what is the intent of the format.

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

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 Course 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.
new Tech in Schools Role-playing Activity

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.
new Locovore Role-playing Activity

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.

2015 Honor Code
Many high schools, colleges, and universities have honor codes or honor systems: sets of rules or principles that are intended to cultivate integrity. These rules or principles often take the form of written positions on practices like cheating, stealing, and plagiarising as well as the consequences of violating the established codes.

    Based on 6 sources. Write an essay that makes a coherent, well-developed argument for your own position on whether your school should establish, maintain, revise, or eliminate an honor code or onor system.

2016 Monolingual English
Over the past several decades, the English language has become increasingly globalized, and it is now seen by many as the dominant language in international finance, science, and politics. Concurrent with the worldwide spread of English is the decline of foreign language learning in English-speaking countries, where monolingualism—the use of a single language—remains the norm.
    Based on 6 sources. Write a coherent, well-developed essay that argues a clear position on whether monolingual English speakers are at a disadvantage today.

2017 Public Libraries
As the Internet changes what and how people read, there has been consideable debate about the future of public librairies. While some commentators question whether libraries can stay relevant, others see new possibilities for libraries in the changing dynamics of today’s society.
    Based on 6 sources. Write a coherent, well-organized essay in which you develop a position on the role, if any, that public libraries should serve in the future.

2018 Eminent Domain
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 domain than do private owners. Eminent domain has been instituted in one way or anther throughout the world for hundreds of years.
    Based on 6 sources. Write a coherent, well-developed essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies the notion that eminent domain is productive and beneficial.

2019 Wind Farms
In response to our society’s increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.
    Based on six sources. Write a coherent, well-written essay in which you develop your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

2021 Handwriting
In the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, handwriting instruction (print and cursive) was virtually
universal in schools in the United States. By contrast, little if any time is devoted to such lessons today. While
some argue that handwriting instruction should still have a place in schooling, others maintain that digital
technologies have rendered such instruction unnecessary.
Based on six sources. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the place, if any, of handwriting instruction in today’s schools.

2022 STEM Education
Since the early 2000s, the United States government and a number of corporations have sponsored initiatives to improve education in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The emphasis on STEM subjects in elementary, secondary, and higher education reflects concerns that United States students are less proficient in these areas than are students in other countries. Additionally, there is a belief that mastery in STEM fields is now essential in order to join a highly technical and specialized workforce. However, not everyone is convinced that a STEM-focused curriculum is necessary and/or effective.
Based on six sources. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the value, if any, of initiatives to improve STEM education and increase the number of students interested in the STEM disciplines.

zombie poster

Get free CDC poster.


new The infamous Zombie Apocalypse Synthesis prompt seems oddly appropriate during the pandemic, yet also kinda fun and funny. Enjoy. The CDC is no longer preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, but their materials live on. CDC Preparedness Advertisement. CDC “Going Viral” Analysis of their campaign.

New Zombie Apocalypse has a massive fourteen sources. You can pick and choose!

Zombie Apocalypse Practice focuses on three sources and a de-briefing (Marla Delapenha).

Zombie Apocalypse Alternative Sources introduces eight refreshingly different sources.

Two Sample Student Essays shared because they are instructive of good synthesis and research writing.

Zombie Apocalypse PowerPoint developed by Molly Fleming Schauer -- Brilliant Day One activity, but could be adapted for any day.

Zombie Apocalypse Survival Choice Activity developed by Christi Carr Owens.


Get free CDC graphic novel.


Just for Fun -- Google “Zombie Apocalypse Infographic”!


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I can maintain and expand this website only with your help.

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Updated 5 May 2023.

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