Synthesis Tips and Tricks
Introduce Your Position
1. YOUR argument should be clear and should guide the essay. It's YOUR argument with support from sources. So, it might be a good idea to craft a thesis statement BEFORE you read all of the sources. MAKE SURE YOU ANSWER THE EXACT QUESTION POSED.
2. Introduction: contextualize the issue, who cares? why does it matter? a thesis that foregrounds your opinion, but does not sound like a 5-paragraph essay.
3. Complexity/Nuance. Do justice to the complexity of the issue. Don't make the other side sound dumb. Don't ride the fence. Words like "Although" and "While" tend to show complex, nuanced thoughts.
Develop your Position & Work with Sources
1. Aim for using 4 or 5 sources. (there's no prize for 6 or 7). Aim for 2 sources in some body paragraphs, 3 in a couple. (there's no prize for 4 in one paragraph!)
2. Introduce sources IN THE TEXT and PARENTHETICALLY ("According to Sally Johnson in Newsweek, 'quote quote quote' (Johnson).
3. Make sure that your argumentative points are supported and don't seem contrary to common sense.
4. Demonstrate somewhere that you are CRITICAL of source, that you take things "with a grain of salt." ("The USPS represents more than a graph of profit or delivery points. It represents a long standing tradition that unites Americans.")
5. NEW in 2014: Try to incorporate the visual or chart no matter what. And when you do, show complexity in your thinking, like: "This photo of a rural post office could suggest how forlorn, outdated, and decrepit the the postal service could be. But it also suggests that even in rural places, a simple post office could be a tangible connection to the national government."
Language and Writing
1. Remember that overall structure (something like they say/I say), and transitions between paragraphs are important. Clear topic sentences are important. Your audience will appreciate clear and complex ideas over fancy prose and simple ideas.
2. Don't forget "internal transitions" between ideas inside a paragraph that help the reader understand how the data/quotes fit. ("another important consideration," "the most important reasons..."
Test Prep Materials from the College Board, including example "TV and Politics" prompt (and sample student responses and commentary.
Extra AP synthesis task/prompt about the effects of media on disaster relief efforts. Use this for more practice in developing an outline for your response or for write a whole essay.
Here is the College Board Locavore Prompt
Here are Student Examples from the CB
Here is Student Example from HC #1
Here is Student Example from HC #2
Here is Student Example from HC #3 (2014)
Here is Student Example from HC #4 (2014)
Here is the College Board USPS Prompt
Here are Student Example from the CB