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In addition to six to seven sources, the AP Lang exam provides a written prompt that consists of three paragraphs. The prompt will briefly explain the essay topic, then present a claim that students will respond to in an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources provided.

Synthesis Essays: A Step-by-Step How-To Guide

In a way, writing a synthesis essay is similar to composing a summary. But a synthesis essay requires you to read more than one source and to identify the way the writers’ ideas and points of view are related.

Sometimes the relationships are easy to find. For example, after reading several articles about censorship in newspapers, you may notice that most of the writers refer to or in some way use the First Amendment to help support their arguments and help persuade readers. In this case, you would want to describe the different ways the writers use the First Amendment in their arguments. To do this, ask yourself, “How does this writer exploit the value of the First Amendment/use the First Amendment to help persuade or manipulate the readers into thinking that she is right?

Organizing a synthesis essay:

Point by point:

You have just read several articles about protecting the fragile environment of Utah’s west desert. One article was written by a spokesperson for the cattle industry, one by a member of the Sierra Club, one by a professor of environmentalism at the state university, and one by an all-terrain vehicle owner. Although it’s unlikely that these writers will agree about the best way to protect the desert, it is possible that they will focus on similar points of concern, those being perhaps

Once you identify the similar points of concern, if you organize your synthesis essay around these points, you will give yourself a head start when describing the relationships between the different arguments because you can use easy-to-use transitions between paragraphs such as “another point on which the writers agree…”

Point-by-point organization works well when you can identify similar points discussed by different writers. However, you will sometimes read articles all of which are concerned with the same topic that do not make similar points. In this case, writers sometimes organize their synthesis essays source by source rather than point by point.

Source by source:


Source-by-source organization is ill-advised at the high school level or in an AP situation as it often produces summary paragraphs not synthetized paragraphs.

Blended organization:

A blended essay will require a great deal of rhetorical skill and is not advised at the high school level or in an AP situation. However, if you choose to use a blended organization, present your ideas in the following order:

A skillful, blended organization and presentation of ideas will produce a rhetorically sophisticated and complex essay (complex because it will best represent connections and relations between and among points of view).

What Is a Synthesis Essay

Writing a synthesis paper is just like creating any other form of thesis. According to the synthesis essay definition, it is a written discussion of ideas. They tend to draw on two or more sources from academic papers, fiction sources, speeches, interviews, articles, lectures, or observations.

In other words, if you have two ideas from a similar topic, you can isolate the core of what they’re trying to say. For instance, you might have a paper that examines the use of smartphones in the modern world, and another on the rise of teenagers in social media. After synthesizing the information, you may come up with a combined thesis like: smartphones and social media are not destroying a generation.

Two Types of Synthesis

The goal of this type of paper is to argue a specific topic and justify it with evidence. Unlike the explanatory type, here you will do the same thing you would do if working on a regular argumentative paper. State your position, make supporting claims, and then provide credible evidence to back up each claim.

Synthesis Essay Structure

Creating an outline will be useful for structuring your synthesis paper and planning your work. Paste supporting evidence, sub-arguments, and specific points in the appropriate sections. Make sure that every aspect proves the claim of your thesis. Any extra information will only make your paper worse.

If the information goes against your central claim, then you should acknowledge it, as it will make your paper stronger. Make sure you check all of the sources you’ve picked carefully. When writing about the causes, do not summarize them – analyze them. Read further for a sample synthesis essay outline.

An outline for a synthesis essay starts with an introduction, which is a brief description of what the paper will be about. It will consist of a hook, the background and relevance of your topic, and the thesis statement. How to write a synthesis statement is explained below.

Example: An article published by Jean Twenge clearly warns readers that the rise in the use of smartphones in the modern world is ruining teenagers. Furthermore, the author makes a sensational claim that the rise in social media and smartphone usage are creating a metaphorical earthquake with a magnitude never previously witnessed in the world. The author then provides pieces of evidence from other studies concerning the issue as well as personal observations — all of which seem to support his claim. According to Twenge, the main hypothesis for claiming that smartphones and social media usage result in destroying a generation is that increased use of these two platforms results in mental depression and other mental issues. This paper will mainly refute the claims of the author by focusing on the issues raised by the work.

Example of a synthesis thesis: Although technology has brought tremendous changes to society, the use of smartphones and social media are not in any way destroying a generation, especially when looking at the reasons portrayed by Twenge.

The first paragraph must present a counterargument to your thesis. This demonstrates your ability to think from an opposing point of view — which can be greatly valued in higher educational facilities. Be sure to note that the counterargument isn’t strong enough to discredit your thesis.

Example: One of the main reasons for not supporting the article and observations by the author is the fact that all of the pieces of evidence chosen found by the author are biased. Twenge only uses and reviews studies that inherently support her views.

Example: At the same time, she ignores other studies which have been conducted to show that screen time does not have major impacts on depression and other mental health related conditions that affect teenagers. In one claim, the researcher used a study that contended that the more teens used social media like Facebook, the more they became depressed. However, she did not dwell on the issue of depression, yet the same research revealed that being depressed as a result of using Facebook did not result in more Facebook usage (Twenge). Such findings remove the blame from Facebook, as it shows clearly that unhappiness and Facebook are not entirely correlated—as portrayed by the Twenge. Moreover, by not using Facebook more often after they have become unhappy suggests that the use of Facebook has not entirely replaced how teenagers could use social media to find alternative happiness or to come out of their depression.

Example: To replace various factors that signified the previous generation, such as teen pregnancy and underage alcohol usage, as some of the indicators of how harmful these devices are to the current generation. All of these issues that have affected the previous generation have also had an impact on the future lives of teenagers, and by reducing them, it definitely signifies a more prosperous generation, based on moAlthough Jean Twenge has certain valid claims on the use of social media and teenagers, there is a lot of bias in her article, which further reduces the credibility of her article. She chooses only to focus on one side of the issue and completely neglects to give any attention to ideas that would oppose her stance, which shows that social media and smartphones could be of great use to teenagers. She also chooses to replace various bad factors that signified the previous generation, such as teen pregnancy and underage alcohol usage as some of the indicators of how harmful these devices are to the current generation. All these issues that affected the previous generation have much impact on the future lives of teenagers, and by reducing them, it definitely signifies a better generation, based on moral and values

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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