Planning the overall structure
This sections looks at the next step in planning for your essay - making a plan for the overall structure.
Before you start this step, planning the overall structure, you should have already completed the following steps:
- Interpreting the question (Section 2 of this unit).
In this step you have seen how to identify and interpret the key components of your essay question to ensure you focus on the task you have been set.
- Grouping your source material (Section 3 of this unit).
In this step you have seen how to get a quick overview of your topic, the key researchers and their perspectives, and the areas of agreement and dispute by using a synthesis grid. This note-taking technique helps you to see useful groupings of research, approaches, arguments and evidence.
- Constructing a working thesis (Section 4 of this unit).
In this step, you saw how to develop a working thesis for your essay using the information in the synthesis grid.
However, unless your synthesis grid is extremely comprehensive and detailed, you cannot go straight from the synthesis grid to writing your essay.
There is an important further step. This involves:
- Planning the overall structure
- developing the main arguments to support your working thesis.
- ordering these arguments in the most effective way.
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The two synthesis essay questions below are examples of the question type that has been one of the three free-response questions on the AP English Language and Composition Exam as of the May 2007 exam. The synthesis question asks students to synthesize information from a variety of sources to inform their own discussion of a topic. Students are given a 15-minute reading period to accommodate the additional reading required for the question.
Below is a sample synthesis essay question, sample scoring guidelines, comments from the Chief Reader about the sample student essays, seven sample student responses, and scoring commentary for each sample.
Approximately 300 AP English Language and Composition students from eight schools in New York, Maine, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, and New Mexico wrote responses to this synthesis topic. Students from these schools were given a 15-minute reading period followed by a 40-minute writing period in which to complete the sample synthesis assignment.
An additional sample synthesis essay question is provided here.