On the synthesis question the
successful writer is going to be able to
show readers how he or she has
thought through the topic at hand by
considering the sources critically and
creating a composition that draws
conversations with the sources into his
or her own thinking. It is a task that
the college-bound student should
willingly take up.
 Accomplished academic writers don't simply draw
material from published sources as if the sources
were maples being tapped for their sap. On the
contrary, savvy writers converse with sources and
incorporate (literally: em-body) them in their
 The synthesis question provides students with a
number of relatively brief sources on a topic or an
issue -- texts of no longer than one page, plus at
least one source that is a graphic, a visual, a picture,
or a cartoon. The prompt calls upon students to write
a composition that develops a position on the issue
and that synthesizes and incorporates perspectives
from at least three of the provided sources. Students
may, of course, draw upon whatever they know about
the issue as well, but they must make use of at least
three of the provided sources to earn an upper -half
 What moves should a writer make to accomplish this task?
Essentially, there are six:
 Read the sources carefully.
 There will be 15 minutes allotted to the free-response. The
student will be permitted to read and write on the cover sheet to
the synthesis question, which will contain some introductory
material, the prompt itself, and a list of the sources. The
students will also be permitted to read and annotate the sources.
The student will not be permitted to open his or her test booklet
and actually begin writing the composition until after the 15
minutes has elapsed-but you can write on the cover sheet!
 Second, the writer must analyze the argument each source is
making: What claim is the source making about the issue? What
data or evidence does the source offer in support of that claim?
What are the assumptions or beliefs (explicit or unspoken) that
warrant using this evidence or data to support the claim? Note
that students will need to learn how to perform such analyses of
nontextual sources: graphs, charts, pictures, cartoons, and so on .
 In other words-write a summary of each source with evidence.
 T h i s q u e s t i o n r e q u i r e s yo u to i n te g r a te a v a r i et y o f s o u r c e s i n to a c o h e r e n t , w e l l w r i t te n e s s ay. Re f e r to t h e s o u r c e s to s u p p o r t yo u r p o s i t io n ; av o i d m e r e p a r a p h r a s e
o r s u m m a r y. Yo u r a r g u m e n t s h o u l d b e c e n t r al ; t h e s o u r c e s s h o u l d s u p p o r t t h i s
a r g u m en t .
 Re m e m b e r to a t t r i b ute b o t h d i r ec t a n d i n d i r e c t c i t a t io n s .
 I n t r o d uct i o n : Te l ev i s i o n h a s b e e n i n f l ue n t ia l i n U n i te d S t a te s p r e s i d e n t i a l e l e c t i o n s
s i n c e t h e 1 9 6 0 ’ s . B u t j u s t w h a t i s t h i s i n f l ue nc e , a n d h o w h a s i t a f f e c te d w h o i s
e l e c ted ? H a s i t m a d e e l e c t i o n s f a i r e r a n d m o r e a c c e s s i b l e , o r h a s i t m o v e d
c a n d i d a te s f r o m p u r s uin g i s s u e s to p u r s ui n g i m a g e ?
 A s s i g nm e n t : Re a d t h e f o l l ow i ng s o u r c e s ( i n c l ud i n g a ny i n t r o d uc to r y i n f o r m a t i o n )
c a r e f ull y. T h e n , i n a n e s s ay t h a t s y n t h e s i z e s a t l e a s t t h r e e o f t h e s o u rc e s f o r
s u p p o r t , t a ke a p o s i t i o n t h a t d e f e n d s , c h a l l e n g e s , o r q u a l i fie s t h e c l a i m t h a t
te l ev i s i o n h a s h a d a p o s i t iv e i m p ac t o n p r e s i d e n t i al e l e c t i o n s .
 Re f e r to t h e s o u r c e s a s S o u rc e A , S o u rc e B , et c . ; t i t l e s a r e i n c l ud e d f o r yo ur
c o nv e ni e n c e .
 S o u rc e A ( C a m pbe l l)
S o u rc e B ( H a r t a n d Tr i ec e )
 S o u rc e C ( M e n a n d )
S o u rc e D ( C h a r t )
 S o u rc e E ( R a n n ey )
S o u rc e F ( Ko p p e l )
On your cover page:
Paraphrase the assignment/
task being asked of you.
• Once you paraphrase the task decide whether you are
going to defend, or challenge it.
• You will defend, or challenge the following task: Has
television had a positive impact on presidential elections?
O F T E L E V I S I O N / M U S E U M O F B R O A D C A S T C O M M U N I C AT I O N S , V O L . 1 , E D . H O R A C E
N E W YO R K : F I T Z ROY D E A R BO R N , 2 0 0 5 .
The following passage is excerpted from an article about television’s impact on politics.
The advent of television in the late 1940’s gave rise to the belief that a new era was
opening in public communication. As Frank Stanton, president of the Columbia Broadcasting
System, put it: “Not even the sky is the limit.” One of the great contributions expected of
television lay in its presumed capacity to inform and stimulate the political interests of the
American electorate.
“Television, with its penetration, its wide geographic distribution and impact, provides a
new, direct, and sensitive link between Washington and the people,” said Dr. Stanton. “The
people have once more become the nation, as they have not been since the days when we
were small enough each to know his elected representative. As we grew, we lost this feeling of
direct contact—television has now restored it.”
As time has passed, events have seemed to give substance to this expectation. The
televising of important congressional hearings, the national nominating conventions, and most
recently the Nixon-Kennedy and other debates have appeared to make a novel contribution to
the political life of the nation. Large segments of the public have been given a new, immediate
contact with political events. Television has appeared to be fulfilling its early promise.
• Third, the writer needs to generalize about his or her own potential
stands on the issue. The writer should ask, "What are two or three (or
more) possible positions on this issue that I could take? Which of those
positions do I really want to take? Why?" Generalize-think of the
different stances you can take.
• It's vital at this point, I think, for the writer to keep an open mind. A
stronger, more mature, more persuasive essay will result if the writer
resists the temptation to oversimplify the issue, to hone in immediately
on an obvious thesis. Keep an Open Mind-look for the nuances!
• All of the synthesis essay prompts will be based on issues that invite
careful, critical thinking. The best student responses will be those in
which the thesis and development suggest clearly that the writer has
given some thought to the nuances, the complexities of the assigned
Fourth -- and this is the most challenging move -- the writer needs to imagine
presenting each of his or her best positions on the issue to each of the
authors of the provided sources. Role-playing the author or creator of each
source, the student needs to create an imaginary conversation between
himself or herself and the author/creator of the source. Would the
author/creator agree with the writer's position? Why? Disagree? Why? Want
to qualify it in some way? Why and how?
Fifth, on the basis of this imagined conversation, the student needs to finesse, to
refine, the point that he or she would like to make about the issue so that it can
serve as a central proposition, a thesis -- as complicated and robust as the topic
demands -- for his or her composition. This proposition or thesis should probably
appear relatively quickly in the composition, after a sentence or two that
contextualizes the topic or issue for the reader.
Sixth, the student needs to argue his or her position. The writer must
develop the case for the position by incorporating within his or her own
thinking the conversations he or she has had with the authors/creators of
the primary sources. The student should feel free to say things like,
"Source A takes a position similar to mine," or "Source C would oppose
my position, but here's why I still maintain its validity," or "Source E offers
a slightly different perspective, one that I would alter a bit."
• explanatory and argumentative
• The explanatory synthesis aims to inform, to make sure that readers
understand the parts of a topic. In writing the explanatory synthesis, writers
bring together information from various sources to illustrate a subject.
• They offer the following as an example of a thesis statement for an
explanatory synthesis on the subject of computer-mediated communication
(CMC): 15
• While many praise CMC’s potential to bridge barriers and promote meaningful
dialogue, others caution that CMC is fraught with dangers .
• This example shows that in the explanatory synthesis, the writer still develops
a position, but it is a position regarding what the sources as a whole say about
the topic, not a position about which side the readers should believe.
• An argumentative synthesis, on the other hand, aims to persuade, to convince
readers to adhere to a particular claim. In writing the argumentative synthesis,
writers also bring together information from various sources, but in this type of
synthesis some of the information is provided as evidence to support the claim,
while other sources may be included to represent views that the writer rejects.
• Here is an example of a thesis for an argumentative synthesis on the same
subject of computer-mediated communication:
• CMC threatens to undermine human intimacy, connection, and ultimately
. This example shows that the writer is trying to persuade readers to adopt a particular
belief about the harmful effects of computer-mediated communication.
But this particular thesis would lead to a pretty one-sided argument.
 Here is a revision of that thesis that shows how opposing
views can still be synthesized within an argument:
 Although many praise the potential of CMC to bridge barriers
and promote meaningful dialogue, in practice CMC threatens
to undermine human intimacy, connection, and ultimately
 This particular thesis would naturally lead to an essay in
which the author explains the views some hold about the
possible benefits of CMC but then challenges these views by
demonstrating how the potential harms outweigh the benefits.

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