Ap Synthesis Essay Topic

Posted on Monday, May 24, 2010 in Practice Test Synthesis Questions, Satire

Analyzing Political and Editorial Cartoons

Use these directions for any cartoon that seems to have a serious message and/or
attempts to persuade its audience. Note that this includes, but is not limited to, so-called editorial cartoons. 

1. As with any picture, examine the individual details and their relationship to each other and to the whole. When reading a picture, consider:
A. Things in the foreground

B. Things in the background
C. The focus
D. Juxtapositions

2. Cartoons often use:
A. Stereotypes
B. Caricatures
C. Universal symbols
3. “Political” cartoons are often satirical. Ask yourself the following questions about cartoonist’s purpose:
A. What is the cartoonist’s stance? What does the cartoonist want to correct by ridicule?
B. If you think there is Split Point of View between the cartoonist and one or more characters in the cartoon, identify all of

C. What visual elements in the cartoon represent the satiric victims? Explain.
D. Point out the visual equivalents of satiric devices used in the cartoon.
II. VERBAL ELEMENTS: Titles, dialogue, labels & captions
4. Analyze words are used within the cartoon (dialogue or labels)
A. For dialogue, who is the speaker? For labels, what is labeled?
B. Explain the multiple levels of meaning — be especially alert for irony.
C. How do these words connect to the cartoonist’s argument (his position or proposition)?

5. Analyze words appear outside the cartoon (title or caption).
A. Explain the connection between the title or caption and the cartoon itself.
B. What message is conveyed by it? (Don’t forget .implied or hidden messages)
C. How does the title or caption contribute to the overall meaning of the cartoon?
D. How does it contribute to the persuasive purpose (the argument) of the cartoon?

6. Satiric techniques
A. Point out satiric techniques in all the verbal elements of the cartoon.

B. Other rhetorical techniques, such as repetition for emphasis & (connotation, can also be used to create satire.

Point out examples of general rhetorical techniques in your cartoon.
7.Most “political” cartoons are really persuasive in purpose.

A. What issue is addressed by the cartoon?

8. Most political cartoons take a position on an issue

A. What is the cartoonist’s position on this issue?

B. What does the cartoonist want to correct?

C. How is it conveyed, visually or verbally?

D. Is there is a stated or implied proposition, what is it?
E. How is it conveyed, visually or verbally?

9. Most political cartoons use appeals to ethos, pathos or logos, visual or verbal.

A. Point out other persuasive appeals that are used.

B.. For each appeal, explain whether you think it is used ethically to persuade or unethically to manipulate the audience.

10. Most cartoonist attempt to establish empathy? NOTE: If there are characters in the cartoon, the audience may feel empathy for them rather than ‘or the cartoonist.

A. How does the cartoonist attempt to establish empathy?
B. In satire, a writer or cartoonist may deliberately create antipathy for a character or persona who represents the opposing position on the issue. This can be seen as a form of irony.
If you think this is happening in your cartoon, explain what visual and verbal elements create it.

11. Good readers automatically summarize and evaluate the cartoon’s meaning

A. Summarize the argument behind the cartoon.
B. Evaluate the cartoon’s effectiveness, both as satire and as persuasion.
C. Explain why the cartoon is ethical (persuasive) or manipulative. (From “Reading a Picture”) 

Open the following file which includes the guidelines above and some cartoons for you to analyze. 

Analyzing Political and Editorial Cartoons

Here is another website that we will look at for more practice.  Follow teacher assignments given in class. 


The newest section of the AP English Language and Composition Exam, the synthesis essay, is one of three essays you will be completing during the examination’s 2-hour free-response period. However, you’ll also have a 15-minute reading and planning period just for this essay, and if you use this time to plan effectively, you can’t go wrong.

Before we get into specific advice on how to handle the AP English Language and Composition synthesis essay, you need to know what this part of the test really is. It is very similar to the argumentative essay you will also write as part of this exam, except that you are provided with a wealth of source material from which to draw some support for your ideas.

While this in some ways makes the AP English Language and Composition synthesis essay easier than the argument essay (because you can use quotations, point to authoritative sources for support, etc.), there is an extra element of complexity, and the AP readers want to see how well you can sort through your source material and put it to good use – which makes planning all that much more important. This brings us to our first tip…

1. Use Your 15-Minute Planning Period Wisely.

The main purpose of this 15-minute period is to give you time to read the source materials. This essay will present you with several sources providing different information about or opinions on a certain topic. Make sure you don’t just skim them, but read them closely – make notes, underline key sections you may want to quote later, etc.

You should also begin outlining your essay and considering your opinion on the subject; have this opinion in mind before you start writing the essay, as you will use it to construct your thesis.

You’ve already learned how to structure persuasive essays in this class and in other classes you have taken; put that knowledge to good use now, and have your main points set out before you start writing. Try to have a thesis statement written by the time you start the essay – your thesis should establish your opinion and the general reasons you feel this way; the rest of your essay will go on to justify and exemplify these reasons. Also write down some of the main points upon which you will base subsequent paragraphs and mark quotes or sections of the sources you can use in each of these paragraphs.

2. Evaluate Your Sources.

Every source you can use for the AP Language and Composition synthesis essay will have a small box above it explaining where it comes from and who said it – to see exactly what this looks like, check out the free synthesis essay sample questions at AP Central. There are also public sample questions available there for the rest of the AP English and Composition Exam.

Keep all information about your sources in mind when you’re quoting them or using them to support your arguments. What journal an article appeared in can say a great deal about its potential biases. For example, consider a question on the environmental impacts of corporate practices – an environmental journal is obviously going to be biased in favor of more environmental regulation, while a report from a company spokesperson will probably gloss over some of the negative impacts of his company. Think critically.

3. Keep Your Tone Consistent.

There is no hard-and-fast advice about what tone you should take – some students try to inject a little humor into their essays while others prefer to be as serious as possible, some are extremely critical and others more accepting. However, the one thing you really have to do while writing the AP Language and Composition synthesis essay (or any other essay) is keep your tone consistent. Jot some tone-related ideas down as you outline during the 15-minute reading period, and keep in mind everything you’ve learned about tone and other aspects of rhetoric so far this year.

4. Use Rhetorical Technique to Your Advantage!

The various rhetorical practices you’ve been learning about all year can be put to good use here. This class and this test aren’t just about recognizing and analyzing these techniques when others use them, but about preparing you for college and your career by teaching you how to use them effectively yourself. However, this isn’t just about writing a beautiful essay, so read on to Tip # 5!

5. Your Argument Must be Well-Crafted.

The AP English Language and Composition Exam synthesis essay does not have right or wrong answers; rather, it asks you for your opinion. The AP Examiner cannot take points off because she disagrees with you. However, you must show logical basis for your opinion, drawing on both the sources AND your own knowledge and experience.

To do this, make sure you have a clear and complete thesis. Make sure the ideas expressed in the beginning of each paragraph or section support the thesis, and that you in turn show how those ideas are supported by a source or through your own knowledge and experience. Don’t generalize or write anything down that you can’t support.

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