Ap Synthesis Essay Advertising

One of the most effective skills you can use on the AP Exam is knowing how to “work” your prompt!  All of the information to effectively start your essay is right there—a  key to developing your thesis. Taking a few moments to truly ascertain what the prompt is asking you to do will assure you of an on-topic and clear essay. 

The relatively new synthesis argument prompt assesses the writer’s ability to effectively gather information to support his or her argument. Sound fancy? It is! Consider yourself an attorney who must prove a case using evidence from a variety of sources or evidence. Together we will strategize your approach to this question type on the AP Exam---you’re on your way to success!

We recommend you print out a hard copy of the test question if possible, and work through the tutorial step by step, as you will be working from hard copy on the day of the exam. (Remember to use a pen as well!) This is not required, but helpful for you.

The complete prompt and sources can be accessed here:

Synthesis Essay Question A

Along the way, you’ll see our “Ghost Writer,” who demonstrates the strategies you will learn.

Take a moment now to look at the Directions portion of the essay prompt—these instructions will remain the same on the AP Exam. Understanding them now will save you some time on the day of the exam. Let’s take a look:

Directions: The following prompt is based on the accompanying six sources.

This question requires you to synthesize a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. Synthesis refers to combining the sources and your position to form a cohesive, supported argument and accurately citing sources.

Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument. Avoid merely summarizing sources.

Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.

The second part of the essay prompt, the Introduction, will vary. Allow yourself to be immersed in the topic here, as the introduction guides your thinking. Take one to two minutes to absorb the introduction, noting any thoughts that immediately cross your mind and underlining any phrasing that stands out to you. (If you do not have a copy printed out to work from, that’s okay. Consider writing your notes on a separate sheet of paper) Read it at least twice as sometimes anxiety in the test taking atmosphere will not allow you to absorb. Allow your memory to recall all you can on the topic; you are the brainstormer! Here we go!


That advertising plays a huge role in society is readily apparent to anyone who watches television, listens to radio, reads newspapers, uses the Internet, or simply looks at billboards on streets and buses. Advertising has fierce critics as well as staunch advocates. Critics claim that advertisement is propaganda, while advocates counter that advertising fosters free trade and promotes prosperity.

Here’s how our writer attacked, or worked, the introduction:

That advertising plays a huge role in society is readily apparent to anyone who watches television, listens to radio, reads newspapers, uses the Internet, or simply looks at billboards on streets and buses. Advertising has fierce critics as well as staunch advocates. Critics claim that advertisement is propaganda, while advocates counter that advertising fosters free trade and promotes prosperity.

So at this point, we’ve skimmed the directions and immersed ourselves in the introduction. Now, we move on the actual assignment, where we discover our specific task.


Read the following sources (including the introductory information) carefully. Then write an essay in which you develop a position on the effects of advertising. Synthesize at least three of the sources for support.

The test makers have duly noted your task in boldface. To create an effective thesis or position, turn the prompt into a question. Your ultimate answer to the question will be your thesis. Write the question out for yourself on your scratch paper…this will be your focus while you read. You may want to craft a rough thesis, or answer, if this is a familiar topic to you, but remember to keep an open mind while you read through the sources

The next section of the Assignment shows you your reference options:

You may refer to the sources by their titles (Source A, Source B, etc.) or by the descriptions in the parentheses.

Source A (Red Cross)

Source B (Shaw)

Source C (Culpa)

Source D (Day)

Source E (Schrank)

Source F (Sesana)

Writer’s Sample of Worked Prompt

For more information about the topics underlined in the passage, click on the word.
Explanations appear below:

Click on the arrow to clear all.


Click on the explanation box below to hide individual explanations.

Your thesis is an answer to a question and should drive your essay focus when you write. You may have also heard this defined as an assertion or a claim. We will delve further into thesis development in Steps 3 and 4.

Six sources
The six sources following your prompt will vary in their approaches, but will all be based on the primary topic. You will not have to use all six sources.

Cohesive, supported argument
When you think of a cohesive essay, think of one that includes elements that work together. A team that works together towards a single goal is cohesive. The support required is from your sources.

Citing sources
Any information you use from the sources must be cited, whether paraphrased or directly quoted. Remember the goal is to use the information to work for you in your argument.

Test creators emphasize these instructions more than once as you see. Your argument or thesis is of paramount importance.

Avoid merely summarizing
Demonstrate your ability to use specific information for the purpose of your argument. Remember that the readers are familiar with the material. They will determine that you comprehend the source by how you use it in argument, not because you are able to explain or define the source.

direct and indirect citations
If you fail to cite sources, you will not pass this question on the exam! Attribution of ownership is one of the skills readers will need to see demonstrated. The direct citation uses quotation marks, and the indirect citation paraphrases or references the text. You will also have a choice in how you cite, depending on your quote integration at the time. We will show you more on this in the samples provided.

Read it at least twice

On the First Read: Advertising, commercials, annoying sometimes, entertaining. Money. But is it propaganda? Are we forced to watch them or read them?
On the Second Read: Are the effects negative or positive? There are too many of them, but people have a right to make money with their products.

Develop a position
Don’t let the wording throw your focus. Your position is your thesis.

Turn the prompt into a question
What are the effects of advertising on society/the individual? What makes this arguable, or meriting a position, is that everyone has a different opinion on what those effects may be.

You will prove (beyond a reasonable doubt!) that the effects you discuss are the most significant.

Advertisements, Good or Bad?
Nowadays we see advertisements in every corner of our lives. Wherever we go, whichever place we are at, some types of advertisement would always be presented. Some people would use advertisements for a moral purpose, such as encouraging people to donate blood to save others (Source A). However, others would use advertisements for their own self-interest, such as promoting some certain products to gain more profits. Advertisements surely have some positive effects on the people; however, the negative effects that they place on the people, especially consumers, outweigh the positive ones.
There is no doubt that advertisement that is used to encourage people to give blood to save others in the society (Source A) has positive effect on the people and the society as a whole. This kind of advertisement connects the people to their community by informing them about the way that they can help others. It is appropriately used to promote the health of the community and encourage the people to communicate with each other through charity and good work. However, if all ads are used in this way, there is no argument and contradiction at all. Most of the ads that we see on the street or on the Internet are all about some certain products that the producers want us to buy. These ads are used not for a moral purpose, but instead for a self-interested purpose. For instance, a cigarette company uses ads to promote its product not because it believes that cigarette would help the people, but because it believes that the ads would help to increase its own profit--selling more cigarettes. It is true that ads develop “selective demands for individual brands” (Source B); however, in a moral sense, creating ads to encourage people to smoke more is unacceptable. As a human creature, I fully understand that self-interest is really important to the people; however, as a human creature, I strongly believe that before advertisers making such ads, they should at...

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