Developing the Opening Paragraph - Introduction to the Synthesis Essay - Develop Strategies for Success - AP English Language

AP English Language

Develop Strategies for Success


Introduction to the Synthesis Essay

Developing the Opening Paragraph

Now that you are aware of what is expected of you, you can begin to plan your essay.


Before beginning the actual writing, we recommend you jot down a few notes about HOW you are going to present your material. There is no need to construct a formal outline. Simply create a brief listing of the major points you want to include and the order in which you will present them.


I have decided to use the following sources in my essay:

Source ____ A ____ B ____ C ____ D ____ E ____ F ____ G

When creating the opening paragraph, most student writers feel more in control if they:

— refer specifically to the prompt and/or introduction

— clearly state their position on the given topic

Now is the time to write your opening paragraph.


The position I’m going to take on this issue is ____ support ______ oppose _____ qualify

The following are three sample introductory paragraphs.


Payday. As usual, the line at the bank drive-thru is a mile long, so Joe Citizen just sits and listens to the radio. This paycheck is especially important to him because it is the final payment on his castle—his home. Mr. Smith has a family waiting back at home for him. Even his dog will be happy to see Joe walk through the door. What Joe Citizen and his family don’t know is this: waiting for Joe is a notice from his local government, a letter notifying him that his home and property are being taken, using the right of eminent domain. One has to ask, “Is this fair?” I think not.


Every time that my grandparents visit, I have to vacate my bedroom, so they can have a room of their own during their visit. It’s always a painful few days because I’m locked out of the room that I’ve decorated, the room that holds all of my things; it’s the room that’s “mine.” As my mother always says, “It’s for the good of the family.” But, no matter how much I feel deprived, I always know that I’ll have it back in a few days. However, the results would be different if she applied the principle of “eminent domain.” I would lose my room permanently, and it would be turned into a real guest room. I would not be a happy family member.


Today there is a wide-ranging debate about the individual’s right to possess and protect his private property and the right of the government to seize a person’s home and land needed for redevelopment that would benefit the entire community. Even though the principle of eminent domain is granted to the government in the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, it should be used only in the most extreme circumstances.

Each of the previous opening paragraphs could be used to begin the synthesis essay demanded of the eminent domain prompt.

— Each introduces the subject and its context.

— Each clearly indicates the writer’s position on the issue.

Let’s examine these paragraphs.

Sample A clearly states a position in opposition to eminent domain. This writer tries to place his opinion in the context of a generic man and his family. This brief paragraph begins to indicate the writer’s voice. By answering the rhetorical question, the writer emphatically declares a position.

Sample B uses personal experience to present an opposing opinion. By placing the general concept of eminent domain in the context of a very personal experience, the reader hears a real voice that defends private property rights with some exceptions.

Sample C presents an objective statement of the subject and its context. There is no indication of the personal in this introduction, and the reader can expect the objectivity to continue as the writer develops his qualifying essay.

Which of these introductory paragraphs is similar to yours? Are there any changes you would make in your opening? If so, what are they?