|Summary, paraphrase and synthesis might be an assignment in itself (also known as expository writing), but is also useful in other writing tasks such as establishing context for argumentative or literary essays. |
Writing good summaries, paraphrases and syntheses is a great way to learn about specific topics and to prepare you for larger and more complex writing tasks.
A lot of people use the terms summary, paraphrase, and synthesis interchangeably, but each one is a little different and has a slightly different purpose.
Writing a Summary
Summary is shortening and simplifying a work — cutting a work down to size, if you will. Here’s an approach that will help you do just that.
To write a summary, read the entire source, identify the main ideas, and choose a few details or quotes to help illustrate and capture the feeling of the original. Consider the following article from Sports Illustrated, for example:
Fantasy Football 2018: Quarterback Tiers
By MICHAEL BELLER August 17, 2018
Rankings are the backbone of fantasy football draft prep season, but there are more to rankings than meets the eye. Every position has multiple drop-off points, where the fantasy value takes a dip. Knowing where these breaks are can help you make the right call on what appears to be a tough decision. That’s why after you rank the players at every position, you must then put them into tiers.
The idea is simple. While you might prefer Russell Wilson to Tom Brady, you understand that the bottom-line difference between the two is minimal, thus placing them in the same tier. When multiple players in the same tier are still available, you may be able to wait on filling that spot on your roster. If you’re at the end of a tier, though, you’ll need to address it if you don’t want to have to drop down to the next group.
(1) Aaron Rodgers
The best quarterback in the league, from both real-life and fantasy perspectives, without question. Tom Brady is more accomplished, but Rodgers is the better pure quarterback. That’s what puts him in a tier by himself.
(2) Deshaun Watson
(3) Russell Wilson
(4) Tom Brady
(5) Drew Brees
You know exactly what you’re getting with Wilson, Brady and Brees. Those guys all have established levels of high performance, and it’d be a surprise to see any of them come up short of what their track records say they should do. Watson is a wild card, but we all saw what he did before tearing his ACL last year. I realize the sample was small, but he was clearly the best player on the field in every game he played, including the one that featured Wilson. That doesn’t happen by accident.
(6) Cam Newton
Newton has a higher ceiling than everyone beneath him, and a lower floor than everyone ahead of him. He has been a top-three quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In the years he wasn’t, he finished 17th and 15th. He’s not quite as safe as he seems, but when he puts it all together, he’s a scoring machine.
Integrate the following into your first sentence or two:
- Title: “Fantasy Football 2018: Quarterback Tiers”
- Author: Michael Beller
- Main Idea: How to use logic and strategy in your fantasy football draft
Write down some notes and highlight key quotes as you read and work them into the body of your summary. For example:
- Instead of letting fandom determine your fantasy football picks, break positions into tiers
- If there are a lot of players in a specific tier, choose one later in the draft.
- A safe, consistent pick is better than one with a lot of potential but inconsistency
Important Quotes or Details:
- Cam Newton is a tempting, but unsafe pick “He has been a top-three quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In the years he wasn’t, he finished 17th and 15th.”
- Even though Watson is a wild card, his inconsistency came from an injury and “he was clearly the best player on the field in every game he played, [ . . .] That doesn’t happen by accident”
|These quotes would need in-text citations if you didn’t already establish the author and title in your writing.|
Super Important Caveat: You really want to digest and understand the information before you start spitting it back out. That’s why you want to write a summary from your notes, not directly from the article. Not only do you understand the content better when you do it this way, but going right from the article often results in suspicious wording and inadvertent plagiarism.
All together, your summary might look like this:
In the article “Fantasy Football 2018: Quarterback Tiers” from Sports Illustrated Michael Beller advises the reader on some ways to use logic and strategy when picking fantasy football rosters. Players are broken into tiers based on their expected performance. If you are looking at a player in a tier that still has many players in it, you should wait until later in the draft. A player like Deshaun Watson might be a bit of a wild card due to his limited play, but a truly risky player like Cam Newton is one who might score a lot, or who might just play mediocre “[Newton] has been a top-three quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In the years he wasn’t he finished 17th and 15th.” I have a hard time overcoming my bias with Newton, though, and if he’s available, I’m going for it. After all, “when he puts it all together, he’s a scoring machine” (Beller).
Writing a Paraphrase
Paraphrase is like summary but it can focus on just a specific part of the original writing rather than covering the whole thing like a summary. A Paraphrase is closer in length to the original work than a summary and might use similar wording. When students say they “put it into my own words” that’s paraphrasing and it requires a citation.
Well, if I’m basically parroting what they said, then why not just summarize or quote?
Paraphrasing allows you to integrate others’ ideas into your own when the original quote won’t quite fit smoothly or work with your voice at that moment. Or, you might paraphrase something complicated or complexly worded that needs simpler language or needs to be slightly shortened.
Here’s a paraphrase of the second paragraph of that article:
Using tiers in a fantasy draft is simple. Even though you might like one player over another, the difference in what the 4th ranked quarterback will bring your team versus the 3rd ranked quarterback might be insignificant, so if you have a bunch of players with a similar rating – on the same tier — still in the draft, you should wait to draft that position. When you’re getting towards the end of a specific tier, that’s when you should snap up one of those players (Beller).
Notice you still have to cite paraphrases even if you don’t use any direct quotes.
Writing a Synthesis
Synthesis is similar to a paraphrase, but in a synthesis you are bringing various sources together. Rather than writing separate summaries or paraphrases and putting them into a list-like fashion, a good synthesis will mix and intertwine the sources throughout. You ever have a cake that someone didn’t mix up well enough and it didn’t rise right or you’re crunching on undissolved sugar and eggshells and stuff? Yeah, you don’t want that in your writing either. You want a nice smooth, balanced essay with layers and flavors that complement each other.
Let’s take some elements of our Michael Beller summary from above and mix in some information from Sporting News’s “2018 Fantasy Football: Best Ball Draft Strategy Guide, Tips, Targets” by Howard Bender.
In the article “Fantasy Football 2018: Quarterback Tiers” from Sports Illustrated Michael Beller advises the reader to break players into tiers based on their expected fantasy performance. If you are looking at a player in a tier that still has a lot of players in it, you should wait until later in the draft. Likewise, Howard Bender advises patience and even to leave quarterbacks for later draft rounds, noting the small difference in performance among quarterbacks of a similar tier: Between the third highest scoring quarterback, Tom Brady, and the seventh, Philip Rivers, there was only a 22 point difference (Bender). A player like Deshaun Watson might be a bit of a wild card due to his limited playtime last year and lands in Beller’s second tier just under Aaron Rogers, but both authors tote his potential “I’ve been pounding the Deshaun Watson drum a lot this offseason” (Bender) but he notes you can still wait until the fourth round “because running backs are your bread and butter.” While a promising quarterback might be a tempting but unnecessary early round pick, Beller also advises caution around a truly risky player like Cam Newton, who was second last year “has been a top-three quarterback in three of the last five seasons. In the years he wasn’t he finished 17th and 15th” (Beller). So use the tier systems to grab running backs – keeping in mind unpredictable players — in the first rounds, quarterbacks starting in fourth or fifth rounds, and wide receivers later.
|When you combine the information in both articles, this is the crux of what you glean from it. Statements like this are good to keep you from getting overwhelmed and losing your voice in the midst of all this information.|
|Remember, summary, paraphrase and synthesis might be assignments or assessments of their own, but they are also parts longer of arguments and sustained writing. Getting lots of practice with them will prepare you for a variety of tasks in college or the job place.|