Summary and Synthesis uab university writing center summary

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Summary and Synthesis

  • UAB


  • Reporting the ideas of others, using your own words; representing the main points of an article/source
  • Always identifies the original source (citation and/or attribution)
  • Always shorter than the original, but length varies according to assignment/context
  • Does not use quotes

Examples of Summary

  • Article 1 – “Biofuel from Bacteria” by David Biello. Scientific American (April 2010): 21-22.
    • How researchers converted E.coli into a biofuel through gene manipulation.
  • Article 2 – “Coming Up Empty” Economist. 3/27/2010, p. 72.
    • EPA’s commitment to increasing America’s use of biofuels by utilizing other sources other than corn/ethanol.
  • Article 3 – “Biofuel firms fight back over power plant refusals” Professional Engineering (3/10/2010): 3.
    • In England, biofuel opponents protest the building of several biofuel power plants.


  • Based on a reading and summary of related articles/texts, synthesis is your observation(s) of all the related texts, usually with a specific focus
  • Synthesis often appears as the topic sentence in a longer paper, overviewing the specific content of a paragraph.
  • The collected sources may be cited in a synthesis: (Moore 2007; Randolph 2003; Sarin 2005)

Synthesis Strategies

  • Compare:
    • What do all or most of the sources say that is similar?
    • What is the point of agreement?
  • Contrast
    • What does one source add to the conversation that is unique?
    • Do any of the sources disagree? What is the point of stasis/difference?

Observations = Synthesis

  • All three articles are recent and imply that the production of biofuels is on the rise.
  • Article Three adds that the move to build biofuel power plants is controversial.
  • Article One differs from Two and Three in that it examines an unusual source for biofuels, e.coli bacteria. Using bacteria instead of food sources dismisses one main objection of biofuel opponents.

Basic Summary and Synthesis Paragraph Ex.

  • 1. Topic sentence of paragraph: Synthesis statement
  • (followed by….)
  • 2. Summary of article 2 (with citation and attribution)
  • (followed by …)
  • 3. Summary of article 3 (with citation and attribution)
  • (followed by …)
  • 4. “However,” Summary of article 1 (with citation only)
  • 5. Wrap-up/transition sentence.

Example paragraph

  • In a fluctuating global market overly-dependent on fossil fuels, interest in developing biofuels is reportedly on the rise. The Environment Protection Agency, for example, recently projected a marked increase in the use of biofuels over the next twelve years (“Coming Up Empty,” 2010). This move is not without its opponents worldwide. A March 2010 article in Professional Engineering reported that biofuel opponents have delayed the construction of several biofuel power plants in England (“Biofuel Firms Fight Back). However, the recently discovered potential of bacteria as a source for biofuels may alleviate some concerns (Biello, 2010) and encourage more countries to join this energy endeavor

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