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Social Work, Introduction to

Summarizing vs. Synthesizing

While a summary is a way of concisely relating important themes and elements from a larger work or works in a condensed form, a synthesis takes the information from a variety of works and combines them together to create something new.


"Synthesis is similar to putting a puzzle together—piecing together information to create a whole. The outcome of this synthesis might be numeric, such as in an overall rating perhaps best typified in a quantitative weight and sum strategy, or through the use of meta-analysis, or the synthesis might be textual, such as in an analytic conclusion."

Synthesis. (2005). In Mathison, S. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950558

How to Synthesize

Basic steps for synthesizing information:

  1. Highlight the main themes/ideas of each article
  2. Note which themes and ideas appear across multiple articles
  3. Discuss how each article deals similarly or differently with each theme
  4. Discuss how combining the information from all three articles can better address your research question than a single article alone
  5. Write your deductions from combining this information in your own words using all three articles

More on Synthesizing Information