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Reading strategies: Differences between

summarizing and synthesizing information


by Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD.

Summarizing and synthesizing are both strategies used in reading and


research. They are important skills, as they help learners make sense of
what they reading.

It is important to recognize that summarizing and synthesizing are different


activities. Each has a different purpose, process and end result. This chart
highlights some of the main differences between summarizing and
synthesizing information:

Summary Synthesis

Basic reading technique. Advanced reading technique.

Pulls together information in order You pull together information not


to highlight the important points. only to highlight the important
points, but also to draw your own
conclusions.

Re-iterates the information. Combines and contrasts


information from different sources.

Shows what the original authors Not only reflects your knowledge
wrote. about what the original authors
wrote, but also creates something
new out of two or more pieces of
writing.

Addresses one set of information Combines parts and elements


(e.g. article, chapter, document) at from a variety of sources into one
a time. Each source remains unified entity.
distinct.

Presents a cursory overview. Focuses on both main ideas and


details.

Demonstrates an understanding of Achieves new insight.


the overall meaning.

Sarah Elaine Eaton 2010 Page 1 of 2


Helpful resources

Comprehension Strategy – Synthesis / Summarization / Concluding


http://www.readinglady.com/mosaic/tools/Synthesis%20handout%20by%20Deb
%20Smith.pdf

How to Synthesize Multiple Sources


http://home.cerrocoso.edu/swiridoff/Resources/Composition/
how_to_synthesize_multiple_sourc.htm

What is a Synthesis Question?


http://www.passged.com/student_blogs/maria/2008/10/07/ged-reading-what-is-a-
synthesis-question/

What it means to comprehend


http://www.suite101.com/content/what-it-means-to-comprehend-a72619

Reading Strategies http://www.mindtools.com/rdstratg.html

APA Citation: Eaton, S.E. (26 September 2010). “Reading strategy: Differences
between summarizing and synthesizing information”
Retrieved from: (insert the URL of this website here.)

Sarah Elaine Eaton holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and


an M.A. from the University of Calgary, Canada. She is a
researcher, author and speaker, specializing in professional
development for language and literacy professionals.

Want to read similar articles? Check out the authorʼs blog “Literacy, Languages and
Leadership”
http://www.drsaraheaton.wordpress.com

________________________________________________________________________

T +1. 403. 390. 3999 E sarahelaineeaton@gmail.com W www.eatonintl.com


Blog: www.drsaraheaton.wordpress.com
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sarah Elaine Eaton 2010 Page 2 of 2