Primary Source Readings Synopsis
How to write a primary source synopsis
Since you are going to write 7 of these this semester, I thought some guidelines might help. Remember that this assignment is short and to the point! In a single page, you are going to summarize and briefly compare two multi-page primary source readings. How should you begin?
- Begin by reading the complete assignment from start to finish- do not attempt to summarize as you go, you will miss the main point and write too much. Give yourself time to read, think over and digest the material.
- Briefly introduce each author at the beginning of the paragraph devoted to their work. Example – “Dante Alighieri was a Medieval Italian poet and politician who wrote in the vernacular. He is most famous for his conception of the afterlife in his ‘Divine Comedy’, a selection from which I will summarize now.”
- Every reading has a beginning, middle and end. Make sure your synopsis includes these parts.
- Let the author guide you. If most of the original document is devoted to a single topic then it must be important. Your summary should reflect this emphasis.
- It is acceptable to analyze. “The author used strongly descriptive terms to reveal the miseries of the Industrial Revolution and advocate for a Communist economic system.“
- It is not acceptable to editorialize. “The author is super biased against capitalists and thinks Communism is actually workable, even though history has proven otherwise.”
- Don’t worry about the details. Since this summary is concise, eliminate the less important topics.
- Include a few sentences at the conclusion of your assignment comparing the stance of each writer.
- Edit. After you have finished your synopsis, set it aside for a few hours or a complete day. Return and reread. Have you left your reader with a complete understanding of the theme and major points of the writer? Have you summarized the position of the piece fairly? Have you left out any significant ideas?
Check the due dates carefully. All work is due at 11:55 P.M. on the due date. Due dates are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor who will inform the students via the Announcements on the course Homepage.