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How to Write a Synopsis

In writing, a synopsis offers a clear, concise, summary of a given work so as to get the author’s main points across. This synopsis can reveal as much or as few details as are necessary for the reader to understand what the source material is about. Additionally, a synopsis does not have to reveal the resolution of the story; if the purpose of the synopsis is to entice readers, this information should be omitted, but if the purpose is to provide readers with a full understanding of the text without having to read it, this can be included. The text on the back of a novel is a synopsis, used to entice readers to purchase the book; the text in an article’s abstract is also a synopsis, offering readers with a full summary before delving into the article itself.Synopsis

If one were writing a synopsis of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it might read as follows:

A town in Italy is plagued by fighting amongst its two most powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The two families are bitter rivals, and the violence between them has reached a fever pitch, spilling into the streets of Verona. The only son of the Montagues, Romeo, finds himself enamored with the only daughter of the Capulets, Juliet, though the two do not realize their respective bloodlines at first. Their love blossoms rapidly, and the two marry in secret just a few days after meeting; their hope is that they can unite their families and end the war between them. Juliet’s father, however, has betrothed her to another man, and she feels helpless to stop the impending marriage. Seeking solace in a priest, and not wanting to commit the mortal sin of being married to two men, Juliet is given a potion that will make her appear deceased. The plan is for Romeo to be in her tomb when she awakens, and the two can escape together. However, Romeo becomes wrapped up in yet another bloody conflict and is exiled by the Prince of Verona; he does not learn of the plan with Juliet and believes her to be dead. He breaks into her tomb and drinks poison so he can be with her for all eternity; when she awakens to find her husband dead, she fatally stabs herself so the two can be together forever.

Format of a Typical Synopsis

  1. Title
  2. Main research theme or research question. This should be stated in a succinct sentence or two.
  3. A brief paragraph that explains the major issue that you are exploring (e.g., women's careers, leadership, work)
  4. Major themes that you have found to date in the literature relating to your topic. This may be written as a paragraph or as bullet points – use headings to help
  5. Your thesis statement or brief paragraph on the position that you are taking in relation to your topic. This is usually theoretically informed, e.g., applying a particular feminist theory to develop your position on the topic, or it can be informed by empirical evidence that supports your argument.
  6. Discussion points to arise out of your themes (e.g., where you tease out your argument)
  7. Either a conclusionary statement or a paragraph explaining what you will do to complete your essay. For your actual essay, the conclusion brings it all together, that is you answer your research question based on the evidence that you have reviewed.
  8. Reference list (you only have to cite some of the sources, not all.

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