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Social Work

Information Synthesis

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:

"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

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Examples

Summary of 1 article:

By analyzing monthly cost data of 9 drugs that were approved by the FDA for Multiple Sclerosis from 1993 to 2013, Hartung, et al. determined that the cost of MS drugs is increasing far beyond inflation rates, which has a negative effect on MS patients (2015).

Summary of 2 articles:

The cost of MS drugs is increasing far beyond inflation rates, which has a negative effect on MS patients (Hartung, et al., 2015). For low income MS patients, like Shereese Hickson, this cost has proven to be more than they can pay (Hancock, 2018).

Synthesis of 2 articles:

The cost of MS drugs is increasing far beyond inflation rates, which has a negative effect on MS patients (Hartung, et al., 2015). The personal experience of Shereese Hickson shows what that negative impact looks like (Hancock, 2018). This illustrates how vulnerable populations, like low-income MS patients, can be at greater risk of experiencing the negative impacts of rising drug costs.

References

Hartung, D. M., Bourdette, D. N., Ahmed, S. M., & Whitham, R. H. (2015). The cost of multiple sclerosis drugs in the US and the pharmaceutical industry: Too big to fail? Neurology, 84(21), 2185-2192. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000001608

Hancock, J. (2018). Chronically Ill, Traumatically Billed: $123,019 For 2 Multiple Sclerosis Treatments. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/chronically-ill-traumatically-billed-the-123k-medicine-for-ms/

 

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