A Tutor’s Awesome Guide on Writing Synopsis

Your academic guide is back once again with new… supplementary lectures for your academic needs.

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To make it clear to you, this guide will be geared towards students tasked to create a synopsis of an article, book, or a movie. This is also for students who are doing their thesis and are struggling to draft a synopsis or an abstract.

This is the outline of our “lecture”:

Fasten your seat belts, folks! And have your pens and papers beside you because I need you to remember my “lecture.”

What Is a Synopsis?

According to Wikipedia:

synopsis is defined “… as a brief summary of the major points of a subject or written work or story, either as prose or as a table; an abridgment or condensation of a work.”

The plural form of “synopsis” is “synopses.” Basically, it is about writing the main points of a literary work such as a book or a visual/multimedia art like a movie or a short film.

What Should a Synopsis Contain?

A synopsis for a movie or a book should contain the following elements:

  1. Main characters
  2. Main plot (Beginning to end)
  3. Key events in the plot

The synopsis for research papers, articles, theses, and dissertations, the synopsis (or an abstract) should consist of the following:

  1. Objectives/Main arguments
  2. Methodology
  3. Main findings
  4. Discussion
  5. Conclusion

The aforementioned should also be present when you are drafting a synopsis of a researcher’s work. The only difference is that you might be required to write an opinion about his/her work.

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Synopsis Format

The format may vary from your teacher, so it is still best to follow what the latter wants from your synopsis. In general, this is the format of a synopsis:

  1. Times New Roman (TNR), size 12
  2. Double-spaced (Depending on the requirement)
  3. Title of the book or movie (Written at the center of your paper)
  4. At least 1–2 pages (situational)

This is the usual format I encounter when I was a former student. On the other hand, this is a general format when writing a synopsis or an abstract for a research paper, journal article, thesis, or a dissertation:

  1. TNR, size 12
  2. Double-spaced
  3. 150–250 words
  4. Keywords (if applicable)
  5. Text should be left aligned (The first sentence of the abstract should not be indented)
  6. The word “Abstract” should be at the center of the paper. It should not be underlined, italicized, or in bold.

For creating a synopsis for an author’s research:

  1. TNR, 12
  2. Double-spaced
  3. At least one page in length

How to Write a Synopsis?

I will divide this part into smaller categories. Content wise, creating a synopsis for a movie is different for a thesis.

In that regard, I will first teach you how to write a synopsis for books, novels, and movies- as they all share a similar approach in synopsis making.

It would be followed up with a tutorial on how to create a synopsis for research papers, articles, theses/dissertations.

How to Create a Synopsis for Books, Movies, and Novels?

  • Listen to your teacher about the format. That way, you can tailor your synopsis as per your teacher’s requirements.
  • Make sure that you read the book or watched the movie before drafting your synopsis.
  • I tend to look at other summaries or synopsis of the book or movie to help me recall key events in the story. Through that method, I will have an idea on what to write for my synopsis while bearing in mind my teacher’s guidelines.
  • You can look at Wikipedia, IMDb (Internet Movie Database), or enotes.
  • Write down the main characters and the roles they play in the book/movie.
  • List down the story’s events in chronological order. Subplots are usually not included unless they have a significant role in the main plot.
  • If the book or the movie you read or watched has a point of view, it is best to mention it in your synopsis. For example: One day, a man who wakes up and finds out that he was bestowed with magical powers.
  • You can also add the plot twist in your work. At least it will make things more intriguing.
  • Write in third person and in present tense.
  • Introduce your characters. I usually do them in order of appearance. Show character development too!
  • Narrate the significant events in the story from the beginning all the way until the end.
  • Write how the character/s feel as they progress in the story. Again, don’t include the subplots unless it helps your teacher understand the main plot.
  • Don’t add new information or characters when you reach the end.
  • Please don’t write “in one scene” and the like in your synopsis.
  • Remove information which you think are unnecessary. Proofread your draft synopsis for grammatical errors.
  • Make sure that you followed your instructor’s requirements before submitting it to him/her.

Example of a Synopsis

Bruce Almighty:

Bruce Nolan is a reporter from Buffalo, New York. He is in a relationship with Grace Connelly. The movie begins with him reporting about the largest cookie baked in Buffalo. He gets stuck in traffic on the way back to the station and gets angry. The staff mock Bruce about the news he reported a while back.

Then, Bruce is sent to report about the Niagara Falls. He is interrupted by an announcement from the station. Bruce finds out that the position of an anchor is given to Evan Baxter, his co-worker and rival in the station. Bruce curses during his report and gets fired immediately from his job.

The next morning, Bruce receives a call from someone telling him to go to the warehouse. He meets a janitor in the warehouse, who is actually God himself! God grants him his powers to see if Bruce can do a better job. However, there are two rules- Bruce cannot say that he is God, and he cannot interfere with one’s free will.

As Bruce is mesmerized by his new powers, he decides to cause mischief on the street. He bursts a fire hydrant and lifts a woman’s skirt with a gust of wind. Bruce’s actions make him struts with confidence and excitement.

In the apartment, Bruce moves the full moon closer to the window of their apartment so that Grace can experience a romantic moonlit night. After spending a romantic night to together, he finds out that pulling the moon closer caused a tidal wave in Japan.

Bruce discovers that he is back at his old job. Bruce humiliates Evan with his powers and becomes the new anchor.

Bruce had dinner with Grace. He tells her that he is now an anchor. Grace gets disappointed, as she is expecting a proposal. Then, Bruce hears voices in his head. The voices belong to people who pray to God. He creates an email system to address the prayers. Bruce is overwhelmed by the task, thus setting the email to “yes to all.”

Bruce’s female colleague gets attracted and seduces him. Grace arrives at the scene, and gets disappointed by what she saw. Bruce runs after Grace and finds ways to make up to her. However, Grace chooses to end their relationship.

Bruce realizes that he has to use his powers for the greater good. He does good deeds such as allowing Evan to return to his job. Meanwhile- Bruce tries to win Grace back- but he could not do so because he cannot interfere into person’s free will.

A truck hits Bruce as a maelstrom of emotions swirled in his heart. He meets God, as the latter instructs him how to pray. He awakes to a sharp pain in a hospital after their conversation. Bruce reconciles with Grace. The story ends with the couple announcing their engagement live.

How to Write a Synopsis for Research Papers, Articles, Theses or Dissertations?

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Write/read your/the author’s research paper or thesis first before you make a synopsis. You can’t start a synopsis without finishing it. Save it for last.

You can take down notes while reading your document. It is still best that you understand your/ the author’s work thoroughly. If you understand, then it is easier for you to write information. The same applies when you are drafting a synopsis of a research. The objective here is to give your readers a brief overview about your (or the author’s) study.

I suggest you to review your instructor’s requirements first whether you are writing a synopsis of an article or your own study.

Research synopses usually begin with the objective of the study. You can answer the following questions:

  • What is your motivation?
  • Why do you care about your research problem and its results?
  • Why should someone read your work?
  • What is the main argument of your research? Then write the methodology.
  • What method did you use to complete your study? (Ex: Interviews)
  • How does your chosen methodology work?
  • What does it seek to achieve?

You can also add the framework you used to analyze your research. You can also state if you are doing a quantitative or qualitative study if your instructor requires you to do so. Write the results of your study. Essentially, it answers the questions:

  • What is the answer?
  • What are the general findings?
  • Was your hypothesis supported?

Sometimes, you have to be vague about it. Example: It appears that Organization A is the most environment-friendly. If it’s someone’s work, you can just the results of his/her study. It’s time to top your synopsis off with a concluding sentence. It seeks to answer the questions:

  • What is/are the implications of your results?
  • What do the results say about your study?

Your synopsis should follow the classic essay template of introduction, body, and conclusion.

Don’t include figures or tables. Depending on your topic, you might have to provide the definition of the term. Refer to the first example after step 5.

Read your synopsis for errors. Double check if you have followed all the guidelines down to the letter.

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Example of a Synopsis

This is an example of a synopsis referenced from the University of Wollongong:

This study investigates the effect of extending the aim of the Disadvantaged Schools’ Program (DSP) teaching/ research project learning cycle with English for Further Study students to incorporate writing checklists. The writing checklists were introduced after the modelling of the text phase method and used in the following ways:

i) to recap generic textual features of the model essay

ii) to guide writing in the joint negotiation of a text phase and in the individual construction of a text

iii) and as a marking instrument by the teacher and students.

The study draws on data from the classroom in the form of transcripts of the modelling phase of the texts and the joint negotiations, questionnaires, the students’ essay writing, the writing checklists and a research journal for classroom observation. It was found that teachers and students can use checklists results compiled from analyses of model texts to revise language features and schematic staging of factual writing genres, and to guide and prompt the teacher and students in the joint negotiation of the DSP cycle.

Checklists allow students to communicate to the teacher their area of discussion difficulty when writing, as well as assist them in the drafting and revising of essays. Finally, checklists provide teachers with a marking tool which encourages the teacher to make explicit written comments about how well the student’s writing approximated the genre in question. The results of the study suggest that there are considerable benefits to be gained from including conclusion writing checklists in the teaching/learning cycle.

Thank you for making it this far. I hope you have gained something from my tutorial.

Writing a synopsis may sound easy, but it is actually the opposite. Like any other school requirement, it is challenging.

I wish you good luck in your academic life.

Have too many tasks to handle? We have 1000s of Nerds ready to help. No apps, no forms. Messaging is all it takes to get help with you tasks at Nerdify.

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