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Citing: Paraphrasing, summarising, synthesising and quoting: Summarising and synthesising

Citing in your writing


Like paraphrasing, summarising involves communicating information from sources in your own words. Unlike paraphrasing though, summarising allows you to condense longer arguments into much shorter statements – imparting only the core ideas, the essence, or the gist from the original source.


Imagine you’re telling a friend about a movie you’ve just watched. You’re not going to try and re-enact the whole thing! Instead you’ll give a brief overview – that’s summarising. Consider the example below presenting a summary of the first Harry Potter book:



Example: Rowling (1997) tells the story of an orphaned wizard boy, thrust into the dangerous world of magic, who must overcome a range of obstacles in his first year of school with the support of his best friends.  


Remember, you must always include a reference to the original source of your summary to act with academic integrity and so that your reader can follow-up on the author’s complete argument.  For more information on referencing in a specific referencing style, see the Curtin Library’s referencing guides.


Synthesising requires the skills of paraphrasing and summarising: to combine ideas from different sources to support your idea.


Unlike paraphrasing and summarising, which use only one source's idea at a time, a synthesis combines similar findings amongst two or more sources, allowing you to demonstrate linkages between different authors, which can create more powerful evidence for you to present to your reader. 


Let's see what synthesising looks like in practice. In the example below, we've identified four different journal articles for our topic, Is rote learning effective learning? From these readings, we've made the following notes:

Text 1, Karpice 2012: The process of rote learning isn’t fully appreciated in its role in higher order learning. Recalling  improves the brain’s ability not only to remember but also enhances the recall process overall. Many students are unaware of how to and the benefits of rote learning. Text 2, Tavakol and Dennick, 2009: In the Confucian approach, rote learning is viewed as the first of four stages of learning, and necessary for higher order learning. Although this contrasts to the Socratic approach to learning, it does not make it less effective. One cannot assume that memorisation leads to poor understanding of the subject matter. Text 3, Mholo, 2014: Teaching methodology for mathematics benefits from the inclusion of rote learning. Rote learning assists conceptualisation in mathematics. Critical thinking is dependent on acquired knowledge through learning skills including memorisation. Text 4, Yang and Dai, 2011: Using rote learning for vocabulary memorisation isn’t very effective for increasing one’s vocabulary. Rote learning has limitations in vocabulary expansion, which is essential for thorough comprehension. Vocabulary can only develop fully from using a range of learning strategies beyond memorisation.

From our notes, we've written the following synthesis:



Although in recent decades in Western education, rote learning has mostly been viewed in contrast to critical thinking, there is a resurgence of its merits. Where Yang and Dai (2011) argue that learning via memorisation is limited and expanded learning requires learning strategies beyond rote learning, Mhlolo's (2014) findings show the benefits of including rote learning for acquired knowledge as a foundation for critical thinking. The benefits of rote learning are enhancement of the recall process and an imperative foundation for higher order strategies required for understanding (Karpicke, 2012; Tavakol & Dennick, 2010). 


You'll find some tips for referencing your synthesising in the Library's referencing guides. For APA and Chicago, check out the information in the section, In-text citations explained - Multiple sources for the same information.