Summary, Evaluation, Synthesis

In the context of Textual Research,


SummaryAccurately summarize textual research
EvaluationCritique textual research
See Also: Purpose (The CRAAP Test)
SynthesisRelate textual research to the author’s thesis/research question.

Summary

During the research process, many writers compose a short summary of each source that they are using to help synthesize information. Summaries help writers to incorporate research information without having to go back and re-read the entire source. While writing research papers, writers also may choose to include a brief summary of a source or section of the source in order to provide evidence for their argument.

In an annotated bibliography, the writer provides a thorough summary of each source listed. A thorough summary should contain the following information:

  • type of source (article, book, website, etc.)
  • name of the author
  • the main claim/main idea/most important part of the article
  • several key points (no more than 3-5) from the source. When taking notes on research sources, it is helpful to record these aspects while reading. The summary of the source should be no longer than 5-7 sentences. This length can help a writer provide adequate information about the source but not include minor details that do not belong in a summary.

When composing a summary, it is important to consider the difference between

  • the main idea,
  • key points, and
  • minor details.

Minor details do not belong in a summary. A good way to think about this is to imagine telling a friend about a movie. If someone had to explain the movie in just one sentence, that one sentence is usually the main idea. The key points of the movie would be the most important events that happened. Minor details would not appear in a movie trailer. Therefore, when summarizing an article, think about it as a “movie trailer” that reveals the main idea and key points but does not focus on minor details.

Example Summary

Below is a summary paragraph on the web article “Who Made That Whoopee Cushion?” The original article is here.

In their web magazine article “Who Made That Whoopee Cushion,” Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein inform the reader about the history of the Whoopee Cushion. According to the authors, the whoopee cushion originated in Canada in the 1930s. Soon after its invention, the toy grew in popularity. It appeared in the 1942 movie “Road to Morocco” and 1950s comics. Greenbaum and Rubinstein also describe modern versions of the whoopee cushion, such as the remote-controlled Fart Machine and the iFart app. The article also contains an interview with famous comedian and actor Bob Saget on the impact of the whoopee cushion. The article’s intended audience is the general public, especially readers of the New York Times Magazine and anyone interested in humor and other cultural trends.

Evaluation

When evaluating a source in an assignment such as an annotated bibliography, it is important to evaluate the credibility of that source. There are many elements that work together to make a source reliable or unreliable. In evaluating a source’s credibility, a writer is considering its rhetorical situation. A source evaluation should consider the following questions. While a source evaluation does not need to answer every single one of these questions individually, these questions guide a thorough consideration of the source’s credibility.

Source Evaluation Checklist

Author: Who is the author of the text? This person/group’s name alone is an insufficient answer to this question. What do we know about the author? What is their job? Where are they from? What is their age/gender/race? Does research to support this answer (university/book bio, publication bio from the academic’s website).

Audience: What group of people is expected to read/view this text? How well does the content/tone/language appeal to this group of people?

Purpose: What is this text trying to do? This is best answered by an infinitive verb (e.g. to persuade, to inform, to teach, etc).

Context: When was this text published? What publication does it come from and what do we know about that publication? What country does this text or publication come from? What’s important about the time period or publication in relation to the content or message of the text?

Thesis/message: What is the text about? What argument or point is the text making? What impression does it leave on the reader/viewer?

Additionally, the evaluation of the source must explain how the source relates to the research question. Below is a sample of a source summary and evaluation for an annotated bibliography. Notice how each element of rhetorical situation as well as the connection to the research question is incorporated into the entry.

Sample Source Summary and Evaluation Paragraph

        In their web magazine article “Who Made That Whoopee Cushion,” Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein aim to inform the reader about the history of the Whoopee Cushion. According to the authors, the whoopee cushion originated in Canada in the 1930s, despite rumors of its existence in the Middle Ages. Soon after its invention, the toy grew in popularity, making an appearance in the 1942 movie “Road to Morocco” and 1950s comics. Greenbaum and Rubinstein also describe modern versions of the whoopee cushion, such as the remote-controlled Fart Machine and the iFart app. The article also contains an interview with famous comedian and actor Bob Saget on the impact of the whoopee cushion. The article’s intended audience is the general public, including readers of the New York Times Magazine as well as those interested in humor and other cultural trends.

        Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein are long-time reporters who focus on cultural commentary. Hilary Greenbaum is a graphic designer and serves as the design director for the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is also a professor at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Dana Rubinstein was educated at Cornell University and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She has contributed to various publications in the New York area, including the New York Times Magazine and Politico. The New York Times magazine, first published in 1986, is a Sunday magazine supplement included within the Sunday edition of the New York Times. It has included many respected contributors throughout its history. This source connects with my research topic as it provides the history of one of the most common prank devices.

Greenbaum, Hilary and Dana Rubinstein. “Who Made That Whoopee Cushion?” The New York Times Magazine, 30 March 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/ 2012/04/01/ magazine/who-made-that-whoopee-cushion.html. Accessed 12 February 2017.