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Synopsis

Synopsis is a noun meaning summary. Instead of reciting every line of the Shakespearean play you were assigned to read over the weekend, it might be more helpful for your classmates if you give them a synopsis of what happened.

What's a synopsis ?

A synopsis is essentially just a summary of a written work. It covers the main points in as succinct a way as possible. A synopsis can take the form of a graphic representation, such as a chart or table; or, it can consist of a written summary in words. 

Usage rules

Here are some examples for you of the term synopsis being used within real sentences in a correct way. 

"The reviewer's synopsis of the novel was misleading: one had to wonder whether he had even bothered reading the book, or if he was just relying on shallow preconceptions." 

"Because the synopsis on the back of the book had piqued his interest, the reader decided to go ahead and buy a copy of the author's new work."

"In the scholarly literature review, the researchers created a table that presented a synopsis of the strengths and weaknesses of all the studies that had been conducted on the subject of interest."  

Now, here are a couple rules you can follow when using the term synopsis, in order to make sure that you are doing it correctly. 

1. A synopsis is just a summary of a written work. It tells you what the work is about, so that you will know whether you want to look further into the work. Any such summary can be meaningfully called a synopsis. 

2. Often, in scholarly literature, the synopsis of an article or book is called the abstract. These are basically just different words for the same thing; but in order to keep with conventional usage, you may want to say abstract instead of synopsis when talking about such works.  

Additional information for the term synopsis

The term synopsis literally means "seeing together". That is, the synopsis allows the reader to take in an entire work in one view, as if he were looking at a panorama. This is why three of the Gospels in the Bible are generally called the Synoptic Gospel: because they report very similar things, the authors "saw together", or shared a similar perspective on the events they were writing about. This is rather different, of course, from the literary meaning of synopsis as summary. But the word itself is still based on the same linguistic roots. The Synoptic Gospels involve multiple people seeing one event in the same way; and a synopsis allows one person to take in the entirety of a work in one single view. 

The main purpose of the synopsis is to give the potential reader a clear idea of what a work is about, so that he will know whether he would in fact like to read the work itself. This is important for scholarly research, for example, because the synopsis will let the researcher know whether a given article or book would actually be relevant for the subject that he is researching. More generally, given how many different works are competing for the attention of potential readers in these late modern times, a good synopsis may be essential for hooking the attention of those readers and inspiring them to actually invest their time in reading one given work as opposed to other similar works. 

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