Summarizing Vs. Synthesizing: The Art Of Comprehensive Reading

synthesizing vs summarizing
Regurgitate the stats or narrate an engaging story?

Reading comprehension strategies go beyond just understanding the words on a page. They equip you with tools to distill, interpret, and generate insights from the information you consume. Two such vital strategies are summarizing and synthesizing. In this post, we delve into the nature of these strategies and their value in daily life and professional settings.

Understanding Summarizing

Summarizing is a fundamental strategy that involves distilling the main ideas from a text and articulating them clearly and concisely using your own words. This technique is akin to creating a text snapshot, providing a condensed version that includes only the central ideas or points.

This strategy serves as an effective tool for retaining and recalling the essence of what has been read without the extraneous details. However, summarizing requires discipline to avoid infusing personal bias, opinions, or interpretations into the condensed information.

Here are some valuable tips for effective summarizing:

  • Thoroughly read the text and pinpoint the main ideas.
  • Articulate these main points in your own words.
  • Refrain from injecting your personal opinions or interpretations.
  • Aim to keep your summary brief yet comprehensive.

The Role of Synthesizing

Synthesizing, on the other hand, is a more complex process. It involves taking information from various sources and fusing it to form a cohesive, fresh perspective or understanding. This is not simply combining facts or ideas but creating new connections or insights that may not have been explicitly stated in the sources.

Unlike summarizing, synthesizing encourages you to bring your thought process, actively engaging with the information to formulate novel interpretations or conclusions. This higher-order reading strategy goes beyond simply understanding the text to create new knowledge.

Consider these tips when you're synthesizing:

  • Carefully read each source and identify its main points.
  • Compare, contrast, and integrate information from each source.
  • Generate your conclusions and form a novel understanding of the topic.
  • Always credit the sources to maintain credibility and respect intellectual property.
summarizing vs synthesizing
Brilliant example from MicKinsey

Summarizing and Synthesizing in Real-world Applications

These strategies find immense utility in various professional and academic settings, as well as in everyday life. For instance, a student writing a climate change research paper might summarize several studies' findings. They would then synthesize these summaries, drawing on their understanding to create a comprehensive conclusion about the effects of climate change.

In a business context, an analyst aiming to understand a new market might synthesize information from several reports, gleaning insights about potential opportunities or challenges.

Similarly, a teacher preparing a lesson on the solar system might summarize critical facts from various sources and then synthesize them with their knowledge to create a more engaging, comprehensive lesson.


Summarizing and synthesizing empower you with a deeper understanding and the ability to create fresh insights from existing information. These competencies are invaluable in the age of information overload, helping you discern the essentials from the extraneous. They allow for efficient communication and promote critical thinking, skills that are increasingly sought after in the contemporary workplace and our daily lives.