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Synopsis

A synopsis presents part of a work, either as a process paper for your own use or as a written presentation, e.g. for an oral examination. A synopsis may serve many different purposes and take many different forms. 

Synopses in the form of written presentations for an exam could be 

  • a written presentation for an oral examination submitted some time before the oral part of the exam takes place. 

  • a short written presentation of a study that you will later unfold in a full written assignment. 

Common to both types of synopses is that they may vary considerably in length. Different degree programmes have different requirements for synopses, so you always need to check your academic regulations or ask your teacher before you start working on your synopsis. 

Part of a larger study 

Regardless of whether the synopsis is the basis of an oral or a written presentation, you should consider what to include in your synopsis, and what you will only present in the full presentation of the study. It is a good idea to save some essential points for the actual presentation. Note, however, that a synopsis used in connection with an exam will often influence the final assessment. Ask your supervisor what applies to your course or degree programme. 

Content of the synopsis

The requirements for the content of a synopsis vary considerably, but in general, a synopsis should always present the problem to be addressed in the study. In other words, it should contain the problem statement on which your work is based. 

In addition, it is usually a good idea to include 

  • the background of the problem 

  • a presentation of the theory, empirical data and methodology 

  • definitions of concepts, if relevant 

  • an outline of the oral presentation/written assignment. 

You may also propose further points for discussion. This is particularly relevant if the synopsis forms the basis of a presentation in an oral exam with subsequent time for discussion with the teacher and external examiner. 

The synopsis as a tool

If you (or your study group) use a synopsis as a working tool, it will take a different form because it has no external recipient. You don’t need to refine your presentation of the synopsis, but can use it simply as a working paper to guide you through a larger process. 

In the video below, Helle Hvass, Master of Arts (MA) in Rhetoric and French, explains what a synopsis is, and how a synopsis exam typically progresses. She also offers advice on how to handle a synopsis exam.

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The information about formalities is general guidelines. They do not replace the provisions in your academic regulations, your lecturers ' guidance or information on your course's website. First, please contact the above-mentioned locations. If in doubt, ask your supervisor.