“A synopsis is a brief summary that gives audiences an idea of what a composition is all about.
The term synopsis refers to a piece of work which is the compilation of a larger piece of work. A synopsis can be written in the form of tables and charts, as prose, as abridgment, or as an unified rewrite of the original work.
What is a Synopsis?
A protocol or a synopsis of a research project is a document submitted to an authority or an institution for the purpose of
- Ethical clearance
- Formal registration to universities for the award of a degree or doctorate
- Peer review
- Financial assistance from organizations like ICMR, DST, NACO, DGHS, and MHRD
Synopsis is the material of your planned project submitted for approval by the competent authorities. It gives a panoramic view of your research for rapid analysis by the reviewers.
The protocol or synopsis is therefore an integral part of a research project or thesis.
Many universities have made it compulsory for a postgraduate student to prepare a thesis as part of their postgraduate training. Good knowledge of how a protocol or synopsis is written is imperative for all people involved in medical research.
Literally, protocol is a format procedure for the conduct of scientific research. Synopsis is a brief summary of something. Both terms are often used as synonyms, but the term ‘synopsis’ is used more often than not.
A synopsis should be constructed in such a way as to make it easier for the reviewer to understand the research project at a glance. It’s supposed to be brief but accurate. The synopsis can be structured in the following way:
- Statement of the problem and hypothesis
- Aims and objectives
- Review of literature
- Research methodology
- Official requirements
To learn more, read our next blog: What is the Process for Submission of Synopsis?
The title of the research project should be brief but informative; it is best to avoid dramatizing the title. It should be neither too short nor too long.
Any name of the institution, the number of cases to be investigated, should not be included. The hypothesis that needs to be studied can be included.
“Study of ectopic pregnancy”
This was the title chosen to register at the university. It’s too short a title. It does not indicate the problem or the hypothesis and is least informative.
The more meaningful title is “Study of ectopic pregnancy in relation to morbidity, mortality, and intervention in a referral hospital”
Statement of the problem or hypothesis
The issue under consideration should be identified in clear and specific terms. Understanding the problem helps the researcher to develop the research proposal.
It also enables the person to formulate the hypothesis. The issue under consideration should be relevant to current situation.
A brief account of its usefulness needs to be discussed at local or national level.
The present status of the problem and the requirement for taking up the study needs to be mentioned.
Hypothesis is referred to as an attempt to predict or explain the relationship between two or more variables.
Hypothesis should not be a clumsy guess, but should reflect the investigator’s knowledge, imagination, and experience.
Hypothesis can be formulated by understanding the problem, reviewing the literature and considering other factors.
A researcher can state the problems and the hypothesis in about 200 words covering all the aspects as described above.
Aims AND Objectives
All research projects should have goals and objectives, and every effort should be made to achieve them.
The objectives and objectives should be limited to a few (2-3). They must be related to the study problem. Uses of terms such as “first study” “the only study” etc. should be avoided.
Review of literature
Review of literature is a very important part of the research project. It completes the following:
- Familiarizes reader to the problem under study.
- It represents the process done by others on a local or international level, or on a similar subject.
- It helps the researcher to understand the difficulties faced by others and the corrective actions taken or the necessary modifications by them.
During the study, the researcher can anticipate similar or additional problems, and the literature review can help him anticipate them.
- Research methodology of the researcher can be designed and modified after reviewing the literature.
- The review helps to identify and conceptualize the different variables in the research project.
- The review of the literature in a synopsis helps the reviewer to assess the researcher’s knowledge.
The reviewer can evaluate the researcher’s work and also help assess the feasibility of the study.
A synopsis review of the literature does not need to be exhaustive. Approximately 300 words with 8-10 authentic, easily retrievable references should be included in the relevant information. Literature can be reviewed using a variety of scientific-information-gathering methods.
These are journals, national or international; newsletters from organizations such as WHO, CDC and ICMR; books; computer-assisted searches such as Medline and Medlar; and personal communication with other researchers.
The Internet provides a vast avenue for gathering information. Care must be taken to obtain only the relevant information.
In this era of information technology review of literature is literally “just a click away”.
Approximately 150-200 words should be used in the synopsis of the research methodology adopted.
The research methodology is at the heart of the research project. The methodology should include the following aspects:
- Study design
- Study settings
- Study methods – examinations or investigations
- Data collection
- Data analysis
- Ethical clearance
The methodology starts with selection of study design. A single study design or a combination can be selected e.g.:
Cross-sectional study or survey
Study of natural history of a disease
Observational analytical designs
Therapeutic clinical trials – drugs
Prophylactic clinical trials- vaccines
Reference should be made to the setting of the research. This includes information on the institution, the facilities available, the time of study and the study population.
Sampling is the selection of a sample of the appropriate size for the study.
The sample size depends on the design of the study. The study population may be the population of cases, the population of persons or the population of recipients of certain treatments.
There are many methods of sampling, such as simple random, systemic and stratified sampling, cluster sampling, etc.
Care should be taken to make sure that the size of the sample is adequate to produce meaningful results.
The size of the sample should be adequate to implement all relevant statistically significant tests. The samples should be representative of the population and should be consistent. This minimizes sampling errors.
Variables are the factors that could change. These changes may have an impact on the outcome of the research project. It is therefore important to identify the variables at the planning stage.
They should be quantified by a measurable unit.
The understanding of the different variables in the research project will help to improve the objectives.
The research objectives will usually be to see the effect of independent variables on dependent variables. There are four different types of variables.
These are the variables that can be manipulated by the researcher and the effects that can be observed on the other variables. Predisposing factors, risk factors and cause, for example.
The changes occur as a result of independent variables. For example, disease and outcome.
They may enhance the effect of independent variables on the dependent variables. For example, while studying the response of HIV-AIDS to HAART, the outcome may be influenced by the presence of anti-tubercular drugs.
These are changes that are relevant to the groups or population under study.
They need to be included in the study. For example, age, sex and ethnic background.
The Control Groups will increase the validity of the research project. They usually consist of units of the same population but differ in a number of respects.
Controls are not required for all research projects. As far as possible, all analytical studies, drug trials and intervention programs should be used.
Here, the researcher will have to identify the method of data collection that may be in the form of:
- Medical examination
- Laboratory investigations
- Screening procedures
A sample of the proforma should be ready and attached. The probable cost involved and any financial assistance received must be mentioned.
A short note on how data are collected should be included. The information should be about:
- The organizational setup
- Training to data collecting team
- Logistic support
- Plans for collaboration with other organization should be included
The analysis of data is an important part of a research project. A good analysis is leading to good results.
The data analysis plans should be mentioned in the following headings: statistical methods, the computer program used, and the data sorting method.
A general statement “appropriate statistical methods will be used.” should be avoided.
Where necessary, the Institute should obtain the approval of the Ethical Committee. The certificate shall be attached. Ethical clearance is necessary in all human and animal studies.
All references cited in the literature review and anywhere else in the synopsis should be listed here.
There are two styles of reference writing, the Vancouver style and the Harvard style. The Vancouver style is easy to follow because it depends on the numbers as quoted in the text.
A synopsis is incomplete if it does not comprise the following information:
- Name of the researcher and designation
- Name and designation of the guide
- Name and designation of head of department\institution
- Name of the institution
- Signatures of all with official seal
Synopsis writing is an important step forward in a research project. A good synopsis will give maximum information in minimum words.
A well-designed synopsis will go a long way to convince the reviewer of the researcher’s ability to complete the project.
The request will be considered favorable in cases of need for financial assistance. Thus, all researchers should make efforts to prepare a well-structured synopsis.”
To learn more, read our next blog: What is the Process for Submission of Synopsis?
- Health Reseach Methodology, A Guide for training in research methods. WHO, Oxford University Press; 1993, p. 169.