What is a synoptic table and how is it used?

What is a synoptic table and how is it used?

On countless occasions we have very complex and dense ideas in our heads that are difficult to explain and/or argue. Developing a topic or concept using the synoptic table is a very useful tool, as it helps to visually clarify complex ideas, which leads to better and easier memorization.

In this article we will see how to use a synoptic table, either to study or to organize complex plans or concepts.

The synopsis as the main element

The synoptic table is a synthesis or summary of a specific theme, subcategorizing the themes that form it . It is a way of looking at the “x-ray” of a written explanation and is often complicated to process. Basically, the objective of the synoptic table is to explain in a simpler way any topic by ordering the ideas according to a hierarchy, and in a visual way.

As its name suggests, the synoptic table is based on a synopsis , i.e. a summary of any specific topic, representing similarities and differences within the same theme. For example, to explain how a parliament works, the synoptic table reveals how it is formed, who participates and what it is for, always following a top-down hierarchical methodology.

We can’t ignore the visual element. According to neuroscience experts, humans tend to be animals whose thinking is based on visualization, so they are prone to process information graphically. In any educational centre, from primary school to university, any teacher supports his or her explanations with an explanatory scheme, offering a dynamic way of making texts, concepts or any type of useful information known.

Characteristics of the synoptic table, and how to use it

The synoptic table is the equivalent of a mind map . It is not exclusively used in the educational field, since many companies use this same method to develop their production and competitiveness policies. For this tool to be effective, it must be based on some basic characteristics that we will see below.

1. Main theme

It is essential to order ideas well and to correctly analyze what one is trying to explain. We have to define the main theme , the basis of the rest of the synoptic table, in a clear and concise way.

2. Sub-themes

Secondly, it is necessary to develop the themes derived from the main theme. This task should not be confused with the inclusion of topics that are unrelated or do not belong in the same hierarchical category. For example, the case we put in the introduction of the formation of a Parliament, the sub-themes would be the Deputies and the Parties, among others, but not the laws.

3. Synthesis of ideas

If the main objective of the synoptic table is the clarification of a topic or ideas, any kind of complex explanation should be avoided . The main characteristic of the table is that it exposes the ideas in a clear and brief way, avoiding entanglements.

4. Avoid confusion

This particular point is related to the previous one. The synoptic table is intended to facilitate the understanding of a subject, especially if it is complex in its theory. It includes the essential points and clears up any hint of doubt.

5. Structural hierarchy

When we choose a text and try to summarize it, we try to order the ideas. The synoptic table will save us this step due to its organizational nature. The order can be from top to bottom (vertical) or from left to right (horizontal), avoiding ambiguity about the sense that follows its structuring .

6. Support material

Ultimately, the synoptic table is the most useful tool when emphasizing or showing any kind of idea to the target audience; whether at work, at school or in any area where audiovisual material is available. Therefore, it can be used to highlight the main ideas that have been exposed through other means, such as speech.

Factors to consider

Although at first glance it seems easy to make a synoptic picture, in practice it is not so simple. From an extensive and dense subject, it is necessary to know how to select what is most important , without forgetting transcendental subjects that complete the graphic scheme.

Above all, we must study the subject well, identify those crucial points and know how to order them in a way that does not lead to confusion. Furthermore, although there is a need to include everything that is essential, one should not fall into the trap of including too much text or argument.

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