How to write a summary of a text
How to write a summary of a text:
- A summary begins with an introductory sentence that states the article’s title and author.
- A summary must contain the main thesis or standpoint of the text, restated in your own words. (To do this, first find the thesis statement in the original text.)
- A summary is written in your own words. It contains few or no quotes.
- A summary is always shorter than the original text, often about 1/3 as long as the original. It is the ultimate fat-free writing. An article or paper may be summarized in a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. A book may be summarized in an article or a short paper. A very large book may be summarized in a smaller book.
- A summary should contain all the major points of the original text, and should ignore most of the fine details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
- The backbone of any summary is formed by crucial details (key names, dates, events, words and numbers). A summary must never rely on vague generalities.
- If you quote anything from the original text, even an unusual word or a catchy phrase, you need to put whatever you quote in quotation marks (“”).
- A summary must contain only the ideas of the original text. Do not insert any of your own opinions, interpretations, deductions or comments into a summary.
- A summary, like any other writing, has to have a specific audience and purpose, and you must carefully write it to serve that audience and fulfill that specific purpos.
An effective summary:
- Begins with an introductory sentence that states the article’s title and author and restates its thesis or focus.
- Includes all of the article’s main points and major supporting details
- Deletes minor and irrelevant details.
- Combines/chunks similar ideas
- Paraphrases accurately and preserves the article’s meaning.
- Uses student’s own wording and sentence style.
- Uses quotation marks when using phrasing directly from the article or source.
- Includes only the article’s ideas; excludes personal opinion.
- Reflects article’s emphasis and purpose.
- Recognizes article’s organization.
- Stays within appropriate length; is shorter than the original.
- Achieves transition through use of author’s name and present-tense verb.
- Has few or no mechanical errors.
How to summarize:
“Say the same thing in fewer words”
- A summary is a shorter version of a longer piece of writing. Summarizing means capturing all the most important parts of the original, and expressing them in a shorter space. The shorter space could be a lot shorter.
- A summary is sometimes known as a précis, a synopsis, or a paraphrase.
- In academic writing, summarizing exercises are often set to test your understanding of the original, and your ability to re-state its main purpose.
- In business writing, you might need to summarize to provide easily-digestible information for customers or clients.
- Summarizing is also a useful skill when gathering information or doing research.
- The summary should be expressed – as far as possible – in your own words. It’s not enough to merely copy out parts of the original.
- The question will usually set a maximum number of words. If not, aim for something like one tenth of the original. [A summary which was half the length of the original would not be a summary.]
- Read the original, and try to understand its main subject or purpose. Then you might need to read it again to understand it in more detail.
- Underline or make a marginal note of the main issues. Use a highlighter if this helps.
- Look up any words or concepts you don’t know, so that you understand the author’s sentences and how they relate to each other.
- Work through the text to identify its main sections or arguments. These might be expressed as paragraphs or web pages.
- Remember that the purpose [and definition] of a paragraph is that it deals with one issue or topic.
- Draw up a list of the topics – or make a diagram. [A simple picture of boxes or a spider diagram can often be helpful.]
- Write a one or two-sentence account of each section you identify. Focus your attention on the main point. Leave out any illustrative examples.
- Write a sentence which states the central idea of the original text.
- Use this as the starting point for writing a paragraph which combines all the points you have made.
- The final summary should concisely and accurately capture the central meaning of the original.
- Remember that it must be in your own words. By writing in this way, you help to re-create the meaning of the original in a way which makes sense for you.