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.
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