A Summary Guide for Everyone

If you ever wrote any kind of essay or other academic papers, you noticed that all such papers require to provide summaries of texts, main ideas, etc. Summarizing is one of the basic tasks, and it refers to all activities in colleges, not only writing academic papers. That’s why students must understand what summary is and how to write a summary. 

The Meaning and Purposes of the Summary

A summary is a brief retelling of a text or speech in your words. In plain words, it would be an answer to the question “what have I just read or listened to?” You are not supposed to retell the things in detail, but you should cover the main ideas. This is an excellent exercise aimed to improve the reading, listening and understanding skills.

Depending on the source, the summary may be short, a couple of sentences in length, or quite long. If you need to summarize a book, you’d hardly be able to cover all its ideas and events in several sentences, you will need a page at least. 

If you know well how to write a summary, it will be useful, no matter if you are an expert or a student. Though, the skill of doing a summary is especially helpful for students:

It helps to absorb new information. Students need to read or listen to loads of data, and writing summaries is a way to “process” them. This way you get to the main points and make them “yours” by restatement in your own words. This task is common in classes, as it shows how well you can grasp new knowledge. It is also a great method for independent researches. Make such summary notes and refer to them when you need to refresh the information. 

You need to write a summary when you work on academic papers. If you are composing an essay, you summarize it to give the audience an idea about what you talk about. The skill is crucial for you during the inevitable stage of doing researches. You can’t just repeat the words you took from books or articles – you need to express their essentials. 

It is related to the rules of citation. It is good if you find some expert’s ideas to support your statements. However, you can’t just repeat them as yours, it will be plagiarism. Thus, you will need to comprehend the core of the statement. Then you should retell it briefly and correctly, and indicate the source. There are also rules for direct quoting, and you also use them when you learn how to write a summary. 

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Criteria of a Proper Summary 

Any good summary of a text must meet certain benchmarks: 

A summary should provide a brief outlining of the text. It is to cover the main ideas and the supporting and disproving evidence. If you deal with the creative writing example, you should also acknowledge its main characters and their most important actions with the consequences. 

You should not include secondary facts and examples, or the author’s digressions. Don’t go into detail.

The summary must include only the essentials of the source text, no criticism or your speculations. You can comment on the summary, but you need to write it objectively at first.

You need to use your own words, but you can also refer to direct citations. But make sure to keep the balance, many students tend to overload their summaries with quotes. You might include direct quotations to illustrate the meaningful or felicitous choice of words. Make sure to cite them according to the rules. 

It is not necessary to follow the initial structure of the original text – it depends on the general suitability. The essence of the text summarized is the priority, not its structure.

Read also about IEEE Citation Format

How to Prepare and Write a Summary Efficiently

  1. Read the original text very attentively and make sure to understand it well. A good method is reading with a pencil (or its equivalent on your computer or mobile device). Mark the things you consider important, highlight or underline them. 
  2. When you summarize an essay, yours or someone else’s, pay special attention to the thesis statement and the Body part. Try to express the main idea of each paragraph and define the strongest arguments. 
  3. Answer the following questions in your words: 
    • What is the name of the text and who is the author? 
    • What does the author state in the text?
    • Which statements do they offer?
    • Which evidence do they use to support the statements?
    • questions should become the base of the summary – you already have its draft when you answer them one by one. 
  4. Mention the name of the author when you cite their words. You can also replace them with “he/she” or “the writer”, “the author”, “the expert”. I.e.: “as for the subject, the author claims that…”, or “in this work, Johns argues that the impact of the video games is that important for the problem…”

These recommendations should help you to learn how to write a summary of the text correctly. Like it is already said, this is a very helpful exercise even when it is not a part of the students’ jobs in classes.

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