Why do we need to write summaries? The truth is that a summary is more than a short version of a text. To write a good summary one needs to read the text actively and be able to see the difference between the main idea and details. Because summary involves annotating and reverse outlining the text, it is a great way for your professor to see if you read and understood the text. Summarizing is a necessary skill outside student life as well. One needs to be able to filter through tons of ‘information noise’ and present a piece of information in a concise form. Ultimately, summarizing can be someone’s job. A President of a country has assistants whose job is to summarize information and brief their boss on what is happening in the world. Thus, if you learn how to effectively summarize, you can become a President’s assistant!
Now that we know why summary is important, let me explain how to write one:
- First, read the text to find the main idea (the main argument or the main claim). Highlight the sentences that express the main idea and write them down in your copybook. Then write that same main idea in your own words. This is paraphrasing and you need it because you should write summaries in your words, not the author’s words.
- Go back to the text and read it again to find three or four major sub-claims or pieces of evidence that support the main idea. Highlight them and write them down in your copybook as bullet points. Again, remember to use your own words.
- Now that you have created the outline of the text (as a result of reverse outlining), put the text away and write your summary using the outline. Not looking at the original text ensures that you will not ‘borrow’ any of the author’s phrases and expressions (helps you avoid plagiarism).
- Introduce the text title and the author with phrases like “In Distant Relatives John Smith writes …”
- Remember to use transitions to make your text coherent and not boring.
- Also, use reporting verbs and phrases to give credit to the author such as “The author states that…”or “Further Smith also adds that …”
- You may also use a direct quote every now and then: As the author puts it himself, “…” Do not forget to cite whenever you write direct quotations and close paraphrase.
- Finally, revise and proofread your summary. See if you need to add or remove bits of information, check your punctuation, spelling and grammar. Your summary should be about 1/10 of the original text.
Here you have your excellent summary! It may be a little difficult to write summaries but the more you practice, the better your summaries become.