Effective and Ineffective Summaries

Compare the two summaries of the excerpt below for an illustration of what distinguishes an effective from and ineffective summary.


“For nearly 1,400 years Islam, though diverse in sectarian practice and ethnic tradition, has provided a unifying faith for peoples stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and beyond. Starting in the 1500s, Western ascendancy, which culminated in colonization, eroded once glorious Muslim empires and reduced the influence of Islam. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following World War I and the decline of European colonial empires following World War II, Muslim nations adopted Western ideologies–communism, socialism, secular nationalism, and capitalism. Yet most Muslims remained poor and powerless. Their governments, secular regimes often backed by the West, were corrupt and repressive” (Belt 78).

Belt, Don. “The World of Islam.” National Geographic. January 2002: 76-85. Print.


Despite Western-style governments, Muslim countries are mired in deep poverty and radical governments. This despite the fact that the religion has existed for several centuries. European colonization ruined the Islamic religion for a long time. You would find it hard to imagine how many Muslims there really are out there.


This summary

  • does not follow the order of information found in the original
  • the phrase “several centuries” minimizes the historic significance of the religion
  • sentence-level problems like “mired,” “you would,” and “out there” change the formal tone of the original to a biased, informal representation
  • it is approximately half the length of the original, which is too long
  • no credit is given to the original source


For almost 1,500 years, Islam has united people globally. Western interference, through colonization and political ideologies, has not improved Muslims’ lives (Belt 78).


This summary

  • follows the order of the original
  • maintains the original tone
  • is approximately 20% of the original’s length
  • is properly documented and punctuated