Writing a Summary

Summarizing consists of two important skills:

  1. identifying the important material in the text, and
  2. restating the text in your own words.

Since writing a summary consists of omitting minor information, it will always be shorter than the original text.

How to Write a Summary

Before writing a summary, make sure to read and highlight/annotate the whole essay before writing your summary.  The idea is to then summarize and do so in your own words as you reread the essay.  With this in mind, a summary:

  • begins with an introductory sentence that states the text’s title, author, main topic, and thesis, restated in your own words.
  • contains few or no quotes, but always cites any quoted material.
  • is always shorter than the original text, no more than 1/3 as long (often less) 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.
  • is formed by critical information (key names, dates, places, ideas, events, words and numbers). Make certain that the summary does not rely on vague generalities.
    • DO include all the major points of the original text in the order presented within that textignore most of the fine details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
  • uses transitional words (e.g. “first”, “next”, “furthermore”, “on the other hand”, “as a result”) to connect the summarized points.
  • paraphrases the text’s conclusion.
  • contains only the ideas of the original text. Do not insert any of your own opinions, interpretations, deductions, or comments into a summary.
  • like any other writing, has to have a specific audience and purpose, and must be crafted carefully to serve that audience and fulfill that specific purpose.