Outcome: Summary Skills

Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate and apply strategies to paraphrase a text’s thesis statement
  • Evaluate and apply strategies to quote significant passages from a text
  • Evaluate and apply strategies to distinguish a text’s major claims from minor ones
  • Evaluate and apply strategies to convey the essential features of a text to someone who hasn’t read it


Writing as Active Reading

You might have first looked at this page and wondered, “why is material about summarization in a chapter about reading?”  The answer is simple: active reading involves writing, as is clear in the previous information about annotation.  Summarization is another example of (active) reading as writing, and it also can be a first step in the invention/drafting process if done well.

What Summaries Do

Summaries can a few things.  First, they can help give a reader helpful context and a sense of organization in relation to a text that can aid in comprehending it.  That is, summaries are part of the pre-reading process.  Second, summaries can also be valuable tools for post-reading, as they ask a reader to review what she or he has read and organize the most important material of a text in a fashion that closely reflects that text.  And, third, summaries can help a writer evaluate the organization of her or his text by providing a “bird’s eye view” of it.

Summarization for Reading Comprehension

Have you read the book Animal Farm, by George Orwell? It’s required reading at many schools, but don’t worry if you either haven’t read it or don’t remember much about it. The following video offers an interesting synopsis of the book to refresh your memory.

(Note: the video contains adult language.)

  • This is likely not the kind of summary you might be used to seeing for school books, but was it effective for you?
  • Do you feel that you have a good understanding of what the book was about, just from watching this video? If you have read the book, does this serve as an accurate representation of what you remember?
  • Would you be tempted to read the book, after watching this video?

Note that the video only used one direct quotation, and that wasn’t even from Animal Farm. The quote comes as part of the analysis component, serving to emphasize a point about the interpretation of the book. The entire plot summary of the book relies on paraphrase, instead.

Note also that the summary and the analysis components are distinctly divided, so that it’s very clear for viewers to tell what is objective plot recap, and what is subjective interpretation of the text.