Summary Writing

Process and Hints to Summary Writing

Summary—a brief, neutral restatement of a text. Think about the definition of each of these terms: brief, meaning much shorter than the original; neutral, meaning objective–containing none of your opinion, remaining wholly objective; restatement, meaning including only the ideas that appeared in the original.

The focus of a summary is on the material in a specific text, not your reactions to that material. While you have your own valid reactions (opinions) to the text, the summary is not the place to express them; those subjective ides may be established in the analysis essay.

Signal Phrases (sometimes called attributive tags) are references to the author that should be used frequently in an academic summary to attribute the author’s ideas to the author.  For example,  signal phrases like “Takaki claims, the author further explains, he points out, etc… can be used  to continually give credit to the author for the ideas being hers. Be sure to vary the placement of signal phrases in your sentences to avoid monotony and repetition of sentence openers. 

The summary paragraph should include the main ideas of the chapter in your words without any or with only minimal paraphrase or quoted text and should reflect your best writing abilities. Do not get caught up in the details of support or beautiful wording: The task here is to show that you can identify main ideas.

One major challenge with summary writing is deciding what to include and what to leave out. A bit of instruction on the process to follow, along with useful techniques, will have you writing expert summaries in no time.

  1. Read the text for understanding, without editing. Make sure you understand the content, including major and minor sections, as well as the overlying message being conveyed. Look closely at topic sentences and key words repeated throughout.
  2. Read through the material and cross out non-vital information. Underline what you believe to be the most important points, even if those points are words or phrases.
  3. Write your summary in your own words. Follow both the organization of the original as well as its tone, though you need to make sure your own point of view is purely objective (reporting content of the text, only). Opinions should not appear in a summary. Any words or phrases from the original need to be properly documented and punctuated.
  4. Your summary should be 15 to 20% the length of the original.
  5. Be sure to go back when you’ve finished your summary and compare it to the original for accuracy.