Summary: condensed, concise, edited version of a longer piece of writing


Procedures for Summary Writing:  

1.   Decide on the purpose of your summary (beyond just getting a grade for your homework J):

a.    Do you need to describe?

b.   Do you need to inform?


2.   Thoroughly understand the material to be summarized:

a.    Scan:

                                                            i.      Read and think about the title.

                                                        ii.      Read the opening and closing paragraphs of the text.

                                                     iii.      Read the topic sentences of each paragraph.

                                                      iv.      You are looking for major ideas and the organization of the text.

b.   Read and Annotate (make notes):

                                                            i.      Underline key ideas, facts, and conclusions as you read.

                                                        ii.      Underline essentials

                                                     iii.      Avoid underlining introductory material, examples, or general remarks.

                                                      iv.      Make notes in the margins: questions, mini-summaries, (dis)agreements, etc.

3.   Descriptive summary:  one sentence which describes the overall meaning of an article.

a.    Try to summarize in the MOST GENERAL terms, what the article is about.

b.   (Article Title) by (Author’s Name) is about….


Star Wars by George Lucas is about a young man named Luke Skywalker who finds his true father and becomes a Jedi knight as he fights the forces of evil.

“Shopping Fever” by John De Graff is about Americans’ obsession with shopping and the far-reaching affects it has on our culture.


4.   Informative summary:  short paragraph that gives the major facts and conclusions of an article or piece of writing.

a.    Rewrite the underlined portions of the article in your own words.

b.   Combine ideas and reorganize the article so that it is shorter and more concise (less than 25% of the original length).

c.    Imagine that you are the author and the editors have asked you to rewrite the article.  Avoid “s/he says” and speak using the present tense.

d.   Focus on main ideas and conclusions.  


5.   Reread the original article:

a.    Check your summary for accuracy and emphasis.

                                                            i.      Double check facts (you should have them annotated / underlined anyway).

                                                        ii.      Your treatment of ideas should mirror the original text’s emphasis.

b.   Make sure your summary is equally proportioned to the article / text:

                                                            i.      If ½ of the article covers Subject A, and the other ½ is split between Subjects B and C, then ½ of your summary should cover A and ½ should be split between B and C.

                                                        ii.      Do not ignore facts or points just because you disagree or dislike them.

                                                     iii.      Don’t overemphasize facts you like or agree with.


a.    Opinion: Stay away from writing either your personal opinion or the opinion of the originator.

b.   New Data: Don't add anything that wasn't in the original information.

c.    Irrelevant Specifics: Try to keep in mind what is essential to communicate and avoid all else.

d.   Examples: The intent is to provide the essential information, results and or conclusions--not examples.

e.    Background: Keep with the specifics. Your reader need not know about the how and why of the topic.

f.     Reference Data: This is not a full-fledged formal document. It is a snapshot of an event or writing; it is not meant to be a reference source.

g.   Jargon: Keep your audience in mind. Try to avoid using technical terms and writing in a "language" that your readers may have difficulty understanding.

7.   Grading standards:

a.    Annotations (underlining & notes on text)

b.   Concise (short)

c.    Precise (accurate)

d.   Proportional (emphasis)