Write a Summary

How to write a Summary

In this article, I will  show how to practice using your own words to explain the main idea of something you have learned. This is called summarizing. We summarize for a variety of reasons in both speaking and writing. In this lesson, we will focus on writing summaries of texts.

Introduction to Summarizing

What Is a Summary?

A summary is a condensed overview of the main idea(s) and essential details of a longer word (e.g., an article or story). A summary should be objective and concise. It should be able to stand alone as its own work. The target audience is a reader who is not familiar with the original work.

What a Summary Is NOT

When you summarize, you use your own words but NOT your own opinions, ideas, or interpretations. You use attributive tags (e.g., the author suggests…) to show that the ideas are not your own.

A summary is NOT an outline. An outline is a summary in point form. You can write an outline first. Then you can use your notes to write a summary in paragraph form. A summary may be one paragraph or a few, depending on the length of the original work.

A summary does NOT include specific details such as dates, times, and statistics.

A step based aproach

When summarizing in writing, use paragraph form. You can summarize a short article in a single paragraph. It may take a few paragraphs to summarize a longer work, such as a novel.

Follow these steps to create a summary of a short text, such as an article:

  • Read the article once.
  • Reread the article armed with a pen and a blank piece of paper.
  • As you reread, write down the title and author of the original work.
  • Find the main idea. (Why was the text written?) Circle it.
  • Divide the article into its main sections. Draw boxes around them.
  • Place a star beside one important detail in each box.
  • Read the starred parts over to yourself.
  • Put the original article away.
  • Write the main idea in point form on your paper.
  • Write points for each important detail. (Look at the article if necessary.)
  • Get a new piece of blank paper. Use your notes to write a paragraph that summarizes the article.
  • Read the original work again.
  • Reread your summary and add any key parts you missed.
  • Omit any parts in your summary that are not central to the main idea. Make sure you haven’t introduced your own personal opinions.
  • Make a final copy of your summary. (Proofread it the next day.)

Sentence Starters for Summarizing

Introductory Sentence

  • In “________” (title), ________ (author) covers/writes about/discusses __________ (main idea / theme).
  • As ________ (author) explains in “________” (title), …
  • ________ (Author) in “________” (title), focuses on…

Main Idea

  • The piece covers…
  • “________” (Title) is a story about…
  • The article/piece is mainly about…
  • The main point the author takes is…

Relevant Details

  • As ________ (author) notes/tells us, …
  • The article/piece/text says that…
  • According to ________ (author), …
  • A report about ________ (topic) claims that…
  • ________ (Author) argues that…

Summing Up

  • In short, …
  • To summarize, …
  • In summary, …
  • In brief, …
  • To conclude, …
  • As mentioned, …

Attributive Tags

The author / Name / He / She…

  • believes
  • claims
  • demonstrates
  • suggests
  • emphasizes
  • insists
  • informs
  • maintains
  • notes
  • observes
  • reminds
  • reports
  • says
  • states
  • explains

Writing Checklist

Read the summary writing checklist.

✓ Did I read the original text carefully?

✓ Did I take notes as I read the second time?

✓ Did I note the title and author in my topic sentence?

✓ Did I identify the man idea of the text?

✓ Did I find three or more relevant details that relate to the main idea?

✓ Did I use attributive tags?

✓ Did I avoid introducing my own opinion?

✓ Did I omit details that were too specific (e.g., facts, stats)?

✓ Did I include a concluding statement?

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