Process for Writing a Summary

LEO LEO: Literacy Education OnlineProcess for Writing a Summary

Writing an effective summary requires that you

Read with the Writer’s Purpose in Mind

  • Read the article carefully, making no notes or marks and looking only for what the writer is saying.
  • After you’re finished reading, write down in one sentence the point that is made about the subject. Then look for the writer’s thesis and underline it.
    • Does this thesis correspond with the sentence you wrote down? If not, adjust your sentence or reconsider the thesis you selected.
    • Look at the article again and ask yourself if your view is slanted toward one of the essay’s minor points. If it is, adjust your sentence so that it is slanted toward the writer’s major point.

Underline with Summarizing in Mind

  • Once you clearly understand the writer’s major point (or purpose) for writing, read the article again. This time underline the major points supporting the thesis; these should be words or phrases here and there rather than complete sentences.
  • In addition, underline key transitional elements which show how parts are connected. Omit specific details, examples, description, and unnecessary explanations. Note: you may need to go through the article twice in order to pick up everything you need.

Write, Revise, and Edit to Ensure the Accuracy and Correctness of Your Summary

Writing Your Summary

  • Now begin writing your summary. Start with a sentence naming the writer and article title and stating the essay’s main idea. Then write your summary, omitting nothing important and striving for overall coherence through appropriate transitions.
  • Be concise, using coordination and subordination to compress ideas.
  • Conclude with a final statement reflecting the significance of the article — not from your own point of view but from the writer’s.
  • Throughout the summary, do not insert your own opinions or thoughts; instead summarize what the writer has to say about the subject.

Revising Your Summary

  • After you’ve completed a draft, read your summary and check for accuracy.
    • Does your summary make the same point as the article?
    • Have you omitted anything important?
    • Does your summary read smoothly with all parts clearly related?
  • Keep in mind that a summary should generally be no more than one-fourth the length of the original. If your summary is too long, cut out words rather than ideas. Then look for non-essential information and delete it.
  • Write another draft — still a draft for revision — and ask someone to read it critically.
    • Can that person understand the sense of the article by reading your summary?
    • Ask for criticism; then weigh these criticisms and make valid changes.

Editing Your Summary

  • Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, looking particularly for those common in your writing.
  • Write a clean draft and proofread for copying errors.

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