Summarizing - Get to the Point
Summarizing involves giving the "gist" of a chosen
passage, using your own words and not the author's. Summaries
are generally informative and descriptive. While an effective
summary emphasizes all of the main points in a selection,
it is significantly shorter than the original.
Being able to summarize succinctly is a valuable skill for
academic, personal, and professional writing, and can be used
for many purposes. For example, summaries can:
- convey a general idea
- give only necessary information
- shorten material
- reference material
- set up quoted material
- provide support
- add credibility
- establish background
- offer an overview of a topic
- describe common knowledge
What a Summary Should Contain
Effective summaries are made up of concise, coherent sentences
that communicate the key information of a passage. Summaries
may involve simply deleting extraneous material, highlighting
key points, synthesizing the overall meaning, or miniaturizing
It is important to remember that a summary must remain faithful
to the author's interpretation and emphasis. Summaries should
focus on what the author is saying, not on how he or she is
proving it. Also, you should not give your own opinions about
the author's message; instead, maintain a neutral tone. The
only time your summary should be biased is if the original
passage is biased.
How to Summarize
- Read the passage you are going to summarize at least
twice so that you fully comprehend what the author is saying.
- Isolate the thesis, or main idea of the passage to
- Work through the text to identify the portions that
support the author's main idea; highlight or underline these
- Rephrase the main points into your own sentences, but
remember to keep the author's intended purpose and message.
It is generally not necessary to include examples and details.
- Make up a new thesis that explains the essential idea
of the passage. You should not simply restate the author's
thesis; you want to prove that you understand the information
in the passage by forming your own sentence. Writing in
this way helps you to re-create the meaning of the original
in a way that makes sense for you.
- While you are summarizing, you must remember to change
sentence structure, vocabulary, and the thesis in order
to avoid plagiarism. Also, your summary does not have to
be in the same order as the original passage unless arrangement
is necessary for comprehension.
- Always remember to cite the passage's original source
information. You can do this somewhere in the body or at
the end of your summary.
- Finally, revise and edit to ensure accuracy and correctness.
- Is the main idea clear and accurate?
- Is your summary concise?
- Are there few (if any) details and examples?
- Does your summary include only information found in
- Does your summary read like a unified paragraph?
- Did you include bibliographic information?
- Always write a summary with the author's purpose
- The length of a summary depends on what is being
- Summarizing can always be improved with practice!