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Aug 29, 2013

Writing Summaries: an info sheet

A quick and dirty guide to writing SUMMARIES

A summary is a condensed restatement of an author's position using main ideas from the source. 

Summaries exhibit three qualities: 
1. It restates the Main Ideas
2. It is signifcantly shorter than the original
3. It discusses the content AND purpose (focus), including the aims, attitude, values important to author. It might even indicate the author's target audience, the degree of difficulty, and the piece's tone or mood. In short, it accounts for the rhetoric of the original in some way. 

Summaries tend to stay neutral and objective. Save your evaluation and formal analysis for another time. Often, when you incorporate summaries in your own writing, you begin with a summary as a nice way to introduce a text and its main ideas into your essay, and then you move on to use the text for your own purposes (analysis, evaluation, etc.).

The Summarizing Process:

1. Reread the portion you want to summarize.

2. Mark off the main sections (how it's organized). Could be paragraph by paragraph.

3. Identify the title of the piece and the author. State the overarching main idea(s) in your own words. “In The Banking Concept of Education, Paolo Freire discusses....”

4. For each section, write one sentence that describes the content and purpose of that section. Rewrite topic sentences, when come across them. 

5. Add transitions between the sentences to improve the flow. 

Revise to keep the summary in your own words, to make it as brief as possible, and to improve transitions between ideas. 

Tip: Use signal phrases [examples?]  Structure your sentence like this:  [Author] + [present tense active voice verb] + [idea(s)]

In “Patio Man and the Sprawl People,” David Brooks [discusses, observes, describes, illustrates, surveys, reviews, reports, investigates, researches, concludes, surmises, notes, imagines, uses, interviews], etc.


You can follow the signal phrase sentence with one or two followup sentences summarizing more ideas. When you sense that the author is doing something else purpose-wise, toss in a new signal phrase. 

Summaries aren't of much use by themselves, though they are components of good writing. They show that you have understood a source, and they allow the reader to digest something he or she may not have read before. Summaries set the stage for analysis, interpretation, and evaluation (which is where essays and books get a lot more interesting).