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How to Write a Summary

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Published on Apr 29, 2010

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A summary condenses the author’s main purpose and support so that someone else gets the information as it was intended. Plus, you avoid sounding as if you’re making it up.

Step 1: Scan the text
Scan the text and make notes on paper. Read closely to absorb the author’s tone and central ideas, and then comb back through to clarify points.

Step 2: Outline the idea
Outline the main idea of each section in your own words. Include only meaningful details and proofs, organizing them from most to least important.

Step 3: Develop your thesis
Develop a thesis, summarizing the main points of the piece. Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work right away.

Tip
Avoid using your own opinions or interpretations, no matter how familiar the subject may be.

Step 4: Arrange information
Arrange the information to clearly support the author's points, adding details to each section. Improve the flow of ideas with transitions that connect sections.

Step 5: Cite properly
Be sure that sources are cited properly. Paraphrase and don’t use the author’s words if you can help it. Make sure you haven’t wandered off topic.

Tip
Ask who, what, why, when, where, and how questions to be sure you have represented the author’s work faithfully.

Step 6: Make final corrections
Correct your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Dignify your work and that of your subject’s with the care good scholarship demands.

Step 7: Ask for criticism
Ask a hyper-critical friend to read your work. Be receptive and not over-sensitive – if they can’t identify your main points, you need to revise.

Did You Know?
More than half of students say that their schoolwork requires daily writing.

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