Tips on Writing a Summary of any Writing Piece

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How to Sum Up the Text

An ability to sum up the text, or to highlight its key points in a couple of sentences, is a practical study tool that is commonly used in paper writing.

There are two primary purposes of a summary:

  • reproducing the main ideas in the piece of writing, identifying the general concepts running through the text;
  • expressing these ideas with clear, concise language.

It is essential to remember that when summarizing, you should not use the language that the author has used for developing his/her points. Instead, you have to provide a brief overview of these points without sounding too general. Besides, you have to decide which concepts you can leave in and which are better to omit, considering your goals in writing a summary and your opinion about the main ideas of the text.

Here are some tips on how to come up with a useful summary of any text:

  1. In the first sentence, identify the author and the title of the article.
  2. Describe the author’s thesis or main concept briefly. This is the idea that runs through the entire piece of writing. In simple words, this can be the answer to the question, “What is this article about?” Also, note that unlike student essays, the key idea in an academic article is not necessarily stated in one location at the beginning. It can be gradually developed throughout the article. It can also become entirely apparent only at the end.
  3. When you sum up a longer piece of writing, note how the different stages in the argument or explanation are built in groups of related sections. To make the task easier, you can break up the article into sections. Once you have done it, write one-two sentences to cover the main thoughts of each section.
  4. Do not include any ideas that have no significant meaning. You do not aim to reproduce the writer’s exact progression of thought. However, be careful not to miss important ideas.
  5. Generally, do not include minor details or specific examples. However, sometimes, extended examples are critical parts of the argument, so they have to be mentioned in summary.
  6. Never include opinions or personal point of view in the summaries.
  7. Be careful not to plagiarize the writer’s words. If you do use some of his/her phrases, make sure to include them in quotation marks. A good way to avoid plagiarism is by writing the first draft without looking back at the original text.