Writing a Summary (200-250 words)
Audience and Purpose
Writing summaries is a standard practice in the academy. Online indexes, for example, often include abstracts (a kind of summary writing) of the articles listed. Each article in many academic journals also begins with an abstract. Readers use these abstracts to determine if they want to read an entire article or to remind themselves of the content of an article they read some time ago. Summary writing also serves as a useful heuristic for students. For instance, writing a summary of one’s own work can help a student determine if an essay is complete and coherent. Writing a summary of another person’s work can help a student determine the main points of an essay to analyze or evaluate.
During class, we will discuss and practice summarizing essays from the textbook. For this assignment, you are to write a formal summary that should be 200 to 250 words.
Remember: A summary of someone else’s work fairly describes the thesis and main points of the essay without judging the essay’s merit. Most of the summary should be a paraphrase of the essay, and quotations should be accurate and correctly punctuated.
Writing the Summary
Planning the summary. You have already read the essay; now reread it carefully. Underline important words and annotate the margins to mark key points. Next look at the summary you have already written: Does it accurately identify the thesis of the essay and the central points that support the thesis? If your first summary was an outline, determine if the order of the essay will be appropriate in a summary. (Some authors may repeat themselves or circle around a point; a summary needs to be succinct.)
Drafting the summary. The first sentence of the summary includes the name of the essay, name of the author, and thesis of the essay. Summarize and paraphrase the important points that support the thesis.
Revising the summary. Return to the essay to make sure your summary is accurate, is written in your own words, and connects ideas smoothly. If your summary is too long, try to eliminate secondary points or reduce wordiness. If your summary is too short, explain in more detail a major point.
Some Evaluation Criteria
- identifies the thesis and main points of the essay
- identifies the author and title
- has a style and organization that are easy to follow
- includes only ideas or examples
- reads smoothly with transitions connecting ideas
- paraphrases the important ideas of the essay without using the author’s phrasing
- quotes sparingly and accurately
- avoids judgments about the essay
- avoids errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling