A summary is a concise version of an original text.

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What is a good summary?

1. A good summary should give an objective outline of the whole piece of writing.  It should answer basic questions about the original text such as “Who did what, where, and when?”, or “What is the main idea of the text?”, “What are the main supporting points?”, “What are the major pieces of evidence?”.  It should not be a paraphrase of the whole text using your own words.

2. You should not give your own ideas or criticisms as part of the summary. However, if you want to give your personal opinion on a piece of writing it is usual to begin by summarizing it as objectively as possible.

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3. A good summary should not include selected examples, details, or information which are not relevant to the piece of writing taken as a whole.  Leave out specific statistics.  Replace the numbers with words that describe the trend in general.

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How to Summarize

4. A good summary should probably include the main idea of each paragraph, and the main evidence supporting that idea, unless it is not relevant to the article as a whole. A summary does not need a conclusion, but if the original ends with a message to the reader this should not be left out.

5. A good summary may use key words from the original text but should not contain whole phrases or sentences from the original unless quotation marks are used. Quotations should only be made if there is a reason for using the original words, for example because the choice of words is significant, or because the original is so well expressed.

6. Rearranging the words used in the original, or keeping the same structure but just substituting different words is not enough. You must express the sense of the original using your own words and structures.

How to write a summary:

  • Read the article.
  • Re-read the article.  Underline important ideas.  Circle key terms.  Find the main point of the article.  Divide the article into sections or stages of thought and label each section or stage of thought in the margins.  Note the main idea of each paragraph if the article is short.

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