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Humanities Libertexts

1.1: How to Write a Summary

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  • Summarizing consists of two important skills:

    1. identifying the important material in the text, and
    2. restating the text in your own words.

    Since writing a summary consists of omitting minor information, it will always be shorter than the original text.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    How to Write a Summary

    • A summary begins with an introductory sentence that states the text’s title, author and main thesis or subject.
    • A summary contains the main thesis (or main point of the text), restated in your own words.
    • A summary is written in your own words. It contains few or no quotes.
    • A summary is always shorter than the original text, often about 1/3 as long as the original. It is the ultimate “fat-free” writing. An article or paper may be summarized in a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. A book may be summarized in an article or a short paper. A very large book may be summarized in a smaller book.
    • A summary should contain all the major points of the original text, but should ignore most of the fine details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
    • The backbone of any summary is formed by critical information (key names, dates, places, ideas, events, words and numbers). A summary must never rely on vague generalities.
    • If you quote anything from the original text, even an unusual word or a catchy phrase, you need to put whatever you quote in quotation marks (“”).
    • A summary must contain only the ideas of the original text. Do not insert any of your own opinions, interpretations, deductions or comments into a summary.
    • A summary, like any other writing, has to have a specific audience and purpose, and you must carefully write it to serve that audience and fulfill that specific purpose.
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