Skills to Develop
- Analyze annotation strategies
- Analyze strategies to paraphrase a text’s thesis statement
- Analyze strategies to identify and quote significant passages from a text
- Analyze strategies to distinguish a text’s major claims from minor ones
- Analyze strategies to convey the essential features of a text to someone who hasn’t read it
Analyze summary skills for reading comprehension
The ultimate demonstration of reading comprehension comes in the form of summary. Because of this, expect summaries to play a role in many college writing assignments.
If this causes you any anxiety, consider this helpful advice offered in the article “Relax–You Already Know How to Summarize!”
- Summarizing is extremely easy for humans, and even a small child almost instinctively knows how to summarize. (Any time a child “tattles” on another, she or he is probably summarizing.)
- Summarizing is a powerful learning tool. Summarizing, like translating, forces you to “get in bed with the text,” to become intimate with it.
- Summaries are specific, not hazy and lazy. To describe September 11 as “a time when some terrorists took over a bunch of airplanes and rammed them into buildings” is not a fat-free summary. It already starved to death. The only thing to do with a summary like that is to give it a decent burial in the wastebasket and start over from scratch. In college-level work, the more specific names, dates and facts (who, what, when, where, why, how) that you include, the better the summary is.
- Never include any information or conclusions, no matter how obvious, that were not openly stated in the original text. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck but your original text failed to call it a duck, you cannot call it a duck in your summary either, as clear as it may be to you and to your readers that it is a duck.
- A summary should never have more than one short quote in every two or three paragraphs of your own words. Summaries are primarily made of paraphrases, rather than direct quotes.
- Summarizing without the text in front of you is a workout for your working memory. It is a useful study technique to prepare for university courses where you will need to read, understand, learn and give back a large amount of information or complex ideas and involved reasoning on closed-book essay exams. It will also be useful in the “real world,” where you will have to put all your book-learning to work.
- If you really know a subject, you will be able to summarize it. If you cannot summarize a subject, even if you have memorized all the facts about it, you can be absolutely sure that you have not learned it. And, if you truly learn the subject, you will still be able to summarize it months or years from now—if you cannot, we have failed. (“Cramming” for an exam is a bad joke—it is not and never was learning!)