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5.3: Summarizing a Text

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - CC0 Public Domain Image

    When you finish reading a text, it’s a great idea to stop for a moment and write a summary of what you just read.

    A good summary accomplishes the following:

    • It identifies or names the piece and its author(s) and states the main purpose of the text.
      Example: In his essay, “Consider the Lobster,” writer David Foster Wallace asks readers to consider the ethical implications of feasting on lobsters. (You can find a copy of this essay online at
    • It captures the text’s main points.
    • It does not include the reader’s opinions, feelings, beliefs, counterarguments, etc.
    • It is short. The idea of a summary is to “boil down” or condense a text to just a few sentences.

    Most important of all, when you create a summary of a text, it helps you review what you read and helps your brain capture the main ideas. Writing these down cements the memories; this will help you recall them more easily later on.

    Check Your Understanding: Summarizing a Text

    Read “Replace Annual Physicals with Real-Time Biomarker Monitoring.” (This article by Alex Berezow and Eric Tan can be found online at the Scientific American blog site.)

    Write a summary of this text, using the above guidelines.

    See the Appendix, Results for the “Check Your Understanding” Activities, for answers.

    Being able to accurately summarize a reading to someone else is the ultimate demonstration that you understand the reading’s contents.

    Consider this fun example of a summary from the “30-Second Bunny Theater” series: Star Wars in 30 Seconds and Re-enacted by Bunnies.

    This recap of the well-known movie Star Wars is a blend of major plot points and fan-favorite scenes. In other words, it conveys all the major points of the film. It also adds a couple of supporting details to capture the flavor of the entire movie. Plus bunny ears.

    Major vs. Minor Ideas

    The following presentation offers advice about distinguishing major ideas in a text from minor ones. When you’re asked to write a summary of something you read, you’ll want to focus only on the major ideas, since minor ideas aren’t generally included in summaries.

    Major and minor details from Nichole Keith

    On slide 6, can you identify which are the major ideas of the paragraph, and which are the minor ones?


    Once you’ve identified a text’s thesis statement and major details, you’ll be prepared to draft a summary of that text.

    Remember, the goal of a summary is to convey the overall meaning of the text to someone who has not read it. You are the expert about this text, and you’re sharing your expertise with others through your summary.



    License and Attributions:

    CC licensed content, Previously shared:

    Basic Reading and Writing. Authored by: Lumen. Located at:
    License: CC BY: Attribution.

    Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.

    License and Attributions:

    CC licensed content, Previously shared:

    The Word on College Reading and Writing. Authored by: Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear. Located at: 
    License: CC BY: Attribution.

    Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.


    5.3: Summarizing a Text is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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