Skip to main content
Humanities Libertexts

3.5: Putting the Summary Together

  • Page ID
  • Audio Version: Click to stream recording of page (June 2020):

    How can we turn the descriptions of the claims, reasons, counterarguments, and limitations into a cohesive paragraph, page, or essay that we can turn in as our summary? The good news is that by introducing each part of the argument to show how it relates to the others, we have already provided many of the transitions we need. We can generate a first draft of the summary by simply putting them all together in order. Here is what such a draft would look like for the border argument:

    Sample Summary

    In her 2019 article “Wouldn’t We All Cross the Border?”, Anna Mills urges readers to seek a new border policy that helps desperate undocumented migrants rather than criminalizing them. She calls for a shift toward respect and empathy, questioning the very idea that crossing illegally is wrong. Mills argues that any parent in a desperate position would consider it right to cross for their child’s sake; therefore, no person should condemn that action in another. Since we cannot justify our current walls and detention centers, we must get rid of them. She acknowledges that opening the borders completely would compromise security, but believes that we can still “regulate” our borders without blocking or imprisoning migrants.

    Next, we can review our border argument map to make sure that we have covered the main parts of the argument.

    The top half of the graphic is a chain of reasons.  The first reason "We would feel it was right to cross the border without permission" is in a box with an arrow next to it pointing to the next reason, "We should recognize illegal crossing as ethical," which in turn has an arrow from it pointing to the reason "Border walls and detention centers are unjust," which points to the final claim, "We need a new policy that offers respect and help to migrants."   Below, in red, with an arrow pointing up toward the final claim, is the counterargument "Completely open borders would put our security at risk."  Below the counterargument, the response to the counterargument has been changed to blue, and the response is labeled “Rebuttal/Limit: there are ways to regulate the border without criminalizing people." This response still has an arrow from it pointing up toward the main claim to show that it supports the main claim.  In addition, two limits in blue type have been added.  The text “[Limit: If we were in desperate circumstances]” has a blue arrow pointing upward to the first reason to indicate that it modifies the statement “We would feel it was right to cross the border without permission."  Next to it, the text “[Limit: If migrants cross because of desperate circumstances]” has an arrow pointing up to indicate that it limits the second reason, “"We should recognize illegal crossing as ethical."

    If we are writing a longer summary of an extended argument, our map and our knowledge of the role of each part of the text will help us organize the essay into paragraphs and transition between them. For example, in a three-page summary of a twenty-five-page essay, we might spend a full paragraph on the author’s description of a counterargument and yet another paragraph on the author’s rebuttal to this counterargument. To open this paragraph, we could refer to our earlier list of templates for describing a response to a counterargument.