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7.4: Summarizing Your Research

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  • Critiques usually include one other important component:  a summary of the text being critiqued.  As I discussed in chapters two and six, the most obvious reason to summarize the text you are critiquing is your readers are probably not familiar with it.  After all, one of the main reasons why potential readers (your classmates, your teacher, and other readers interested in your topic) might read your critique is to find out what it is you (the writer) think about the text being critiqued so the reader can decide whether or not to read it themselves.  

    When writing your summary, keep in mind:

    • Summaries don’t contain your opinion or feelings about whatever it is you are summarizing. Explain the key points and ideas of whatever it is you are summarizing, but save your opinions and reactions to your subject for the other parts of your critique.  
    • Generally, summaries don’t include quotes from the original source.  The goal of the summary is to explain the key points in your own words.  However, you will want to use the quotes from the original in your critique to support your own opinion of whatever it is you are critiquing.
    • Summaries are short.  Like this item.

    Figuring out how much summary to provide in a critique can be tricky because it depends on factors like the text you are critiquing, your purposes in your critique, how much you can expect your readers to know about whatever it is you are summarizing, and so forth.

    But keep in mind that the goal of almost any summary (in a critique or in other types of writing) is to get your reader familiar enough with whatever it is you are talking about so that you can go on to make your point.

    Exercise 7.4

    • Write a brief summary of the text you intend to write your critique about, preferably one which you have already examined with a close reading and for which you have developed a list of possible criteria.  For the purposes of this exercise, keep the summary brief—no more than 100 words or so—and be sure to strive for a summary that focuses as much as possible on “just the facts.”  Show your summary to readers who haven’t read the text that you are summarizing and ask them if they understand what the text is generally about and if they have any questions about the text.
    • With a group of collaborators and your teacher, decide on a text that you will all summarize.  Individually, write a brief summary for readers you assume haven’t read the article.  Keep the summaries short—less than 100 words or so—and be sure to strive for a summary that focuses as much as possible on “just the facts.”  Come together in small groups to discuss each group members’ individually written summary.  What similarities are there between each person’s summary?  What are some of the notable differences between summaries?
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