What Is a Written Summary?

Written Summary

A summary is a condensed version of a text that highlights its key points. This type of writing, also known as an abstract or synopsis, is basically a brief statement of the original work’s most prominent ideas, major argument, and overriding theme. Writing a summary means giving an objective and accurate account of the source’s content without evaluating, critiquing, analyzing, or discussing the concepts enshrined by the author.

A subject of this type of college assignment is usually a written piece. So most of the time, you will have to deal with reports, essays, research papers, compare and contrast pieces, dissertations, articles, stories, and books. However, a summary can also refer to a short overview of audio or visual materials, such as lectures, presentations, movies, theatrical plays, or artistic performances. Regardless of the subject, your goal is to inform your reader of what that text or art piece is about.

Why Summarize?

During your college years, there will be many occasions when you need to summarize a piece of literature. You are likely to use it both as a practical tool to boost your reading skills and as a means to develop your academic writing proficiency.

Here are five of the most common reasons for writing a summary:

  1. As a stand-alone assignment, it enables the instructor to check your understanding of the specific literary work and, if needed, to suggest a fix-up strategy to repair your comprehension of course readings.
  2. When dealing with a more complex piece of writing, such as a research paper or a thesis, writing brief overviews of the source materials is a great way to compress large portions of information. The notes you take at the prewriting stage will later help you to construct and support your argument. However, if you have a hard time coming up with ideas for your paper, you can seek help with your college writing by essay service available online.
  3. To make a good point, you’d better be standing on the shoulders of giants. However, including the unabridged sections of someone else’s works might lead to your text being too bulky. Moreover, such practice is likely to raise plagiarism issues. Using the distilled version of the original text does the opposite. It helps to incorporate other writer’s ideas that are critical to your discourse without overloading your work with quotations and borrowings.
  4. If you learn to summarize all the information you get in your classes, you will be surprised how much more trouble- and stress-free studying for exams becomes. Those abstracts can be a great prompt to refresh your memory before the important test. They also might come in handy when you discuss a specific topic with your peers.
  5. In daily life, summarizing the main idea of a newspaper article, paragraph, or book chapter is an amazing habit that will help you to monitor your understanding. This is the perfect training to enhance your focus, memory, and some other cognitive skills.
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How to Write a Good Summary?

Just like any other paper, a summary should follow the three C’s rule. It must be clear, coherent, and concise. Furthermore, writing a summary also has its own dos and don’ts:

  • Actively read the suggested piece of writing. During your first encounter with the text, focus on the 5Ws of the narrative: what, why, who, where, and when. That will give you some basic understanding of the work’s purpose, topic, and thesis. As you go through the material again, jot down the essential points and underline the important evidence.
  • Introduce the author and the name of the work being summarized. The best place to make that reference is either in the title of your paper, in the first sentence, or a footnote.
  • Present the main ideas of the writing in a linear fashion, so your readers can form an accurate impression of what the text is about.
  • Be objective. You should only address the issues stated by the author of the original text. Try to avoid including your opinions, comments, and interpretations.
  • Keep your summary succinct and to the point. Strip the source material of all the minor details, sophisticated examples, or information that you find irrelevant to the overall topic you’ve identified. Condense all the supporting points and major evidence into a brief overview. As a rule of thumb, a good summary is no more than 10% to 15% of the length of the original.
  • Write in the present tense. Summaries of books, articles, videos, and audio recordings are given in the present, as the information they contain can be accessed at any time. For one-time things, such as presentations or performances, it’s better to render the ideas in the past tense. The same goes for results, findings, and discoveries described in your source literature.
  • Maintain your own voice throughout the writing. Summarizing is about reporting the ideas in your own words and not copying them from the source. You might borrow some actual wording from the original to denote specific keywords and important phrases, but either than that, always opt for paraphrasing the essential information.
  • Avoid accidental plagiarism. Use reporting verbs and attributive tags to show that you cite the claims and concepts of the source’s author and not claim them to be your thoughts on the topic. If, for some reason, you have to repeat a paragraph precisely in the original author’s own words, put quotation marks around the text to avoid inadvertent plagiarism.