How to Summarize

What Is a Summary and Why Would We Write One?

A summary is a concisely written version of either a piece of writing or even the spoken word. You will repeat only the most relevant or important facts of the original leaving out anything that is not relevant to the purpose of your summary. Learning how to summarize however is not as simple a task as many expect it to be.

We are often expected to write a summary of our education for various reasons. Often it is to show that we have understood something such as a book that we have read within English class, or a report that we have read in science. We also need to know how to summarize a text so that we can inform others about them so that they can decide if it is something that they need to read in full. Such as the blurb on the back cover of a book or the abstract at the start of a paper.

     How to Summarize a Text       How to Summarize a Story
How to Summarize an Article      How to Summarize a Book

The Importance of Knowing How to Summarize

Knowing how to summarize a book is not just so that you can satisfy your teacher and show that you read it. Summarizing is a vital skill to master as it is so much more than just being able to write something so that it is shorter. Most of us summarize on a daily basis without even thinking about it. We will discuss what happened in our favorite TV program the previous night, or the big game that we watched. So it is a skill that we learn at an early age often without really realizing what we are doing.

Knowing how to summarize an article in a textbook, however, helps you to not only show your understanding. It also helps you to reinforce what you are learning. Reading through to highlight those important points helps you to better understand and to make those points stick in your memory.

How to Summarize a Text Successfully

Whether you need to know how to summarize a story, a journal article, or even a film or documentary the process is going to be very similar.

The following 8 steps will help you with your summarizing:

  • Skim carefully through the text that you have to summarize so that you can quickly see how the text is organized. Split it into obvious sections, look at the subheadings and headings throughout the writing. Also, highlight anything that you simply do not understand.
  • Read through the text carefully to understand what the point is that the author is trying to make. Their style of writing and tone. Also look up anything that you don’t understand.
  • Actively read through the text: by this, we mean that you should highlight anything that you feel is the main point or relevant to what you need within your summary. Cross through any writing that you feel is irrelevant or in too much detail.
  • Outline what you have read graphically. Use whatever method suits you best, this could be a mind map, storyboard, or just a series of outline notes. Make sure that what you record are the main points and not minor detail.
  • Write your thesis statement. This is your take on what the author was trying to achieve with their writing. It should be one sentence that says what the whole text is trying to achieve.
  • Write your summary, your thesis statement should be your introductory sentence and you should use transition phrases and words to introduce the various points that you have already highlighted as the most important. Avoid any interpretation or use of your own opinion. If you do cite the specific words of the author ensure that you put them in inverted commas.
  • Check your facts: read your summary and ensure that you have actually captured all of the main points accurately. Ensure that you have avoided any opinion on your writing.
  • Revise: ensure that your grammar and word choices are appropriate. If possible have another read it and see if there is sufficient information for them to understand the original piece of writing.

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