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Expert Summary Writing Guide

The ability to write an effective summary demonstrates that the writer understands a text and that they are capable of communicating their knowledge to readers. Undoubtedly, summary writing can initially be difficult because of the temptation to add an excessive amount of information or not enough.

However, if you follow our eight-step guide, you should succeed in writing great summaries on any topic and for any discipline

Divide the text you are summarizing into sections.

Start your summary by skimming these sections and dividing them into manageable entities. Concentrate on main and secondary headings. Additionally, look for any highpghted terms, e.g. those in bold typeface, and make sure you know what these terms mean.

Read the text you are summarizing.

With the preparatory work done, read the text right through. At this stage, you do not need to pause to find the meaning of anything you don’t understand. The aim is to understand the ideas the author is trying to convey and the tone and style they are using.

Read the text again – in an active manner.

This is a good tip if you are just learning how to write a summary. Highpght key data and topic sentences. Mark any sections you want to refer back to. Additionally, it is a good idea to mark any sections you want to exclude because they are too detailed or specific. Label any sections that you need clarification on.

Read the text sentence by sentence.

By now, you should have a good idea of the text you want to summarize. In the above steps, you separated it into sections and identified the main points and ideas. Now you are ready to summarize the main ideas from the different sections into a single concise sentence. Take care about what you include – stick to main points rather than trivial detail.

Develop your thesis statement.

This statement is the foundation stone for writing a summary. Look back at the summary sentences you wrote in the previous step. By reviewing these, you should be able to devise a sound thesis statement that concisely states what the text you are summarizing is about. Should you find yourself struggpng with this step, then you need to revisit your summary sentences to ensure they properly capture the essence of the main points.

Start writing.

By now, you should have virtually completed your first draft. Your thesis statement can be used as the first or introductory sentence, with the remaining sentences making up the body in sequential order. Do not forget to include transitional words/phrases where necessary e.g. also, however, furthermore, etc. These add structure and ensure your sentences flow smoothly.

Here are a few additional tips to bear in mind if you want to know how to write a good summary:
  • Remember to include the author’s name and the title of their work.
  • Use the present tense.
  • If you use any of the author’s words, use correct citation.
  • Write concisely. Your summary should not be as long as the initial text.
  • Do not include your own interpretation, ideas or opinions in your summary. The aim is not to offer a critique of the work but to sum up what the author intended.

Make sure your work is accurate.

Read your words over again to ensure they accurately represent the author’s main points and/or ideas. Check that any direct quotations are properly cited and that your summary does not include your own reflections or comments.

Time for revision.

When you are sure, you have written an accurate essay summary, look over it again, checking the grammar, style, sentence structure and punctuation. If time permits, ask another person to read your work. This reader should understand what the original text is about solely by reading your summary. If they cannot, it may be that you have placed too much emphasis on certain sections of the text and not enough on the main point(s).

Additional information:

What is a book summary? According to its definition, a summary is a brief and comprehensive written piece. Therefore, a book’s summary is made up of the most important aspects of the work. Using concise wording, it restates the book’s content – its beginning, the building-up of any action, the decline of any action, the climax, and how it ends. A well-written summary essay provides important information about the plot’s setting and main characters.

When someone reads a summary, they should be able to describe the book in their own words – what the book is about, where it is set and who the characters are. This is the essence of how to write a summary paper. Think of yourself visiting a library or bookstore. Even if you cannot remember a book’s exact title, you may remember enough to enable a librarian or shop assistant to locate it for you.

What is meant by a chapter summary? Chapter summaries are compact versions of a book’s main points or primary action. This type of summary writing describes the narrative’s main action, the key players (and perhaps its secondary ones) and it describes the plot’s setting. A chapter summary may also recap on main events from previous chapters. These types of summaries are good because they can help a writer remember key characters or events for inclusion in a book report or essay.