Writing academically

Writing a Summary

Summary writing is a very important and useful skill as it allows you to present other people’s work accurately and concisely. You may be asked to summarise as part of your course or you may wish to include a summary in a lengthier piece of work or critical evaluation.

What is a summary?

  • A summary is a shortened version of a text that contains all the key information found in the original.

How do I write a summary?

  • It is impossible to write a summary unless you fully understand the original text.
  • Read the text carefully and actively look up key terms and make sure you can explain them in your own words
  • Try and identify the main points/arguments – make notes of them in your own words
  • Tell someone else (or tell yourself) what the text is about – be as concise as possible

How do I know what the main points are?

  • Writers use a variety of techniques to signal what is important.
  • Look out for phrases such as ‘the key issue is …’
  • Remember each paragraph will have a topic sentence which contains the main point being made
  • Try not to get distracted by examples and details. Ask yourself if the information is really a main point or there to clarify the main point
  • Writers often repeat main ideas
  • The introduction and conclusion should help you identify the writer’s focus

How do I structure a summary?

  • Like an essay, your summary needs an introduction, a main body and a conclusion.
  • Introduction – give the title and author of the reading and a general description of the topic covered
  • Main body – summarise the main points discussed in the text in your own words. You may wish to include examples from the text but do not copy sections
  • Conclusion – you can reiterate the main points or report the conclusions reached by the author
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