||LEO: Literacy Education Online|
Process for Writing a Summary
Writing an effective summary requires that you
Read with the Writer's Purpose in Mind
- Read the article carefully, making no notes or marks and
looking only for what the writer is saying.
- After you're finished reading, write down in one sentence the point
that is made about the subject. Then look for the writer's thesis and
- Does this thesis correspond with the sentence you wrote down? If
not, adjust your sentence or reconsider the thesis you selected.
- Look at the article again and ask yourself if your view is slanted
toward one of the essay's minor points. If it is, adjust your sentence so
that it is slanted toward the writer's major point.
Underline with Summarizing in Mind
- Once you clearly understand the writer's major point (or purpose)
for writing, read the article again. This time underline the major points
supporting the thesis; these should be words or phrases here and there
rather than complete sentences.
- In addition, underline key transitional elements which show how parts
are connected. Omit specific details, examples, description, and
unnecessary explanations. Note: you may need to go through the
article twice in order to pick up everything you need.
Write, Revise, and Edit to Ensure the Accuracy and Correctness of
Writing Your Summary
- Now begin writing your summary. Start with a sentence naming the
writer and article title and stating the essay's main idea. Then write
your summary, omitting nothing important and striving for overall
coherence through appropriate transitions.
- Be concise, using coordination and subordination to compress ideas.
- Conclude with a final statement reflecting the significance of the
article -- not from your own point of view but from the writer's.
- Throughout the summary, do not insert your own opinions or
thoughts; instead summarize what the writer has to say about the
Revising Your Summary
- After you've completed a draft, read your summary and check for
- Does your summary make the same point as the article?
- Have you omitted anything important?
- Does your summary read smoothly with all parts clearly related?
- Keep in mind that a summary should generally be no more than
one-fourth the length of the original. If your summary is too long, cut
out words rather than ideas. Then look for non-essential information and
- Write another draft -- still a draft for revision -- and ask someone
to read it critically.
- Can that person understand the sense of the article by reading
- Ask for criticism; then weigh these criticisms and make valid
Editing Your Summary
- Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, looking
particularly for those common in your writing.
- Write a clean draft and proofread for copying errors.
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For questions and suggestions, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 1995, 1996, 1997 The Write Place
This handout was adapted by Judith Kilborn with
the author's permission from Donna Gorrell's The Purposeful Writer:
A Rhetoric with Readings, 2nd ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993)
for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University. It may be copied for
educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our
copyright notice and the names of the writers; if you revise it, please
add your name to the list of writers.
Last update: 28 September 1997