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Steps in Writing a Summary

From Texts and Contexts by William S. Robinson and Stephanie Tucker

How do you go about writing a good working summary? If you follow the steps below, you will have an excellent chance of producing a useful and accurate summary.

1. Read the entire original to get an understanding of the whole piece. On a piece of scratch paper, write in your own words the point of the piece, which you will usually find in the introduction and its conclusion.

2. Reread and underline or highlight the important ideas. Carefully check the beginning of paragraphs for topic sentences that announce new points. Normally, you will not want to highlight supporting facts, but some may be so striking or otherwise important that you will want to include them in your summary.

3. Now write the introductory statement of your summary, explaining what the original is about. Try to confine yourself to one sentence- two at the most.

4. Decide on the order in which you want to present the main points of the original; you will probably need to do some scribbling on scratch paper to do this. Review the materials you have highlighted to make sure you cover everything.

5. Write the body of your summary, using your own words and making sure to cover all the key points.

6. Write your last part, in which you explain what the original author’s conclusions were. Be sure to keep your own opinions out of this part.

7. Proofread for spellings, typographical errors, and the conventions of usage. In particular, compare the spellings of titles, authors, and other names and key terms with that in the original document.


Summary Checklist:

• Does it contain the title and author’s name?
• Does it contain the author’s thesis and main ideas?
• Does it eliminate interesting but not key points?
• Is it in your own words?
• Does it contain direct quotes if appropriate?
• Are the ideas in the summary presented in a clear logical order?
• Are there transitions linking the ideas in the summary?

This handout is courtesy of the Chabot College WRAC Center

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