How to Write Summary

How to Write Summary – A Summary is a story in which you must condense or sum up about your entire topic. A good summary should accomplish the following: keep the reader’s interest, alert your reader to important points in your main text, and emphasize your main idea. The best way to summarize information is to read it. If you have some extra time on your hands or you are stumped on how to get started with your summary, try reading the material aloud. This will help you get a better idea of what the important points are.        

When you’re writing a summary, the last thing you want is for it to sound boring. Your goal is to hook your reader from the very beginning and ensure that they not only understand the details but also want to read more. Here are a few ways you can write a summary that will leave your readers wanting more.

Table of Contents

What is Summary Writing?

A summary is the condensed version of an original text. It is about identifying the most important text and restating it into your own words. Writing a summary is a great way to process what you read, whether it’s a book or an article.

For writing a good summary, the best approach to this task is to review the piece you are analyzing a couple of times. If you understand the subject, you will be able to summarize it easily. However, if you can not summarize a subject, it clearly means you have not learned it well.

If you are writing a summary for the first time, several questions might stick to your mind, such as:

  • How long should a summary be?
  • How to write a summary of an article?
  • How many sentences are in summary?
  • What is a one-page summary?
  • What is the sentence summary?
  • What should a summary include? Etc.

Keep reading the blog until the end to know the answers to these questions.

When to summarize

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material.
  • To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read.
  • To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review.

When you’re writing an academic text like an essayresearch paper, or dissertation, you’ll engage with other researchers’ work in a variety of ways. Sometimes you might use a brief quote to support your point; sometimes you might paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the 4 steps outline below to write a good summary.

Step 1: Read the text

You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

  1. Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
  2. Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
  3. Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and re-read any particularly important or difficult passages.

There are some easy tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

  • Start by reading the abstract—this already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
  • Pay attention to headings and subheadings—these should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
  • Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: what did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?

Step 2: Break the text down into sections

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller parts.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Try writing a word or phrase in the margin next to each paragraph that describes the paragraph’s content. Then you can see at a glance what each part of the article focuses on. If several paragraphs cover similar or related topics, you may group them together in sections.

Step 3: Identify the key points in each section

Now it’s time go through each part and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part:

IntroductionWhat research question or problem was addressed?Are there any hypotheses formulated?
MethodsWhat type of research was done?How was data collected and analyzed?
ResultsWhat were the most important findings?Were the hypotheses supported?
Discussion/conclusionWhat is the overall answer to the research question?How does the author explain these results?What are the implications of the results?Are there any important limitations?Are there any key recommendations?

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In this case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement—the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Step 4: Write the summary

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article, which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”Example of a full article summary

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, oftentimes, you’ll want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or research paper, you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.Example of a concise article summary

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence in support of this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

When summarizing as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source of the summary. The exact format for citing depends on your citation style, but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free Citation Generators.

Step 5: Check the summary against the article

Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

  • You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
  • You haven’t missed any essential information
  • The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.

If you’re summarizing lots of articles as part of your own work, it’s often a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

Examples of summaries

Use these summaries as examples when writing your own:

Example 1

“This is the story of Mary Walters. Mary has lived a life of wealth and luxury as a socialite in New York City. One day her luck changed when she met Maggie Wilson. The two women developed a strong friendship ever since the day Mary met her at a rooftop party in Brooklyn. They were inseparable, going to lunch during the day and for cocktails at night. Mary spoiled Maggie with all kinds of gifts and expensive vacations. She felt like she could trust Maggie with anything until she discovered her bank account had been emptied.

Throughout the story, Mary has a suspicion that Maggie was the one who emptied her account. Sure enough, late one night, Mary went through Maggie’s purse and found her social security card. Mary confronts Maggie, and the two of them get into a major argument. Mary called the police and Maggie is arrested. Mary learns that she needs to base her friendships on more meaningful things than money. She vows to never blindly trust anyone again.”

Example 2

“This video clip is about a border collie named Beau that can do all sorts of tricks. The video starts off with his owner, Nate, explaining that he has always loved border collies because they are so smart. Throughout the video, Nate demonstrates every trick Beau can do, which include sit, stay, down, up, play dead, spin, weave, crawl and even cleaning up his toys. Throughout the video, Beau is wagging his tail and quite happy to do these commands. Nate is sure to give him a lot of treats throughout the entire video.”

Example 3

“In this article, journalist, Fiona Fargo, details the incredible story of Redd Jones. Redd grew up in a low-income neighborhood. While he loved his neighborhood and community, Redd always dreamed of a better life. That’s why he saved up his entire life to put himself through medical school. He started collecting aluminum cans for money when he was in middle school, he went on to work at a fast-food restaurant in high school. Sure enough, by graduation, he made enough to pay for his first year of college, though he also had to work hard to earn a couple of scholarships.

Upon graduating from medical school years later, Redd volunteered his time abroad in third-world countries. He returned to the United States with a new outlook on the world. He made it his mission to start a nonprofit company that provided assistance to people who couldn’t afford their medical bills. Since starting his charity, Redd has saved the lives of over 1,000 patients. In his free time, he returns to his community to provide free medical care to families in need.”

Conclusion

There are many reasons as to why one should write a summary of a book. Some find it interesting and others do it as an assignment given by their teacher. Some do it as a hobby and some even make it their profession. The bottom line is that if you intend to write a summary of your book, then there is need for you to know how to write one properly.

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