How To Write A Comprehensive Summary


Often while preparing for or penning a scholarly essay, you are faced with the colossal task of summarizing your textual materials and secondary sources. In order to produce a comprehensive summary, you should not only capture the essential elements of the text but communicate them in a concise form too. Writing a summary is considered to be a tricky skill to master, even by veterans academics. A well-written summary requires you to maintain a fine balance and avoid including too little or too much information. Here are a few effective tips on how to summarize your materials:

Understand the requirement

At the outset, you need to decide whether you are doing a true summary or an interpretive summary. This determines your approach towards the text, your focus, and the methods used in summarizing. The summary must convey the main ideas contained in the source text or article. You will have to identify the important arguments or details that support the main idea. It is essential that you write the summary using your own words and sentences unless you need to use direct quotations from the text. Remember, a good summary expresses and highlights the underlying meaning of the text, and not just the obvious details stated in it.

Read and take notes

Writing a good summary is not possible without reading the text thoroughly and intently. So, read your material repeatedly to get a clear idea about what is being said or expressed therein. Focus on the author's tone and style of delivery to gather a better understanding of the issues discussed in it. Once you are clear about what is being said in it, spend some time noting down the main ideas. Organize and outline the ideas and details you plan to include in your summary in a logical order.

Formulate a thesis statement

The thesis statement is a crucial part of summarizing a text. Your thesis statement must convey the main idea and the running argument of the text in a clear and unambiguous manner. Try to formulate a one-sentence thesis statement that communicates the whole meaning of the material you are summarizing. In case you are not able to do that, take your time to read the material once more and figure out the main idea behind it.

Follow the basic rules

There are certain basic rules you need to follow while writing your summary for a text. Generally, a summary must be about one-third of the length of the original text. Your summary must focus on the central points and arguments of the material, not merely on the examples or events it elucidates. Copying sentences or phrases from the source must be completely avoided, except while using direct quotations. Use of transition words helps you maintain the smooth flow of your summary. Do not forget to include the author and title of the work you are summarizing, preferably at the beginning of your summary. Unless you are writing an interpretive summary, take special care to give a faithful representation of the author's ideas and not mix them with your interpretations.

Check for accuracy

Revising is an essential part of writing an impactful summary. The first thing to check is whether you have clearly encapsulated the main idea of the text in hand. Take time to think if you have included all the points you intended to incorporate in your summary. Go through your writing carefully to verify that there are no ambiguous sentences or disconnected ideas.

Proofread and edit

A well-written summary must be free of grammatical errors. While proofreading your summary, check that you have maintained consistent verb tense throughout your writing; look for punctuation and spelling mistakes; check for any typographic errors. If possible, ask someone else to go through your summary and see if that person understands the main ideas. In case the reader does not get a clear idea of your text, you will have to rework on your summary to get your focus right.

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