Writing A Summary

Writing a summary is a very important academic skill. When you write a summary, you explain the most important parts of something you read or listened to with your own words.

Read the example paragraph and the summary of the example paragraph. Notice that the summary is much shorter and only talks about the major ideas from the paragraph.

Example: Paragraph

       Many students who study and work have to balance their schedules carefully. They have to make time to go to class, go to work, and also complete their homework. If they don’t plan their time carefully, they may not be able to meet these obligations and then they will face serious consequences. They may lose money by not making time for work or they may get bad grades in their classes by not having time to study. After these obligations are met, there are other activities many students enjoy like spending time with friends, doing hobbies, or dating. They will not have time for these extra activities without balancing their schedules first. It can be very difficult for students to make time for all of their obligations, but it is essential to their success.

Example: Summary

An effective summary—

—explains the most important parts of the original.

—is written in your own words.

—keeps the original meaning.

—does not merely “cut” and “copy” from the original.

—is shorter than the original

Exercise: Evaluate summaries.

Here is an overview of some simple steps you can follow in order to create a summary:

  1. Determine your purpose
  2. Read or listen to what you will summarize
  3. Make a list of the main points
  4. Write the summary
  5. Compare the summary to the original.

Determine your purpose

The purpose of your summary will help you determine which details you should include. Typically, your summaries for academic writing have a similar purpose: you need to explain academic information.

Read/listen

Read or listen carefully so you understand the source well enough to summarize it.

Make a list of the main points

As you read/listen, pay attention to the main ideas and major details of the source material. You should make a list of these main points either while you read/listen or just after. If you can write on the text (or your notes), it may help to underline main points or cross out minor details. As you write your list, focus on ideas rather than copying the exact words from the source. Compare the example paragraph and the example list below.

Example: Paragraph

Many students who study and work have to balance their schedules carefully. They have to make time to go to class, go to work, and also complete their homework. If they don’t plan their time carefully, they may not be able to meet these obligations and then they will face serious consequences. They may lose money by not making time for work or they may get bad grades in their classes by not having time to study. After these obligations are met, there are other activities many students enjoy like spending time with friends, doing hobbies, or dating. They will not have time for these extra activities without balancing their schedules first. It can be very difficult for students to make time for all of their obligations, but it is essential to their success.

Example: List

-Students who work need to balance their schedules

-They need time for work, class, homework

-Not planning can cause problems

-They won’t have time for other activities if they don’t plan carefully

Exercise: Identify major ideas

Identify the details or examples that are not major ideas. Be prepared to explain your choices.

       Dinner groups are a great solution for people who hate to cook for themselves. A dinner group is a group of friends that decides to eat dinner together every night. The job of being the cook rotates every day that the group meets for dinner. Most college dinner groups meet Monday through Thursday, to allow group members time on the weekends to go on dates and visit friends. If there are four people, everyone cooks dinner one day each week from Monday to Thursday. If you are only in charge of cooking one meal each week, you can simply go to someone’s house on the other days each week and not need to spend time cooking. Dinner groups allow busy students to eat healthy meals every night, but only cook once a week. This is an excellent way to eat healthier and maybe even make a new friend.

Write the summary

Without looking at/listening to the original, use your list to write your summary. Again, it is important to focus on the ideas. Use your own words.

Example: List

-Students who work need to balance their schedules

-They need time for work, class, homework

-Not planning can cause problems

-They won’t have time for other activities if they don’t plan carefully

Example: Summary

In order to avoid problems that come from not meeting their work and school obligations and be able to participate in other activities, working students need to plan their time wisely.

Notice how the items on the list are not just copied and pasted together into one big sentence. The ideas are connected together carefully.

students who work --> working students
not planning can cause problems -->  in order to avoid problems
have time for -->  be able to participate in

Compare to the original

Make sure that you have not changed the meaning of the ideas.

Exercise: Evaluate and revise a summary

Read the original paragraph and the summary.

Original:

       Getting married in the United States often involves many different types of parties. Some couples have an engagement party, which is for family and friends to express congratulations to the couple after they get engaged. The bride typically is invited to a bridal shower, which is a party for all of her friends (usually only female friends) to celebrate the upcoming wedding with her. After the wedding ceremony, there is usually a wedding reception, which is another large party. The wedding reception includes many traditional activities, like cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet. All of these different parties are part of many American weddings.

Summary:

       Getting married in the United States has many different events, such as engagement parties for some people where friends and family congratulate the couple and a wedding reception which is a party where there are many traditional things like throwing the bouquet to find the next bride and cutting the cake for the bride and the groom; then the couple is very tired!

Evaluate the summary based on the following criteria:

—explains the most important parts of the original.

—is written in your own words.

—keeps the original meaning.

—does not merely “cut” and “copy” from the original.

—is shorter than the original.

Revise the summary on a piece of paper.

Exercise: Write a summary.

Choose a paragraph to summarize. Write your summary on a piece of paper.

#1: Serving others

       Serving others can help make people happier in any situation. When people are feeling stressed or unhappy, it is often because they are focused on their problems and worries. Focusing on our own problems and worries makes us feel more stressed about them. When we focus on helping other people with their problems, we feel happier because we are not focused on ourselves. Helping others also helps in the other areas of building happiness: it strengthens our relationships with others and it helps us feel more gratitude. When we serve others, we can become good friends with the people we help because they see how much we care about them. We feel more gratitude because we see the problems other people face and we realize that we are not the only ones who struggle with certain problems. Serving others is an essential key to living a happier life.

#2: Online classes

       Online classes, on the other hand, do not offer face-to-face interaction and they are more limited in their instruction methods, yet they offer greater flexibility for scheduling. The interaction between teachers and students in an online class is typically time-delayed, meaning that students send an email and wait for a response. Interaction with classmates is less personal than it would be in a traditional class because when student-to-student interaction is required, it is typically limited to email or an online discussion board. The method of instruction in online classes is typically limited to videos and reading articles that can be sent to students electronically. Many of the hands-on experiences that students get in a traditional class are virtually impossible to have in an online class. Rather than being able to touch and feel rocks in the geology class, students will be limited to videos or pictures of rocks. The scheduling is very flexible. Students typically enroll in online classes because they need the ability to take classes at night, early in the morning, or even during their lunch break at work. The pace of online classes is typically determined by the students, so their personal and work schedules do not need to be completely changed. While the interaction and instruction may be limitations of an online class, the scheduling is very flexible.

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