CoverObjectivesThe Writing ProcessAddressing the PromptPrewritingWritingRevisingOriginalityTimed Writing 1Integrated Writing 1Essay Shape and OrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsReference PageA Shifting StructureExample EssayTimed Writing 2Integrated Writing 2Descriptive EssaysExample Descriptive EssayPrewritingWriting: Word ChoiceSources: QuotingRevisingRevise a Descriptive EssayExplore Other Genres: Creative WritingTimed Writing 3Integrated Writing 3Personal StatementsExample Personal StatementTypes of Personal StatementsOrganization for Comprehensive Personal StatementOrganization for Prompted Personal StatementWriting: DevelopmentRevisingRevise a Personal StatementExplore Other Genres: Formal EmailsTimed Writing 4Integrated Writing 4Cause-Effect EssaysExample Cause-Effect EssayPrewritingWriting: UnitySources: SummarizingRevisingRevise a Cause-Effect EssayExplore Other Genres: ReviewsTimed Writing 5Integrated Writing 5Persuasive EssaysExample Persuasive EssayPrewritingWriting: CohesionSources: ParaphrasingRevisingRevise a Persuasive EssayExplore Other Genres: ReflectionsTimed Writing 6Integrated Writing 6Appendix A: Argumentative EssaysExample Argumentative EssayStructure of an ArgumentPrewritingWriting: Cohesion in ArgumentsRevisingRevise an Argumentative EssayAppendix B: Using SourcesFinding SourcesIn-text CitationsMore about Reference PagesAppendix C: Extra TOEFL ResourcesTOEFL Integrated WritingTOEFL Independent Writing
University Prep Winter Writing C

Sources: Summarizing

When you summarize information, you explain the most important parts of a source text in your own words. You typically summarize something to make it shorter. The page number is not required in the in-text citation for a 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.

Below is an excerpt from a website article that describes water pollution. This example will be used on the next several pages to illustrate how to write a summary.

Original Source

Clean freshwater is an essential ingredient for a healthy human life, but 1.1 billion people lack access to water and 2.4 billion don't have adequate sanitation. Water becomes polluted from toxic substances dumped or washed into streams and waterways and the discharge of sewage and industrial waste. These pollutants come in many forms—organic, inorganic, even radioactive—and can make life difficult, if not impossible, for humans, animals and other organisms alike. https://edtechbooks.org/-AYzZ ("Impacts," 2018, "Water Pollution," para. 1)

Example: Summary

Organic, inorganic, and radioactive pollutants from various types of waste pollute water which complicates life for many living organisms that don't have clean water ("Impacts", 2018).

Here are 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. Compare the example summaries below. The first summary focuses on how barometers predict weather. The second summary focuses on what barometers are.

Example Source

"A barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure, also called barometric pressure. The atmosphere is the layers of air wrapped around the Earth. That air has a weight and presses against everything it touches as gravity pulls it to Earth. Barometers measure this pressure.

Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. Changes in the atmosphere, including changes in air pressure, affect the weather. Meteorologists use barometers to predict short-term changes in the weather."

https://edtechbooks.org/-qFCJ

 

Example: Summary 1

Because changes in atmospheric pressure are related to the weather, meteorologists can predict the weather by measuring atmospheric pressure with a barometer (Turgeon, 2014).

 

Example: Summary 2

Meteorologists use a special tool to measure atmospheric pressure called a barometer, and this tool allows them to predict the weather (Turgeon, 2014).

Read/listen

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

Make a list

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. Compare the example paragraph and the example list below.

Example: Paragraphs Example: List

A barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure, also called barometric pressure. The atmosphere is the layers of air wrapped around the Earth. The air has a weight and presses against everything it touches as gravity pulls it to Earth. Barometers can measure this pressure.

Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. Changes in the atmosphere, including changes in air pressure, affect the weather. Meteorologists use barometers to predict short-term changes in the weather.

-Barometers measure atmospheric pressure.

-Atmospheric pressure is related to weather.

-Meteorologists predict the weather with barometers.

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 to write your summary.

Example: List Example Summary

-Barometers measure atmospheric pressure.

-Atmospheric pressure is related to weather.

-Meteorologists predict the weather with barometers.

Because changes in atmospheric pressure are related to the weather, meteorologists can predict the weather by measuring atmospheric pressure with a barometer (Turgeon, 2014).

Notice how the items on the list are not just copied and pasted together into one big sentence. The ideas are connected together carefully. The order is changed a little and some of the ideas are condensed. There are different synonyms used and there are new sentence structures. For example:

Atmospheric pressure is related to weather --> changes in atmospheric pressure are related to the weather

Compare to the original

After you write your summary, you should compare it to the original. Make sure that the ideas have not been changed, but that the words/syntax are distinct. Make revisions as necessary.

Example: Paragraphs

"A barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure, also called barometric pressure. The atmosphere is the layers of air wrapped around the Earth. The air has a weight and presses against everything it touches as gravity pulls it to Earth. Barometers can measure this pressure.

Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. Changes in the atmosphere, including changes in air pressure, affect the weather. Meteorologists use barometers to predict short-term changes in the weather."

 
 

Example: Summary

Because changes in atmospheric pressure are related to the weather, meteorologists can predict the weather by measuring atmospheric pressure with a barometer (Turgeon, 2014).

Exercises

Exercise 5.15: Evaluate Summaries

Evaluate the summaries. 1) Which summary is most effective? 2) Identify features of the ineffective summary that make them ineffective. 3) Identify features of the effective summary that make it most effective.

Original:

"Of all the droughts that have occurred in the United States, the drought events of the 1930s are widely considered to be the “drought of record” for the nation. The 1930s drought is often referred to as if it were one episode, but it was actually several distinct events occurring in such rapid succession that affected regions were not able to recover adequately before another drought began. The term Dust Bowl was coined in 1935 when an AP reporter, Robert Geiger, used it to describe the drought-affected south central United States in the aftermath of horrific dust storms. Although it technically refers to the western third of Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the northern two-thirds of the Texas Panhandle, and northeastern New Mexico, the Dust Bowl has come to symbolize the hardships of the entire nation during the 1930s." (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2022, para. 1)

A. The U.S. drought events of the 1930s were the worst recorded droughts in the U.S. (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2022)

B. The many consecutive droughts of the 1930s--the worst recorded in the U.S.-- did not allow for enough recovery between droughts, and although the term Dust Bowl originally only referred to the dust storm-ridden, drought-affected part of the U.S., it came to represent the difficulties the U.S. faced during that decade.

C. In the 1930s, the U.S. recorded its worst-ever drought event which was actually many events in one and which was called the Dust Bowl because the droughts caused dust storms. 

D. The Dust Bowl, a collection of drought events that were the worst recorded in the U.S., happened in the 1930s, and it coincided with the Great Depression which made it even harder for affected areas like Kansas and Oklahoma to recover. 

National Drought Mitigation Center. (2022). The dust bowl: National drought mitigation center. The Dust Bowl | National Drought Mitigation Center. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://drought.unl.edu/dustbowl/

Exercise 5.16: Revise a summary

Revise the summary.

Original:

"A species' camouflage depends on several factors. The physical characteristics of the organism are important. Animals with fur rely on different camouflage tactics than those with feathers or scales, for instance. Feathers and scales can be shed and changed fairly regularly and quickly. Fur, on the other hand, can take weeks or even months to grow in. Animals with fur are more often camouflaged by season. The arctic fox, for example, has a white coat in the winter, while its summer coat is brown" (McDaniel, Sprout, Boudreau, & Turgeon, 2011, para. 2).

Summary:

A species' camouflage depends on several things, and one very important thing is the physical characteristics of the organism because there are different camouflage tactics the animals use depending on the different characteristics they have; for example, feathers and scales can be changed quickly, but fur takes a long time to grow, so animals who use fur to camouflage change according to the season, like the arctic fox (McDaniel, Sprout, Boudreau, & Turgeon, 2011).

Exercise 5.17: Write a summary

Use the original quote to create a summary.

1. Original:

“We wanted to make sure that our experimental nets would work for fishers in the real world. So, we teamed up with local gillnet fishers off the coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico.

We worked with the fishers to build illuminated nets. We attached battery-powered waterproof lights to the top of the net. These pointed down to light up the whole net. We also added inactive lights to the conventional nets, to keep everything as similar as possible!” (Senko et al., 2022a, p.2)

2. Original:

"Given their ease of use and lucrative nature, coastal gillnet fisheries are globally ubiquitous.10,15 However, these fisheries often result in high discarded capture of non-target organisms (bycatch) that can lead to significant cascading effects throughout trophic chains16, 17, 18 and costly fisheries restrictions that result in important revenue losses in coastal communities with scarce economic alternatives.19,20" (Senko et al., 2022b)

Exercise 5.18: Write a summary

The following paragraphs come from a longer article. Summarize all of the paragraphs in one paragraph or less.

Original:

"Background matching is perhaps the most common camouflage tactic. In background matching, a species conceals itself by resembling its surroundings in coloration, form, or movement. In its simplest form, animals such as deer and squirrels resemble the "earth tones" of their surroundings. Fish such as flounder almost exactly match their speckled seafloor habitats.

"More complex forms of background matching include the camouflage of the walking stick and walking leaf. These two insects, both native to southeast Asia, look and act like their namesakes. Patterns on the edge of the walking leaf’s body resemble bite marks left by caterpillars in leaves. The insect even sways from side to side as it walks, to better mimic the swaying of a leaf in the breeze" (McDaniel, Sprout, Boudreau, & Turgeon, 2011, para. 6-7).

"Countershading is a form of camouflage in which the top of an animal’s body is darker in color, while its underside is lighter. Sharks use countershading. When seen from above, they blend in with the darker ocean water below. This makes it difficult for fishermen—and swimmers—to see them. When seen from below, they blend in with lighter surface water. This helps them hunt because prey species below may not see a shark until it's too late.

"Countershading also helps because it changes the way shadows are created. Sunlight illuminates the top of an animal's body, casting its belly in shadow. When an animal is all one color, it will create a uniform shadow that makes the animal's shape easier to see. In countershading, however, the animal is darker where the sun would normally illuminate it, and lighter where it would normally be in shadow. This distorts the shadow and makes it harder for predators to see the animal's true shape" (McDaniel, Sprout, Boudreau, & Turgeon, 2011, para. 11-12).

References

Senko, J. F., Peckham, S. H., Aguilar-Ramirez, D., & Wang, J. H. (2022-a). How can we make sure to catch only the fist we want to eat? Science Journal for Kids and Teens, 2. https://doi.org/https://www.sciencejournalforkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/net_lights_article.pdf

Senko, J. F., Peckham, S. H., Aguilar-Ramirez, D., & Wang, J. H. (2022-b). NET illumination reduces fisheries bycatch, maintains catch value, and increases operational efficiency. Current Biology, 32(4), 911–918. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.12.050