The summary is an extreme condensation of an original work. It includes the author's name, the full title of the piece, the main claim (or thesis), and the reasons (or main supporting points) the author uses to support the claim. It may relate one or two pieces of evidence the author uses to back up a reason, but only if they are needed to make the claim believable. In general, a summary will usually not cite the author's examples or supporting details unless they are absolutely necessary for understanding a main point. A summary may use one or two concise direct quotations from the text, but only if these are striking and bring the piece alive.
Making notes for a summary
- What is the main point of each paragraph?
- Circle the three or four key words in each paragraph.
- Do several paragraphs deal with nearly the same point? Can they thus be condensed into one main point or reason that the author is making his or her claim?
- Underline any key quotations you might want to use.
- State the author's main claim in your own words. (Sometimes it helps to close the book to do this rather than trying to glean it out of the text.)
Putting a summary together
- State the author's name and title in the opening sentence or very shortly thereafter.
- Present the main points, usually in the order in which the author presented them.
- Each point in the summary should have the same proportional treatment it was given in the original. Emphasize what the writer thought most important and give lesser time to his or her minor points.
- Be as objective as possible. You will have time to evaluate what you are reading later; your task in the summary is to accurately and concisely represent the argument of the writer. Author "tags" help identify the thoughts of the original author.
- Use your own words, even in stating the thesis. Any material taken verbatim should be quoted properly, or you will have plagiarized, knowingly or not. If you are unsure how to quote within the text, refer to an English handbook or see me.