Criteria for Summaries (Kiefer)

Purpose - The reading we do for Portfolio 1 will contribute to the arguments you write in Portfolio 2. Although you are unlikely to include detailed summaries of the articles you read in the final drafts of papers in Portfolio 2, detailed summaries help you analyze the arguments and organize details to support your own points. These summaries, then, will help you find a topic and organize arguments for Portfolio 2.

Audience - Please assume that you are writing detailed summaries for readers not familiar with the original essay because your audiences for the essays in Portfolio 2 will not be limited to this class.

Focus - Your summary cannot include all the details of the original essay, but you should include a statement of the original thesis or claim, the main supporting points, and enough detail to make clear why the original authors held the views they did. (Typically, summaries are no longer than 30% of the original essay's length.) Using your own words rather than quoting extensively is more effective when summarizing; when you quote words, phrases, or sentences, be sure to use quotation marks. If the essay you're summarizing is not an argument, make clear what the original author's purpose was. You should also note the original audience for the essay if you can determine that.

Organization - Summaries sometimes follow the same organization and order as the original essay; sometimes summaries rearrange the original points. Make your organization helpful for your readers--so that they understand the main points of the original essays.

Development - Two main points are critical here:

  1. Include the original thesis and main points, but also consider whether you need to explain those main points for clarity for your readers. You may also want to cite particularly compelling examples or details.
  2. Be objective as you summarize and synthesize. Represent the author fairly as you select examples and details and as you recast the main points of the piece.

Coherence - Your summary should clearly be a summary. Clear transitions and author tags will help remind your reader that you are summarizing. Include the author(s) and title of the piece you are summarizing near the beginning of your summary. Refer to the authors by name as often as necessary to remind your readers that you are summarizing others' work. Use active verbs, such as "argues," "claims," "asserts," "explains," with your author tags to help your summary flow smoothly. Don't hesitate to synthesize points when that strategy will help the coherence of your summary.

Style - Whenever possible, capture the flavor or style or "feeling" of the original so that your reader knows how typical readers might have reacted emotionally to the original. Choose clear, precise words to avoid inserting your bias into your summary.