Summary Essay

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The key features of this type of writing are that (1) it is shorter than the source; and that (2) it repeats the ideas of the source in different phrases and sentences. Obviously, you cannot write a good summary essay of a source that you do not understand. One such technique is the reader's summary, which you write for yourself, as a way of understanding the text you are reading. But there is another type of summary, the summary essay, which is written for an audience other than yourself. The purpose of the summary essay is to convey to others an understanding of a text you have read, without their having to read it themselves. Thus for your readers, your summary essay functions as a substitute for the source that you are summarizing. You do not want to misrepresent your source or mislead your audience. Certainly an important feature of the summary essay, then, is its fidelity to the source; you must represent your source accurately and comprehensively, with as little of your own interpretation as possible. (Anytime you read and repeat a source, of course, you are engaging in interpretation; but the summary essay asks you to minimize your interpretation as much as possible. You should not add your own examples and explanations, for instance.) An alternative purpose of the summary essay, one that is very commonplace in college, is a demonstration of comprehension: teachers sometimes assign summary essays when they want to make sure that students fully understand an assigned source. In this case, your essay does not substitute for the source, for the teacher has read the source, too. Yet your essay will be written in the same way, with fidelity to the source. The following format works well for a summary essay:

a.The introduction (usually one paragraph)--
1. Contains a one-sentence thesis statement that sums up the main point of the source. This thesis statement is not your main point; it is the main point of your source. Usually, though, you have to write...
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