Summary Writing Techniques

Topics: Writing, Sentence, Writers Pages: 7 (1228 words) Published: July 15, 2004

A. Definitions

1. Outlining

An outline is a structural skeleton of the main points of the material as they appear in chronological, rather than logical, order.

2. Paraphrase

Paraphrasing, the restatement of another writer's ideas in your own words

3. Summary

Summarizing, the brief restatement of a longer text in fewer words than the original text. The most important feature of a summary is that it is short, almost always fewer than 250 words. It is a piece of writing about another piece of writing. Its purpose is to condense a long piece of writing into a concise summation of its meaning. Note: Summaries are short accounts of things (including texts).

4. Precis

Short accounts of texts only.

B. Why teach Summary?

To help students:

1. In English

2. In other subjects

3. In the real world.

C. Sub-Skills which students need to develop


Students need to read as much as they can to broaden their knowledge of the language as much as possible.


By extension, students must be able to follow and understand narrative, appreciate argument, follow sequencing and anticipate consequences when they are reading. Above all they must be able to analyse what they read.

Selection of Information

identify the main topic

become aware of the gist of the passage

identify topic sentences and key words and phrases in each paragraph

extract supporting ideas

(the ability to do this will rest on skimming and scanning)

Elimination of Superfluous Information

examples, figures of speech, illustrations, repetitions and unnecessary descriptive language must be omitted.


wherever possible, phrases must be replaced by single words such as collective nouns or pronouns. Generalizations can be used to represent detailed information.

Note taking

Avoid copying sentences or large sections of text verbatim into the summary. Students should be encouraged to write notes which can be used as 'stepping stones' between original text and final summary.

Composition skills

The final summary must be clear, connected and readable with the substance and gist of the original preserved.

Vocabulary skills

The broader the vocabulary of students, the greater will be their ability to manipulate text. Synonyms are important as are words of categorisation, pronouns and conjunctions.

Grammatical flexibility

Students must develop skills in selecting structures which will enable them to manipulate text in order to achieve economy and efficiency.

Writing to word limits/answering the question

Students must not let the word limit blind them to to the need to address specific elements in the question. In other words, they need to read and understand the question with all its ramifications.

(adapted from: Summary Writing in Secondary Schools: a Collection of ideas and resources for teachers: CfBT Education Services)

D. Tips on Writing Summaries

Step One (Prewriting):

Read the article quickly.

Try to get a sense of the article's focus and content.

Step Two (Drafting):

Restate the article's thesis simply and in your own words.

Restate each paagraph's topic simply and in your own words.

Step Three (Revising):

Combine sentences in Step Two to form your summary; organize your summary sentences in the same order as the main ideas in the original text.

E. A Good Summary of an entire source (paragraph, article, etc.)

Clearly identifies the author and source of the material, preferably in the first sentence.

Periodically indicates that a long summary is still the material of another author by inserting phrases like "He goes on to point out. . ." "The article also maintains that. . . ," etc.

Begins with the author's main point and contains only the key supporting details.

Expresses the author's words or ideas in your own words, but does not include your own opinions about the author's ideas or about...
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