A summary is a short overview of the main points of a text. The purpose of a summary is to quickly give the reader or listener an idea of what this material is saying. You may find it helpful to create summaries of your own work, but more often, you will create summaries of material by other authors, such as articles, plays, films, lectures, stories, or presentations.
At some point in your classes, you will likely be given an assignment to summarize a specific text, an assignment in which summary is the sole intent. You will also use summaries in more holistic ways, though, incorporating them along with paraphrase, quotation, and your own opinions into more complex pieces of writing. You might summarize for several reasons, both in your time as a student and in your life outside of education.
When you ask yourself, after reading an article (and maybe even reading it two or three times), “What was that article about?” and you end up jotting down–from memory, without returning to the original article to use its language or phrases–three things that stood out as the author’s main points, you are summarizing. Summaries have several key characteristics.
You’re summarizing well when you
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