Summary Writing: How to Show the Teacher You Read

summary writingTeachers often request students to read something and then write a summary on it. If you have been asked to do an assignment like that, you might be wondering just what exactly you’re supposed to do. Writing a summary tells your teacher that you read what she assigned and understood it. It’s like a discussion between you and the teacher regarding the work. Most summaries involve using nothing more than the work itself. Try using the three steps listed below to create a summary you can be proud to turn in. Practice your skills to write quality paragraphs and essays through the lessons in this course.

Before You Write

There are a couple of things you should do before you get started writing your summary on a piece.

First, you should glance over the piece just to get the basic idea of what you’re going to be reading. Focus on titles, subtitles, bold, or italicized words. Look over any figures that might be mentioned in the piece. This will give you the bare bones of what the piece is about.

Next, you’ll read the piece in further detail. At this time, you’re going to want to take notes on the piece and highlight anything you find very important. Try to understand what the author’s main point is, and see if you can pinpoint the thesis. Udemy’s College Writing Course will teach you the essentials of writing in college.

The last step you’re going to want to take before you begin writing is outlining the piece you just read. This should be written without any quotes from the piece as most summaries are paraphrases of the author’s work. It’s important that quotes from the work be used few and far between.

When You Start Writing

When writing your summary, you should follow a few basic guidelines to ensure that your summary is organized and complete. Many summaries follow the guidelines of the five-paragraph model, but there are other guidelines that should be used as well.

Your introduction should include the name of the work, the type it is (article, book, etc.), the author’s name, and the thesis. If you can’t find the thesis yourself, do a little bit of digging about the work and what it’s about. The thesis is central to your summary.

In the body, you will begin to summarize the work. Only the most important key points should be discussed, and the body should flow logically in order for your reader to stay focused. Remember that you are summarizing the work, not writing an opinion piece or a review of the work.

Any thoughts, interpretations, or other ideas you have on the work should be left out of your summary. Think of your summary as a paper that is informing the reader what the piece was about, nothing more.

Be sure to keep the reader informed that your summary is something you’re writing about something else. Phrases like “the author states,” or “the article gives evidence for,” etc. will show your reader that this is something you read, not something that you yourself wrote.

You concluding paragraph should reiterate the point the author was trying to make with their piece. Don’t rewrite the piece you wrote, and don’t rewrite the entire body area of your summary. Instead, the conclusion should focus on how the piece proves the point the author was making.

Moving on to Editing and Revising

Once you have your summary written, you’re going to want to edit it and revise it. Try out some of these tips to help you out. Practice your technical writing and editing skills with this course.

First, be certain that your summary isn’t too wordy. It should never be longer than the original piece, and if it is, you have likely done something wrong. Find what you can cut, and cut it. Remember that your summary should stick to the meat and potatoes of the piece. The little things have no place in a summary.

On that same note, make certain that your summary also isn’t too short. If your summary is too short, you might have missed something important in the piece. Have the piece you’re summarizing, your notes, and your outline with you when you’re looking back over your summary.

Make certain that your writing matches the author’s intent for the piece. Remember that this is not a place for opinions or personal thoughts on the piece. Read over the piece and make certain you’re not jumping to any conclusions or trying to prove your own point instead of the author’s.

Use editing tools to help you. EditMinion is an especially great tool for finding adverbs, weak words, if you’ve used the passive voice, homonyms, sentences ending with prepositions, cliches, and more. This is an especially great tool if you aren’t too sure your have difficulties catching small mistakes.

To give you an idea of how this editing tool works, this particular blog post was input into the editor. The report card is below.

This is an example of what EditMinion will look like when you input your writing.

This is an example of what EditMinion will look like when you input your writing.

Another great editing tool is Pro Writing Aid. Like EditMinion, it is a free service available, but Pro Writing Aid also has a premium service. You can input up to one thousand words without signing up for an account, but signing up for an account is free and worth it. This particular editing tool will grade your writing in many areas including writing style, plagiarism, and so much more.

A photo of this blog post used in Pro Writing Aid is below.

This is an example of what Pro Writing Aid will look like when you input you writing.

This is an example of what Pro Writing Aid will look like when you input you writing.

Once you’ve finished your self-editing, you should move on to having someone else read your work. They might see an insertion of opinion that you might have missed or some other error. They can also read to make certain that the work flows and has enough of a summary that they feel they understand the original piece without having ever seen it. Be prepared for criticism, and accept it.

Once you’ve got all of your editing notes, it’s time to start revising your work. Use EditMinion, Pro Writing Aid, and your editor’s criticisms to help you fix everything that needs fixing. Make certain your transitions flow, reword parts that are confusing or sound off, and don’t forget the smallest of mistakes.

Pro Writing Aid will help you catch even the smallest of things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Use this to your advantage to make your writing really shine. Once you’ve made your revisions, consider running it through your editing tools one last time. If your report comes back with even more errors, you might have fixed the wrong parts of your summary.

If you still need help to edit after a revision, have a different person read over it again. Use their advice and the reports from your two editing tools to revise your paper one last time. When you’re done, turn in your work!

Learn more  technical writing skills with this course.