6 Quick Tips for Writing a Summary

College Mate

At some point in your college career, you’ll be asked to write a summary. If the summary is part of a research paper then it may also be referred to as an introduction, or executive summary. Keep in mind that the word ‘summary’ is relative. It can mean 100 words and it can mean 1000 words, depending on the length of what you’re summarizing.

With so many variations, and so many other projects sitting on your desk with due dates rapidly approaching, how do you wrap up that summary real quick? As always, College Mate’s got your back. Here are six quick tips to simplify the summarizing process for you.

1. Read the Whole Piece.

If you wrote the original piece, then this might not be necessary. However, if asked to summarise another author’s work, then reading and understanding it is paramount.

When reading, look out for the main points, and any controversial topics that may come up. If there are certain concepts you’ve covered in class, keep an eye out for what the author says about these as well.

2. Eliminate.

One trick my English teacher taught me in high school was never to include examples and statistics in a summary. Instead, mention the conclusion the statistics point to.

Once you keep this in mind, it makes summarizing much easier, by removing a whole section of unnecessary things we might otherwise think to include.

3. Highlight.

As you go along, looking for main points and theories, highlight the information that stands out as important. This will come in handy when it’s time to skim through the pages, and put it all together.

If the document is in electronic form, then consider using Adobe PDF so you can highlight. You may also print the pages, to make it easier. If the bright colors are not up your alley, feel free to underline words instead with a pen or pencil.

4. Identify Words that Can be Changed.

If you wrote the original document, then this isn’t all that important. However, if the original work belongs to another author, then students must take extra precautions against plagiarism when summarising.

Summarising does not require students to come up with any new or original ideas. You’re basically regurgitating whatever the author said. Even so, you should try to find a way to avoid recycling content, by looking for words and phrases that can be swapped out for something else.

As an example, we’ll do that here:

If you are the original author, then plagiarism is not much of a concern. However, if the original work belongs to someone else, students should take care not re-use the same words or phrases.

5. Reorganize.

Even though a summary is a regurgitation, don’t be afraid to reorganize the information. It’s not possible to include everything in a summary, and once you’ve removed that unimportant data, things can be better organized in a different way.

6. The Cop-Out Route.

While these are all great ways to do summaries, College Mate understands that sometimes students are just pressed for time. It’s not always because of poor time management and procrastinating either. Some professors honestly seem to think the only class you take all semester is their own!

So, with that in mind, here’s the easiest way to write a summary. In a well-written document, each section starts with an introduction that sums up the main points. Likewise, each paragraph should have what is called a ‘main point’, ‘main idea’, or ‘topic sentence’ at the beginning or end of the paragraph.

Find each topic sentence, throw them together, re-word them and ta-da! Just like that, you’re done.

Stick around for more great tips on College Mate – your survival guide for college!

Published by Alexis Chateau

Alexis Chateau is the Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.

5 thoughts on “6 Quick Tips for Writing a Summary

  1. This is really good information! Number six is a great one as people know how to look for key points. When I had a lot of reading to do and skimmed my textbook instead, I would just read the beginning and ending sentences of each paragraph first. Another great post :)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great Ophie. Looks like you discovered the secret to number 6 on your own. College is about learning for sure, but some of the loopholes they have us jump through requires working smart, instead of hard.


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