Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Effective Summarizing Techniques

Summaries must include the original text's main idea and major supporting details.

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The most effective summaries of written material are often compiled in steps. You must first gain a thorough understanding of the original text before attempting to summarize it. Some people might only need one technique to reach this understanding. But others, especially those who are new to writing summaries, might need to use more than one technique to gain a good understanding of the text and clearly organize their thoughts.

Related Searches: Skimming

Skim through the text you are summarizing to get a basic understanding before you do a thorough reading. The introductory paragraph typically contains the thesis, but you might need to read more to get a good grasp of the main idea. Rephrase and write this main idea in a single sentence, keeping it in mind as you continue skimming. Read the conclusion and rephrase your main idea sentence as necessary.

Highlighting and Underlining

After you obtain a good understanding of the main idea, re-read the text, underlining, circling or highlighting any phrases that support the thesis. You also should underline phrases that demonstrate the connection between major points being made. Afterward, re-read all the underlined text to gain a clearer understanding of the information in need of summarizing.


Write an outline of the most important information in the text you are summarizing. Refer to your notes and highlights to help you along. If you must re-read the text, jot down the main idea of each paragraph in the margin of the page or on a separate sheet of paper before organizing this information into outline form. Avoid pulling direct quotes from the text for your outline. This will help you avoid plagiarizing the work.

Review and Rewrite

After going through your notes and outlines, write a rough draft of your summary. Review your draft, checking for accuracy and clarity. Your draft must have the same main idea of the original text and mention each of the major supporting points. Your summary must never read the exact same as the original article, however. Your draft must also give credit to the author and the original text. Revise this draft as necessary.

ReferencesColumbia University: Writing Center HandoutsSt. Cloud State University - LEO: Process for Writing a SummaryUniversity of Idaho: How to SummarizePhoto Credit Jupiterimages/ ImagesRead Next:

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