How to Make Summary Writing Effective

Summary writing can be classified into two main types that imply producing different kinds of papers. The first basic type is a summary essay or an overview of a certain original content of the text written for others. The second basic type is a reader summary which has to make understanding of the text easier. The summary essay is aimed at helping the readers understand the main idea of the source material although they are not supposed to read it.

Main Points to Be Taken into Consideration

  1. A summary should be definitely connected to the source.
  2. It is important to avoid misleading the readers with the source interpretation. Besides, some writers even distort the original implication of the text which is not acceptable. 
  3. The content of the original text should be easily substituted with the summarizing text; therefore, the readers can understand the original text by merely looking through the summary.
  4. An essay of summarizing type should not demonstrate any attitude of the author; it is merely a brief presentation of content, not praise or criticism.

Do and Don’t

Do:

  • Do avoid plagiarism. If you have to refer to the words of the author, cite them appropriately.
  • Do use present tenses instead of the past. This rule is valid even if the author of the original text is no longer alive.
  • Do have complete understanding of the source. You can start writing a summary only if you have no doubts regarding the meaning of any ideas or terms.
  • Do cite the author’s words keeping the original meaning, without any distorting or misinterpretation.
  • Do proofreading, editing, and even revising after you have finished writing your essay. Think about good amendments to make, smart quotations to add, mistakes to correct, and other changes to introduce so that the essay was even more effective.
  • Do ask your colleague, friend, or teacher to look through your essay and see whether all the ideas are clear to them. If they have any difficulties in understanding, make improvements immediately.

Don’t:

  • Don’t add any extra interpretations, explanations, or examples to the essay. Give a brief presentation of the main ideas from the original text in your own words. Your essay implies repeating the content, not expanding it.
  • Don’t give any opinions, judgments or evaluation of the ideas from the original text. Remember that you are supposed to summarize only!
  • Don’t make your summary writing too broad. You cannot grasp everything in a brief essay; so, try to focus only on the most relevant points of crucial importance.
  • Don’t miss the transitions. Transference to a new idea should be smooth.
  • Don’t include the details which are unnecessary.

Typical Mistakes

  • Students tend to include either insufficient or excessive amount of details into the essay.
  • It is a common mistake to omit citations. Without citing the quotes, the original words of the author become your stolen ideas.
  • When you know how to write a good summary, you focus on the most important examples and ideas, avoiding minor details and irrelevant anecdotes.
  • It is not right to give explanations or interpretations of the author’s ideas. You are expected to make a concise source overview. Your own ideas regarding the subject are irrelevant.

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