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Summaries

There are several different kinds of summaries, but one of the most common is the key point summary. An effective summary provides a fair, accurate, and objective overview of another writer’s text. Your job as the writer of a summary is to provide your readers with the most significant and pertinent information from the original source. Here are some guides to drafting an effective key point summary:
  1. Include the author and title information from the source you are summarizing: “John Smith’s 2009 article entitled ‘Office Antics’ is a study of the leading causes of an unproductive work environment.”
  2. Include the author’s main purpose for writing: “Smith contends that most offices can prevent poor productivity by paying attention to commonsense issues such as avoiding laziness, procrastination, and gossip in the workplace.”
  3. Provide several key points from the text that are essential for your readers to understand the arguments, perspectives, or ideas presented in the text. You should provide the key details involved in the text and/or outline the evidence that the author uses: “Smith describes an office setting where just a handful of lazy people negatively influence the overall productivity of the department. He argues that nearly 76% of office blunders are due to laziness.”
  4. Finish your summary with a statement that expresses the overall point of the text and attempts to recap the conclusion of the original text:  “Ultimately, John Smith suggests that companies take advantage of a number of seminars that are available to help employees become more aware of how to avoid pitfalls and increase efficiency in the work place.”

Some important summary writing tips to keep in mind:

Although you can use quotations in a summary, it may be a better option to paraphrase information from the original text. Paraphrasing is putting the author’s language into your own words. This can be a difficult task, but the best way to do it is to talk through the author’s ideas with other people until you have internalized them. After going through this process, it should be much easier for you to write a summary using your own words.

It is also important to use author tags. An author tag is when you use the author’s last name to attribute information to the author. For example, you might write, “Smith found that laziness resulted in 76% of office blunders.” Using the author tag “Smith” allows you to clarify that the information, data, or opinion comes from the author and not from you, the summarizer.

Overall, be fair and objective. A summary is not the appropriate writing situation to add your opinion. It is your job as the writer to provide an accurate and condensed account of the original text.

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