A summary (sometimes called a précis) is a concise presentation that gives key information about an article, an event, a TV program or a movie, or an oral presentation. Effective summaries help a reader or listener quickly understand the main purpose, content, and structure of an original work.

Summaries take many forms and appear in a variety of situations. They can be brief (as short as one sentence) or lengthy (several pages long). If it is a written work, it is approximately one third the length of the text. Summaries may be oral or written. Whether a summary is based on a book, a videotape, a lecture, or a personal experience, the basic goal isthe same: to compress a broad range of information into a few well-chosen words.

Summarizing involves a combination of reading, study and writing skills. To write an effective summary, you must identify the main ideas and key details in the original work. You must also translate the original information into your own words. Putting complex information into your own words helps you understand and remember the main ideas of the original work.

If you are asked to write a summary of a written work, begin by previewing the text. To preview an article, look at the title, subtitle, introductory and final paragraphs, headings and subheadings. To preview a book, look at the title, table of contents, preface, first and last chapters, chapter openers and summaries, and any photographs and illustrations.

After previewing the text, read the work thoroughly. As you read, jot down or highlight main ideas and key details. Pay special attention to topic sentences, defined terms, examples, and lists of items (called enumerations); these features often contain important information.

As soon as you finish reading, write a sentence that expresses the central point of the work.

If you are summarizing a written work, such as a book or an article, your first sentence should identify the author, title, publisher, date of publication, and central point of the work.

Assume that readers know little if anything about the original work you are summarizing. Always include enough information to convey the central point and main ideas.

Depending on the content and on the tone of the original work, the tone you adopt may be informal or very formal. If you summarize a humorous article, you should use an informal tone to indicate to the reader that the article was humorous. Similarly, if you summarize a serious article, you should use a factual, objective tone to reflect the substance of the original work.

The language you use for a summary should reflect but not copy or imitate the wording of the original. The wording you use should always be your own. If you use another writer’s words and try to pass them off as your own, you will be plagiarizing. If you quote directly from the original source, do so sparingly. Don’t use more than two quotations in a single paragraph of your summary.

To sum it up, a summary is a shorter version of a text which:

a) contains the main idea or topic of the text;

b) contains the important supporting details of the text ( A supporting detail is a fact or example that helps to explain the main idea);

c) doesn’t contain any of the reader’s opinions (whereas an essay assumes an individual interpretation of facts, giving a writer a chance of self-expression);

d) is approximately one third the length of the text;

e) contains no introductions or conclusions;

f) should not contain illustrative details, ideas expressed in a figurative language, repetitions, colorless words like: character, nature, case, manner, kind, sort, etc.

E.g. “In spite of the fact” is substituted by “Although”, “Of a courageous character” by “Courageous”, etc.

g) sentences must be re-phrased and re-arranged.

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