The Art of Summarising

Summarising involves taking the main ideas from a piece of text and rewriting them in your own words. A summary is significantly shorter than the original text and tends to give an overview of a topic area. A good summary shows that you have understood the text.

Below are 7 quick tips to create effective summaries:

  1. Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 2.15.26 pmHighlight the main ideas. This is a skill in itself. As you read the text, consider what the author wants you to remember and recall, and the purpose of the information. It can be helpful to read the ‘about the author’ section to understand their motive and purpose. Consider each idea and if it was left out, would it change the story, meaning or understanding of the summary.
  1. Combine highlighted ideas. The key here is that this needs to be in your own words. You may use sentence starters such as; “Firstly… secondly… thirdly…” or “In the first place… pursuing this further… finally…”. What is very important at this stage is to ensure you use your own words to avoid plagiarism.
  1. Correctly represent the original. Go back and check you have not left out any important facts, events or ideas from the original work. This step is similar to movie directors making a movie from a book. Not all the information is used from the original, however the story still flows and hopefully has the same intent as the original.
  1. Avoid opinions. Do not include your own opinion on the topic. A summary does not ask for your personal thoughts on the subject. It is simply a factual representation of the original text, rewritten accurately, in your own words.
  1. Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 2.18.08 pmAvoid jargon. If the author uses words you are unfamiliar with avoid simply copying and pasting. Take a moment to use a thesaurus (I use the dictionary on my phone) to understand the words and use language you would use if you were discussing the work.
  1. Cite your sources. Remember to clearly cite your sources. Check with your teacher or lecturer about how to correctly reference the sources you have used for your research using a recognised referencing format.
  1. Remind the reader. Keep reminding the reader that you are summarising the work of someone else by using the following phrases; “The author goes on to say…” or “The text further states that…”

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Published on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015, under Study Skills

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

One Response to “The Art of Summarising”

  1. Julie says:

    Fabulous post Karen and very timely for myself personally. Thank you for your continually great and insightful postings.

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