How to Write a Summary

Writing a Summary

A summary is a compressed version of a text in which you explain the author’s meaning in your own words. You summarize a text when you need to give your readers the gist of what it says. A summary should present the author’s text accurately and represent his or her views fairly. You build your summary on the observations, connections, and inferences you make while reading. Although here is no rule for how long or short a summary should be, a summary of a text is always shorter than the text itself.

                Writing a summary requires careful reading, in part to assure that you understand a text well. Writing a summary helps you respond to a text by requiring you to analyze and consider its details. Your goal in summarizing a text is to render a writer’s ideas accurately and fairly.

                A paraphrase, which is similar to a summary, tends to be nearly as long as the text paraphrased. When you paraphrase a poem, for example, you explain its meaning in your own words, line by line or stanza by stanza. Unlike a summary, a paraphrase follows the order of ideas, images, and details in the original text.

                Writing a summary requires essentially two kinds of skills: identifying the idea of the text you are summarizing and recognizing the evidence that supports that idea. One strategy for writing a summary is to find the key points that support the main idea. You can do this by looking for clusters of sentences or groups of paragraphs that convey the writer’s meaning. Because paragraphs work together, you cannot simply summarize each paragraph independently. You may need to summarize a cluster of paragraphs to convey the idea of a text effectively.

How to write a Summary

  1. Read the text carefully, looking for the main idea and important supporting points.
  2. Write a sentence that identifies the writer’s main idea.
  3. Write a few sentences that explain the key supporting points from different paragraphs or paragraph clusters.
  4. Write a draft of your summary by putting together the sentences you wrote for steps1-3, in the order you wrote them.
  5. Revise your summary by adding transitional words and phrases to link your sentences. Add introductory and concluding sentences as necessary.


General idea from Passage:

Women are seen as superficial and trivial, concerned with surface beauty rather than with deeper qualities of character. Women are viewed as beautiful objects, valued for how they look rather than for who and what are they.

Key Supporting Points:

  • Women’s preoccupation with their beauty is a sign of their self-absorption and inconsequential.
  • Women’s concern for beauty is a form of enslavement that results from their need to always care about their appearance, all the while being objectified as mere body parts.
  • Men are less concerned about their appearance, especially with trying to perfect their outward look.

To create smooth summary from these sentences, it is necessary to add introductory and concluding sentences. Transitional wording is also needed. Basically, however, you can follow the order devised for the passage as reflected in the sentences for the main idea and key supporting points.

            Here is a revised version that avoids direct quotation from the original text. Also avoided are opinions or judgmental words and phrases. Notice, too, how the writer and text are identified in the opening sentences.

Revised Summary

In her essay “A women’s beauty: put-down or power source?” Susan Sontag explains how women’s need to appear beautiful trivializes them,  making them concerned with superficial appearances and identifying them as creatures preoccupied with how they look rather than who and what they really are. Sontag suggests that women’s preoccupation with physical beauty is a sign of their self-absorption and lack of power. Through being taught to see themselves as mere body parts, women become both objectified and ridden with anxiety that their parts may not measure up. Unlike women, men are viewed for their good looks overall rather than for the beauty of their particular parts. Also Unlike women, men are perceived as more serious, more sure of themselves, and more powerful than the women who anxiously labor to be beautiful to please them.

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