Inver Hills Community College


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Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Chapter 26. SUMMARY

Introduction   Basics   Advanced   Samples   Activities


Introduction to Summarizing

Note: This chapter has FIVE web pages--be sure to also read "Basics," Advanced," and "Samples" in this chapter. You may go to them by clicking on the links directly above, or in the right column.




This introductory page of the "Summary Paper" chapter offers a simple, brief description of a summary paper.  For more, go to "Basics" and to "Sample Papers" by students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it in more depth, you might prefer to read "Advanced Methods."  All five web pages of this chapter are listed at the top of this page--and also in the right-hand column.  Simply click on one of the five pages. 


Definition of a Summary Paper

A summary of a reading or text is a mirror image in smaller, shorter form of the contents of an essay or book.  They vary in length. 

Summaries are not essays in themselves, they have nothing new to say, and not even your opinions or feelings about the contents should appear in your summaries.  While a summary may mirror a text's contents, it is not a copy of the text.  Not only is it much shorter, but also it does not duplicate the exact wording.  In fact, the great majority of summaries do not repeat the phrases of the texts they summarize--there are almost never quotations in a summary--precisely because the idea of writing a summary is to put in brief form, much more intensively, what the text has said. 

Some examples of summaries are the "abstract" or "précis" you must give at the beginning of some research and professional papers, the summarizing you must do in a critical, literary, or arts review, some parts of psychological and medical papers, parts of speeches, and in some business or professional papers.  Professionally, summary writing is necessary when reporting on your own and others' job performances, writing resumes, and reporting on work-related activities and events.


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Writer's Goal or Assignment

The goal of writing a summary of a text is to mirror the text in much shorter form in your own words.  Start by reading an argumentative essay at least several pages in length, or a book.   Then you should write a point-by-point summary of it using careful, accurate paraphrasing of every paragraph (if it is a short essay), every page (if it is a long essay), or every chapter (if it is a book), touching upon all the key points. Please also describe the text's argumentative structure and, if your instructor wishes, the author's key illustrations and other details.  Finally, provide a very short introduction stating the text's overall thesis and the fact that you are writing a summary (if you have not already stated this in the title), and a final statement summarizing the text's conclusions.  In general, you should avoid quoting the text or using phrases from it.

If a text is not assigned to you to summarize, then you need to find one.  If an online text is acceptable, go to the chapter in "Section D" called "Resources & Readings." 


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Summary/Outline of the Visual Structure

Here is a typical structure or organization for Summary paper.  More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics" section.

Organization of a Summary Paper

The Visual Plan or Map

Unique Title 


(1 sentence or 1 paragraph)


Paragraph 1: the reading's 1st supporting reason and details

Paragraph 2: the reading's 2nd supporting reason and details

Paragraph 3: the reading's 3rd supporting reason and details

Paragraphs 4-?: the reading's 4th-? supporting reason and details


(1 sentence or 1 paragraph)


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Focusing Methods

A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment to concentrate on writing.  Here are several helpful, important focuses people use to develop a disagreement. 


[Below, substitute the proper info for the type of paper for the stuff on analyses as given here:]

SUBJECT: If helpful, brainstorm a list of ideas.  If you are free to choose your own text, pick one that you understand well.  Whatever your text, study its contents and their meanings carefully, imagining their intended audience and the reasons why the author wrote the contents as he or she did.     

FIRST & SECOND DRAFTS: Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the others in later drafts.

  1. Read critically: take your text apart so that you understand its contents and structure thoroughly (see "How to Read Critically"). 

  2. Free-write: write as much as you can quickly on what you know about your text and its contents.

  3. Gather details: write descriptions or a list of the facts, quotations, and/or experiences the author uses to support his/her opinions.

  4. Write for your audience: visualize it.  How can you best summarize the text in a way your audience will fully understand?

  5. Organize: make an outline using the structure above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.

STYLE, TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: In some longer summaries you may want--or be required--to identify the text's style and tone, but not copy it.  Your role otherwise is only to summarize.

Develop, by your final draft, an academic style and tone of calm, reasoned, fair, balanced logic. Develop (in early or late drafts) an academic style and tone of calm, reasoned, fair, balanced logic.  In your role as a writer, you should remain a neutral observer, simply applying the summarizing statements in a balanced, logical, consistent manner. 

AUTHENTICITY: Be as real and meaningful as you can to your audience, your content, and yourself.  Respect your audience enough to explain the text's ideas in such a way that it will understand them.  Be true to the content by representing it as well, perhaps, as would the author himself or herself.  In a summary, your "self" must seem to disappear, so the only genuine authenticity possible to yourself is to honestly and thoroughly work to represent the text's ideas without showing prejudice against or judgment of them in any way.  


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Section E.
Responding to Reading


Chapter 26. Summary:







Related Chapters/Sections:

Basic Layouts to Summarize

Research Writing


 Related Links in

   3. Thinking & Reading

12. Types of Papers

14. Online Readings

16. Research Writing


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
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