How to Write a Good Summary?
Summary is a brief restatement of the essential thought of a longer composition. It reproduces the theme of the original with as few words as possible. When
one writes a summary, one should not interpret or comment. All one has to do is to give the gist of the author’s exact and essential meaning. 1Uses of Summary Writing (1)Summary writing is a very good exercise for improving reading comprehension. Some students read carelessly, and gain only a vague idea of what they have read. Summary writing can force them to try to understand what they read, for no one can write a summary of any passage unless he has grasped its meaning. So summarizing is also training in concentration of attention. It requires one to read with the mind, as well as with the eye, on the page. (2)Summary writing is also helpful to composition writing. It trains one to express one’s thought clearly, concisely and effectively. It is an excellent corrective of vague and disorderly thinking and loose and diffuse writing. When writing a summary, one has to work within strict limits. One must express a certain meaning in a fixed number of words. So it is important to choose words carefully, to make sentences with an eye to accuracy and brevity, and to write the summary in logical order. (3)Summary writing has practical uses. The ability to grasp quickly
and accurately what is read, or heard, and to reproduce it in a clear and concise way is of great value to people of many professions. For scientists, businessmen, lawyers, and government officials this ability is not only important, but necessary. 2Procedure (1)Reading ○ 1 First read the passage through carefully to get the gist of it. If reading it once is not sufficient to give you a clear understanding of it, read it over again. The more you read it, the more familiar to you will be its subject, and what is said about the subject. ○ 2 Give a title to your summary. Think of some word, phrase or short sentence that will sum up briefly the main idea of the passage. Sometimes what is called a topic sentence may be used. The topic sentence may be found at the beginning or at the end of the passage. To find a suitable title will help you to define what exactly the subject, or main theme, of the passage is. ○ 3 You should now be in a position to decide what parts of the passage are essential and what parts are comparatively unimportant and can be omitted without much loss. ○ 4 Jot down in brief notes the main points—the subject, the title, and the details which you consider essential or important.
(2)Writing ○ 1 A summary should usually be about one-third to one-fourth as long as the original passage. So count the number of words in the passage and divide it by three. You may use fewer words than the number prescribed, but in no case may you exceed the limit. ○ 2 The summary should be all in your own words. It must not be a patchwork made up of phrases and sentences quoted from the original passage. ○ 3 You should follow the logical order of the original passage, if possible (and desirable). Ideas and facts need not be rearranged. ○ 4 The summary should be self-contained, that is, it must convey the message of the original fully and clearly, so that your reader need no reference to the original to understand what its main ideas are. ○ 5 Summary writing is an exercise in compression. In writing a summary, you may: 1) Omit the details. Only the important points should be included in the summary; all the details that explain the main points can be left out. 2) Reduce the examples. Out of five or six examples given in the original passage one or two may be chosen for the summary; the rest are to be omitted. 3) Simplify the descriptions. If in the passage there are ten sentences describing a person or an object, it will be enough to keep one
or two in the summary. 4) Eliminate all repetitions. Sometimes a statement is repeated for emphasis. This is not necessary in a summary. Sometimes an idea is repeated in different words. Such a veiled repetition should also be avoided. 5) Compress wordy sentences and change phrases to words. May also make phrases do the work of clauses or sentences. 6) Use general words instead of specific words. 7) Use the shortest possible transitions. For example, but, then, thus, yet, and for, can be used in place of longer transitions like at the same time, on the other hand, etc. 8) Put the main points of a dialog in indirect speech. (3)Revision Revise your draft. Compare it carefully with the original to see that you have included all the important points. If it is too long, further compress it by omitting unnecessary words and phrases or by remodeling sentences. Correct all mistakes in spelling, grammar and idiom, and see that it is properly punctuated. Make the language simple and direct. Sample Summary of “Children Must be Taught to Tell Right from Wrong” In his essay “Children Must be Taught to Tell Right from Wrong,”
William Kilpatrick argues fervently that the “decision-making” approach to the moral education of American youth, which replaced “character education” 25 years ago, has prevented juveniles from behaving and thinking in accordance with the traditional moral principles that are fundamental to American society. According to Kilpatrick, decision-making methods instill in students a wrong belief that all norms of morality are subjective constructs with only relative truth in them and therefore can be interpreted flexibly and even questioned. This belief deprives them of the chance to secure solid moral standards and induces misconceptions about what should be clearly right or wrong. In parallel with this inadequacy of the “decision-making” approach are the unexpected outcomes of those values-education programs focusing on students’ self-esteem that subscribe to the
“non-judgmental” mindset dominating “decision-making” curriculums. Their mistaken assumption that feeling good warrants morality excuses students from criticizing and disciplining their own behaviors. Basing his conclusion on his analysis of the fundamental flaws of the decision-making approach, Kilpatrick finally proposes an immediate shift back to character education which he believes teaches morality more effectively by emphasizing practice instead of discussion.