Chapter Summaries

Assignment: Chapter a Summary

Proficient students understand that summarizing, identifying what is most important and restating the text in your own words, is an important tool for college success.

After all, if you really know a subject, you will be able to summarize it. If you cannot summarize a subject, even if you have memorized all the facts about it, you can be absolutely sure that you have not learned it. And, if you truly learn the subject, you will still be able to summarize it months or years from now.

Proficient students may monitor their understanding of a text by summarizing as they read. They understand that if they can write a one- or two-sentence summary of each paragraph after reading it, then that is a good sign that they have correctly understood it. If they can not summarize the main idea of the paragraph, they know that comprehension has broken down and they need to use fix-up strategies to repair understanding.

Summarizing consists of two important skills:

  1. identifying the important material in the text, and
  2. restating the text in your own words.

Since writing a summary consists of omitting minor information, it will always be shorter than the original text.

How to Write a Summary

  • A summary begins with an introductory sentence that states the text’s title, author and main thesis or subject.
  • A summary contains the main thesis (or main point of the text), restated in your own words.
  • A summary is written in your own words. It contains few or no quotes.
  • A summary is always shorter than the original text, often about 1/3 as long as the original.  It is the ultimate “fat-free” writing.  An article or paper may be summarized in a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. A book may be summarized in an article or a short paper.  A very large book may be summarized in a smaller book.
  • A summary should contain all the major points of the original text, but should ignore most of the fine details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
  • The backbone of any summary is formed by critical information (key names, dates, places, ideas, events, words and numbers). A summary must never rely on vague generalities.
  • If you quote anything from the original text, even an unusual word or a catchy phrase, you need to put whatever you quote in quotation marks (“”).
  • A summary must contain only the ideas of the original text. Do not insert any of your own opinions, interpretations, deductions or comments into a summary.
  • A summary, like any other writing, has to have a specific audience and purpose, and you must carefully write it to serve that audience and fulfill that specific purpose.

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