A summary is an overview of the main ideas, concepts, or facts of a text. The main idea is given, but details and examples are left out. Summarising is a useful skill for making notes from readings and in lectures, writing an abstract/synopsis and for incorporating material into assignments or literature reviews.
When do I summarise?
Summarise long sections of work, like a long paragraph, page or chapter.
To outline the main points of someone else's work in your own words.
To include an author's ideas using fewer words than the original text.
To briefly give examples of several differing points of view on a topic.
To support claims in, or provide evidence for, your writing.
Summarising vs Paraphrasing
What is the difference between summarising and paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is when you put the ideas of another author into your own words. To avoid plagiarism when paraphrasing, it is essential that you do not include too many words from the original text.
Summarising is when you use your own words to draw out the key points or main arguments of the original text, significantly reducing its length.
|Does not match the source word for word.||Does not match the source word for word.|
|Involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, but including only the main point(s)||Involves putting a passage from a source into your own words.|
|Presents a broad overview, so is usually much shorter than the original text.||Changes the words or phrasing of a passage, but retains and fully communicates the original meaning.|
|Must be attributed to the original source.||Must be attributed to the original source.|
How to Summarise
The amount of detail you include in a summary will vary according to the length of the original text, how much information you need and how selective you are:
Start by reading a short text and highlighting the main points as you read
Focus on the topic sentences as these provide the main ideas of the paragraphs
Reread the text and make notes of the main points, leaving out examples, evidence etc
Without the text, rewrite your notes in your own words; restate the main idea at the beginning plus all major points
Check that the meaning is the same as the original
Use quotation marks for original/specialist phrases you have used from the original
A summary should be:
It should cover all of the main points from the original text.
It should avoid repetition.
It should flow and make sense by being in clearly linked sentences, not note form.
Not the orignial words or phrases of the text.
It should be cited and referenced correctly to avoid plagiarism.
Paraphrasing and Summarizing. University Library Service, Cardiff University. Retrieved from: https://ilrb.cf.ac.uk/plagiarism/paraphrasing/page02.html Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
CPIT. Writing skills. Summarising. Retrieved from: http://equella.cpit.ac.nz/cpit/file/75d806ba-3919-4526-936f-bdb5e0341e6b/1/Summarising_Jan%202013_Version1.pdf Permission granted to use content.
Focus. Mark Hunter. Flickr. Image retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/toolstop/4546017269 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
Hero image: Water splash. PublicDomainPictures. Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/splashing-splash-aqua-water-rain-275950/ Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 Universal