How to Write a Good Summary

A summary is a short explanation of the main idea in a text, without unnecessary detail. 

Summarizing is an essential skill to master because it helps students to develop reading comprehension skills and sharpens writing ability. Students are required to summarize short stories, articles or essays during their academic studies in college. Correctly breaking an article or a short story down into its essential parts requires thorough reading, preparation, and explanation of the concepts from the text.

The first step in creating a good summary requires careful reading of the whole story. After a first reading, you must go through the story again, highlighting or marking the most significant details. You may also find it helpful to develop an outline that sets the most relevant events. You will need to include these ideas or events in the summary.

A summary begins with the title and author of the story. The succeeding sentences will include the information that addresses the central idea of the story. You should not include your individual opinion about the story unless you have been asked to do so. Instead, include only information from the story itself. A longer summary includes more detail about the characters and events. A shorter summary includes fewer details about the events.

It takes a careful reading of a text to write a good summary. Writing a good summary will illustrate your level of understanding of a text.

When you write a summary, you are briefly answering the question, “What was the text about?” Summaries vary in length, depending on the purpose of the summary.

A good summary starts with the title of the essay and the name of the author, it is written in the present tense and gives the main details included in the text. It also includes the most important conclusions described. It uses language like
The story is about...
The article covers...
The author of the story introduces...
The author explains...
The writer considers...

When writing a summary, it is important to make it clear that you are describing the ideas in the text, not your thoughts. The use of reporting verbs shows that you are conveying the author's ideas (not your ideas). Here are a few reporting verbs. You can use them in your summaries:

The author focuses, describes, claims, tells, states, criticizes, claims, reports. Never rewrite the original piece. Describe the story in your words. Your summary should consist of 300 words or less, depending on the length of the story.

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