- A summary - or précis - is a shorter version
of a longer piece of writing. The summary captures
all the most important parts of the original, but
expresses them in a [much] shorter space.
- Summarizing exercises are usually set to test your
understanding of the original, and your ability to
re-state its main purpose.
- Summarizing is also a useful skill when gathering
information or doing research.
- The summary should be expressed - as far as possible
- in your own words. It's not enough to merely copy
out parts of the original.
- The question will usually set a maximum number
of words. If not, aim for something like one tenth
of the original. [A summary which was half the length
of the original would not be a summary.]
- Read the original quickly, and try to understand
its main subject or purpose.
- Then you will need to read it again to understand
it in more detail.
- Underline or make a marginal note of the main issues.
Use a highlighter if this helps.
- Look up any words or concepts you don't know, so
that you understand the author's sentences and how
they relate to each other.
- Work through the text to identify its main sections
or arguments. These might be expressed as paragraphs
or web pages.
- Remember that the purpose [and definition] of a
paragraph is that it deals with one issue or topic.
- Draw up a list of the topics - or make a diagram.
[A simple picture of boxes or a spider diagram can
often be helpful.]
- Write a one or two-sentence account of each section
you identify. Focus your attention on the main point.
Leave out any illustrative examples.
- Write a sentence which states the central idea
of the original text.
- Use this as the starting point for writing a paragraph
which combines all the points you have made.
- The final summary should concisely and accurately
capture the central meaning of the original.
- Remember that it must be in your own words. By
writing in this way, you help to re-create the meaning
of the original in a way which makes sense for you.
'At a typical football match we are likely to see players
committing deliberate fouls, often behind the referee's
back. They might try to take a throw-in or a free kick
from an incorrect but more advantageous positions in
defiance of the clearly stated rules of the game. They
sometimes challenge the rulings of the referee or linesmen
in an offensive way which often deserves exemplary punishment
or even sending off. No wonder spectators fight amongst
themselves, damage stadiums, or take the law into their
own hands by invading the pitch in the hope of affecting
the outcome of the match.' [100 words]
Unsportsmanklike behaviour by footballers may cause
hooliganism among spectators. [9 words]
Some extra tips
- Even though notes are only for your own use, they
will be more effective if they are recorded clearly
and neatly. Good layout will help you to recall and
assess material more readily. If in doubt use the
following general guidelines.
- Before you even start, make a note of your source(s).
If this is a book, an article, or a journal, write
the following information at the head of your notes:
Author, title, publisher, publication date, and edition
- Use loose-leaf A4 paper. This is now the international
standard for almost all educational printed matter.
Don't use small notepads. You will find it easier
to keep track of your notes if they fit easily alongside
your other study materials.
- Write clearly and leave a space between each note.
Don't try to cram as much as possible onto one page.
Keeping the items separate will make them easier to
recall. The act of laying out information in this
way will cause you to assess the importance of each
- Use a new page for each set of notes. This will
help you to store and identify them later. Keep topics
separate, and have them clearly titled and labelled
to facilitate easy recall.
- Write on one side of the page only. Number these
pages. Leave the blank sides free for possible future
additions, and for any details which may be needed