How to Write a Summary

You may have to summarise a text or article in English (or a number of texts and articles) to prove your understanding of these texts. Check out the step-by-step guide below on how to write a summary.

How to write a summary: A step-by-step guide

1. First, read the text or article to get a general idea of the subject matter as well as the author’s attitude.

2. Then read through a second time to identify the main points. You can either go this paragraph by paragraph, or heading by heading / sub-heading.

Identify the topic sentences. These are usually the first sentences of each paragraph. They give the main idea for the paragraph (with the following sentences supporting this main idea). Also look for the concluding sentence in the paragraph, as this often summarises the paragraph.

3. Now write the main idea of each paragraph (or section) in one sentence. Use your own words, rather than the author’s words. This is important: if you copy what the author has written, you’ll probably write too much!

4. Start pulling out key facts or findings from the text which support the author’s main idea (or ideas). You may need to either summarise these (if there are a lot of them) or decide which are the most important or relevant.

However, if you are summarising a number of texts or articles, start to look for common themes running through all the texts. Are the texts broadly in agreement, or do they have different points of view or findings? Choose only a few supporting details to illustrate similarity or contrast.

5. When you have written all your sentences, you should be able to get a good overview of the whole text. This overview can be your introduction to your summary. In your introduction, you’ll also need to give the author’s name and the title of the text you are summarising.

Your summary should now look like this:

Text / author information
Your overview (the introduction)
The single sentences summarising the main ideas, with the key facts or figures that support the ideas.

6. At this point, you’ll need to organise all the information in the most logical way. You might also have repeated ideas or details that you’ll need to delete.

7. Don’t forget to include linking words so your reader can easily follow your thoughts. This will help your summary flow better, and help you avoid writing short sentences without any connection between them.

Important points to remember

* Don’t copy the article. Instead, paraphrase. For example, “the author claims / states / suggests …”

If you quote directly from the original text, use quotation marks. (Minimise how often you do this.)

* Don’t give your opinion.

* Edit what you write. Check your English grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.