A summary is a shortened version of someone else's writing or thoughts.

Summaries vary in length and amount of details depending on a teacher's requirements, the length of the original source (article, book, passage) and the purpose of the summary; however, all summaries must:

  •  be shorter than the original source (article, book, passage) approximately one third the length of the original source;
  •  include the main idea of the original source in your own words;
  •  include major details (also known as supporting ideas) in your own words;
  •  not include your knowledge, ideas or opinion unless your teacher requests it.
  • identify the author, title of article, title of publication, where published, publisher, year of publication, and page information, at the top of the page of your summary (or in-text.)

Questions You Should Ask Your Instructor

Because different teachers have different requirements for summary writing, especially concerning the use of direct quotes and the identification of the source, you should ask your teacher the following questions:

  1. Should I use direct quotes or not? Is there a limit on the number of quotes I can use?
  2. Should I include publication information like the date, name of the publication, author and title of the article?
  3. If so, where should I put the publication information? At the top of the page or in the first paragraph?
  4. Should I use in-text parenthetical citations of the source?

Strategies for Writing Summaries

  1. Put the book or article out of sight, then write notes on what you understood.

    the image of a mapping

  2. Draw a map of the main idea and major details (supporting ideas) or write an outline of the main idea and major details.
  3. Begin the summary with the identifying information, then write the main idea. Sample:

    According to a March 14, 1988 news article in the Houston Post, "Deaf President Named," the selection of I. King Jordan as the first deaf president of Gallaudet University was an exciting event.

  4. It's helpful to use phrases like "according to the author," " the author says" or "the author points out" . . . .