Effective summary writing skills are crucial in any discipline. For this reason, you will be involved in writing numerous summaries in the course of your study.
While writing a summary paper should not be as challenging as writing a research paper, term essay or other paper types, it is not always a walk in the park for many students. As much as writing a summary paper/essay should be easy, it is time-consuming and may prove challenging, especially when you cannot understand the primary text.
More so, writing a summary may be challenging if you are short on time. Effective summary essay writing is highly dependent on having sufficient time to read and analyze a text to decipher the major points.
Another major problem in writing an excellent summary paper for most students is the lack of effective writing skills and relevant guidance on the same. It’s rare to find an institution that gives concrete writing assistance to students due to the high student-instructor ratio. Also, an increasing number of students are opting for online classes making is hard for them to interact with instructors for guidance and mentorship on academic writing.
These challenges and several others not mentioned leave most students at a losing position when it comes to writing a perfect summary essay. Most end up with questions such as:
- How do I start a summary?
- What is a summary question and how do I answer it?
- How long does a summary have to be?
- What should not be in a summary?
- What are the steps to write a summary?
- How do you summarize an article?
These are just some of the common concerns that we encounter concerning summary essay writing. In this post, you are going to learn all that it takes to write the perfect summary essay.
What is a Summary Paper?
A summary is a comprehensive and concise paraphrase of all the main points in an essay, article or any other academic format paper. Basically, writing a summary is mainly presenting an overview of a piece of reading. The summary gives an insight into the whole research article to the reader in a descriptive manner.
There are two types of summaries, depending on their purpose:
- Reader Summary: This is a summary that you write to understand a piece of reading better
- Summary Essay/Paper: This is a summary of a given piece of reading addressed to a specific audience. It presents an overview of the research article, essay or any other piece of reading.
- Summary question: This is a question that is answered based on your understanding of a given text.
The objective of writing any summary is to convey your comprehension of a piece of reading either to others. You can also write a summary to capture your understanding of a piece of writing.
What is a Summary Question?
As stated earlier, a summary question is simply a question that should be answered based on your comprehension of a given text. The question should be answered in your own words but based on your understanding of a given text. Apart from answering a summary question, you should also be keen to ensure that you remain within the premises of the question.
A common mistake that students do is to express everything they noted in a reading. This is simply wrong!
You might also write a lot yet expressing too little. Be precise when answering a summary question. It will only serve you right to do so!
A crucial requirement when answering a summary question is that the answer should be expressed in your own words – unless, of course, you are directed otherwise because the objective of any type of summary paper is to showcase your understanding of a text. Hence, you cannot copy-paste the text and claim to have understood its content.
How to Start a Summary Paper Writing Process
The start of writing an effective summary is preparing your mind for summary writing by:
- Understanding What is Required
Understand what the summary essay task instructions require. Is there a preferred approach to writing your summary paper? Are you summarizing the whole reading or just a section of it, such as the introduction, method or discussion section? Understanding the premises of writing your summary essay is essential in ensuring that you do not digress.
This stage also entails understanding the purpose of the summary essay. Scan your summary essay assignment to understand whether you are writing a summary to showcase your understanding or to highlight major points of a research paper to a specific audience. Understanding the audience of your paper is crucial in knowing how to approach your summary essay as well as the tone and language to use. That said, be keen on understanding your audience to know whether you will use a simplified language for the public or professional jargon if you are addressing, say, professionals in the field.
- Scanning the Reading
This stage is basically reviewing the text you will be summarizing briefly. It helps you from being bogged down trying to read the whole of the text when writing the summary essay.
This involves a brief review of the research question, purpose of the study, the hypothesis, the method section, the findings and their subsequent interpretation. You only need to do a comprehensive skimming of the text not necessarily reading everything. The objective is to have an idea of what the paper is talking about.
Here is when you engage your subconscious mind relative to your summary essay instruction in consideration of what you obtained when skimming through the text. Subconscious mind is actively involved in solving problems and gives you a better understanding and analysis of a situation.
The creativity level obtained by activating your sub-conscious mind is also high. For this reason, you need to engage your subconscious mind when writing your summary essay to give you an idea of how to start your summary essay, what to include, the approach to take and so forth.
It will serve you right noting down the ideas you get during this stage. They will help you when developing an outline for your summary essay.
As far as activating your sub-conscious is concerned, all you need is to identify an activity that does so. For instance, some people claim to activate their subconscious when half asleep, listening to music, walking and so forth. You only have to find your ‘thing’ in this case since there not much we can do to help.
Now that you have prepared your mind for the summary essay writing process, it is high time to write your paper. Below is a step-by-step guide on the process of writing an excellent summary essay.
Process of Writing a Summary Paper
- Read the Text
This is where you do an in-depth reading of the text. At this stage, you want to note the main points. Reading the text several times will be essential as well.
It is advisable to read the text interactively. You can do so by asking yourself questions as you read through your text. Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- Are the results convincing?
- Which is the one critical findings of the study?
- Does the study answer the research question comprehensively?
- What are some of the aspects of the research question that remain unanswered, if any?
- What are the implications of the research findings?
Reading the text interactively will help you note some of the aspects that someone else reading the article might note. It is your ability to note such elements that makes your research essay good.
- Develop an Outline
The importance of having an outline for any writing task cannot be overemphasized. A comprehensive outline ensures that your essay meets your research essay instructions. It also helps you achieve excellent logical progression of ideas while writing your summary essay.
Plagiarism is one monster that each writer dreads. The risk of plagiarism is far much higher when writing a summary paper because your writing is dependent on one source only. Having an outline significantly helps you avoid plagiarism.
- Do Some Extra Studies
If you decide to write your summary essay right after outlining your writing approach, you are likely to experience writer’s block or even fail to appreciate the essence of your text.
It’s always advisable to go the extra mile and do some outside study on the topic of the research study that you will be summarizing to give you a more holistic and deeper understanding of the topic.
Besides, you will be in a much better place writing your summary essay while having some extra information. You will be able to assess the text you are summarizing relative to its strengths and weaknesses especially when you are writing an analytical summary essay.
- Write the Shitty First Draft
The main reason that many writers experience writer’s block is due to fear of starting and the obsession with their first draft being perfect. Such will always hinder you from being a good writer. On the contrary, set yourself up to write a shitty first draft.
Never mind how your paper will sound at first. Just write what is in your mind as long as it correlates with what you have in your outline. The first draft will never be perfect – maybe in one or two occasions. But, you should never mind how well you write your first draft as long as you follow the outline and write in accordance with the objective of the essay or the summary question.
The first draft should prioritize the content. Let the content of your paper seek to answer your summary question or met the objective of the paper. The rest, such as writing a captivating introduction, or an effective conclusion, should be the last issues of concern to you.
- Edit Your Paper
This is your chance to check your paper for accuracy and completeness. Ensure that you check all the nitty-gritties of your paper such as:
- The introduction is captivating
- The conclusion is convincing
- The essay’s style if optimized for easy follow-up
- The content is grammatically correct
- Remover wordy sections and ensure the language is concrete
- The tone of your essay is considerate of the intended audience and so forth
Once your summary essay is edited to perfection, you are set to submit it being certain you have perfectly covered the requirements of your writing assignment.
Research Summary Structure
Are you wondering what the structure of a research summary is? Well, no one should tell you that a research summary has a concrete structure that should be followed.
The structure of a research summary is primarily dependent on the instructions of your assignment as well as the type of reading you are summarizing.
For instance, in case you are working on a research paper, you may adopt the structure of the paper with each section providing a brief overview of the corresponding section in the text.
How Long is a Summary Essay?
Similar to the structure of a summary essay, there is no standard length of a summary paper. The length of the summary essay that you write will depend on the text that you are summarizing as well as the instructions given.
The instructions of your summary essay assignment take precedence in this case. If you are directed to write a 1-page summary essay, 2-page summary paper and so on, you definitely want to stick to such a requirement.
In the case when your instructor has not specified how long your summary essay should be, you have to assess to determine what is the most convenient length of your summary essay.
A simple way of knowing how long your summary assignment should be is by examining the length of the text you will be reviewing. In this case, your summary essay should be about a third or less of the length of the text you are summarizing.
What Should or Shouldn’t Be Included in a Summary Essay
- An excellent summary should provide a comprehensive overview of the main idea of a given text – each main idea in a paragraph should be provided unless it’s not relevant.
- A summary essay should not include external information. Everything should be based on the text being summarized.
- No conclusion is needed unless when writing an analytical summary or a review is needed because most summary essays don’t need evaluations, criticism or analysis. However, you may need a conclusion occasionally.
- An excellent summary should be paraphrased and not copy-pasted – similarly, you should not just rearrange the text but rather write it in a manner that shows you read and understood a given text.
This piece has provided you with all the crucial information you need to be a perfect writer as far as writing summary essays is concerned. However, it is no surprise to encounter some challenges writing an excellent summary essay.
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