In a previous article, we looked at why summarizing is important and in this piece we’ll show you some practical tips for summarizing information. There are various types of summaries that one can write so the intended purpose will determine the method used to summarize. An executive summary for an assignment will differ slightly from the summary one would produce for a book extract or for study notes. The methods discussed here are primarily for summarizing book chapters, articles and preparing study notes.
Characteristics of a summary
Fact Based – When writing a summary you need to focus on the facts so it’s important to be objective in your approach.
Brief – Keep your summary concise and to the point focusing only the most important details. Keeping it brief will also help with your ability to recall the content in the future.
Easy to understand – The summary is supposed to be simpler version of the original content so the condensed text should be easy to understand. For this reason, it is important that you fully understand the content before writing the summary.
How to write the Summary
Understand the purpose of the content – If you understand the context of what you are about to read, you will be better equipped to pull out the important information that you require, when you read it.
Read the content – With the purpose in mind, read through the content. Highlight or underline the words or phrases which you think are most important. Be careful not to highlight too much content or the benefit of this part of the exercise will be lost. Make sure you understand it. You may need to read it more than once. If you don’t understand something then seek help from someone who can assist you.
Make an Outline – Write an outline for the content using just the main points and key words. A key word is a significant word which can also be a reference point for finding other words or information. If you build your summary with a number of key words which link to each other with further associations, then you will find it easier to assimilate the information and recall it from memory should you need to.
Draft the Summary – With the outline completed, now write a draft summary without referring back to the original content. This will give you an idea of how well you understand it. Be sure to use your own words, don’t simply copy the text as this defeats the purpose.
Summarizing in your own words will help with your understanding and make it easier to remember. If there are specific phrases or definitions which are required then quote them, but bulk copying of the text won’t help you summarize.
Once you have written the summary, compare it with the original text to ensure that it is a true representation as expected. Make any necessary amendments and then compare again. Following the above will help you prepare concise summaries to assist you in your studies.