Formal Summary

Formal Summary

The ability to effectively summarize information into a more concise and readable form is a highly valued skill. Good summaries are valuable because they keep busy readers informed without demanding more time than necessary to get the information they need.

How to write a summary:

· Skim the text to get a general idea.

· Carefully read the original text. Highlight important information or make notes in the margins (annotate) for every paragraph. If there are repeated words/phrases, underline them. They usually carry important information. Make sure you understand the passage and the author’s purpose.

· If there is an explicit thesis statement, underline it. If the passage does not have an explicit thesis, write the main idea of the passage in your own words.

· Write down the main idea of each paragraph in a single sentence using your own words.

· Write down the key supporting points for the main ideas only if necessary. Imagine someone who has not read the original text. Will s/he be able to understand your summary?

· Go through the process again, making necessary changes.

· Start putting the sentences together.

Important points to remember:

· Include the author’s name and title of the work in the first sentence of your summary.

· The first sentence: Author + title of article + purpose + main idea (the AUTHOR’S idea, not yours)


In “The Reason College Costs More than You Think”, Jon Marcus reports that a major reason why college educations are so expensive is the amount of time students stay in college.

· Include the author’s credentials, if you have that information when you first mention the author’s name:


In “Always Living in Spanish,” Spanish professor Marjorie Agostin describes her need to connect to her childhood by writing in Spanish.

· Next, include only the most important supporting ideas. Summaries are only about 25% of the original!

· Do NOT include specific details.

E.g. for the article “The reason College Costs More than You Think” mentioned above, a good example of the summary would be the following:

In “The Reason College Costs More than You Think”, Jon Marcus reports that a major reason why college educations are so expensive is the amount of time students stay in college. Although almost all first-year students and their families assume that earning a bachelor’s degree will take four years, the reality is that more than half of all students take longer, with many taking six or more. This delay happens for many reasons, including students changing majors, having to take developmental courses, taking fewer courses per term than they could have, and being unable to register for required courses. As a result, their expenses are much greater – financial aid seldom covers a fifth or sixth year, so students must borrow money to finish – and the additional time they spend in college is time they aren’t working, leading to significant losses in wages.

· Don’t distort the author’s ideas. Don’t include your own opinions or feelings.

· Use logic and transitions to connect the ideas of the summary to make the paragraph cohesive.

· Use your own words. Use quotations only when absolutely necessary. If you use quotations, cite.

· Cite the summary under Works Cited.

Use Reporting Verbs: (Choose the reporting verb that makes sense for your reading passage)

agree complain emphasize note see

analyze concede explain observe show

argue conclude find offer speculate

ask consider focus point out state

assert contend grant propose suggest

assume declare give refute support

believe demonstrate illustrate report suppose

claim deny imply reveal think

comment describe insist say theorize

confirm discuss maintain write

For the length of your reading passages, your summary will usually be one paragraph. For longer summaries, periodically remind the reader that you are, in fact, summarizing another author. To do this, use a summary reminder phrase like the ones listed below:

· The author goes on to say that …· Bradley also states/maintains/argues that …
· The article further states that …· Leki concludes that …
· The author further argues that …


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