When you’re summarizing, you’re simply trying to express something in fewer words.
Here are your five steps for writing a great summary:
Step 1. Read the original, summarizing each paragraph. When you’ve read a paragraph, write its brief summary in one short sentence using any blank space on the page (or in a notebook if you don’t want to write in your book).
By doing this, you’re creating a list of short paragraph summaries that will eventually summarize the entire article or other piece of writing.
By the time you’re done reading, you will have a pretty good idea of the overall message of the text. And you’ll have a list of supporting points (among which you might even find the main point).
Step 2. Type all these short paragraph summaries into a word processor (Word or any other). Now you have the entire list of paragraph summaries ready to be organized.
Step 3. Organize the paragraph summaries into groups by theme or subject. For example, if you’re summarizing an article about human psychology, then some paragraph summaries will be about thoughts, others about emotions, and still others about knowledge or decision making.
Remember – the writer of the article may or may not have done a great job organizing his own writing. Don’t worry – as long as you’ve made sense of the article’s meaning, you can and should reorganize it yourself into a well-organized summary.
Step 4. Identify the main point and state it in the beginning of your summary.
By the time you’ve grouped the paragraph summaries, these groups should already be complete paragraphs of your summary.
You should already have a pretty good idea of what the main point is. If you don’t, simply look for the most general statement of the entire piece. Remember, sometimes the author doesn’t state the thesis, and it has to be derived.
But most of the time, the thesis (main point) is stated. All you have to do is find it (again, the most general statement is usually the thesis).
Step 5. If you need more words, just add some by expanding some of the sentences or adding more sentences to your summary.
And you’re done!
If you have a particular summarizing challenge, post it as a comment below, and I’ll make sure to respond.