How Do You Write a Summary?

To write a summary, read the original text carefully, highlight the main points, and write down the main arguments in your own words. Use complete sentences to convey the main points and quote the author. Summaries may be as short as two sentences or as long as several pages.

A summary does not have to be as detailed as the original text. In most cases, a summary removes minor details but maintains the order of the original text. Before writing the summary, a student should read the original passage and make notes in the margins of the text or on another document. If summarizing an entire document, the student should first outline the arguments of the author and then use the present tense to explain the main points to the audience.

Summaries use quotes sparingly and introduce information using the last name of the author as a tag. The content of the summary depends on whether it is a true or an interpretative summary. While a true summary sums up the main points of a text in a neutral narrative, an interpretative summary recaps the main points and gives an assessment of the material. In either case, a summary should consider the needs of the audience and demonstrate an understanding of the original text.