In an academic or professional setting, the ability to effectively summarize the main points of a text, lecture, meeting, film, etc. is an essential skill. As with any written assignment, it is necessary to consider your purpose, audience and goals before attempting to write a summary.

  1. Purpose: To reduce a text or lecture down to its main points.
  2. Audience: The audience is someone who has not read the article/essay you are summarizing. You must provide them with enough information so that they will grasp the main concepts and/or most essential information from the original text.
  3. Goals:
    • to demonstrate that you have understood the key points of the text or lecture
    • to distinguish between key information and non-essential details, figures, dates, etc
    • to paraphrase the main points without changing or losing key information

Below is a list of criteria for a well-written summary. Familiarize yourself with these points and use this as a checklist for future assignments. If your summary does not meet any or all of the criteria in the list, the assignment is not ready for submission.

  • A Summary...
    • is concise, not wordy. A good summary is clear and direct; avoid overly complex or flowery language.
    • is clear to someone who has not read the original essay or article. Always assume the reader is unfamiliar with the material you are summarizing.
    • maintains good paragraph structure, with a topic sentence identifying the title and author, if possible. It must be clear to the reader that he or she is not reading original material.
    • gives the main points and only the main points—only what the reader needs. Try to omit unnecessary details, dates, figures, etc.
    • paraphrases, with no direct quotes from the original source. Do not copy and paste; use your own words.
    • presents the information in the same order as the original, if possible.
    • is objective. Do not include your opinion in the summary.