Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Reading Lessons...



Reading: How to Read and Write a Summary


Lesson Objectives: Enable the students to effectively summarize any reading.

Activity: Read the following two articles about "How to Write a Summary"

ARTICLE 1: "How to Write a Summary"
Preparing to Write: To write a good summary it is important to thoroughly understand the material you are working with. Here are some preliminary steps in writing a summary:

1. Skim the text, noting in your mind the subheadings. If there are no subheadings, try to divide the text into sections. Consider why you have been assigned the text. Try to determine what type of text you are dealing with. This can help you identify important information.

2. Read the text, highlighting important information and taking notes.

3. In your own words, write down the main points of each section.

4. Write down the key support points for the main topic, but do not include minor detail.

5. Go through the process again, making changes as appropriate.

Writing the Summary:
When writing the summary there are three main requirements:

1. The summary should cover the original as a whole.

2. The material should be presented in a neutral fashion.

3. The summary should be a condensed version of the material, presented in your own words.

Also do not include anything that does not appear in the original. (Do not include your own comments or evaluation.) Be sure to identify your source.




ARTICLE 2: "How to Write a Summary"
What is a summary? It is a fairly brief restatement--IN YOUR OWN WORDS--of the contents of a passage.
Strictly speaking, you simply report back what the other writer has said. It is not your job to make value judgments about the "rightness" or "wrongness" of what (s)he says. That would be a different kind of paper--a summary-response, a critique, or a position paper.

While it is hard to give concrete guidelines for length, many good summaries are about 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the original.

What are the steps in writing a summary?

I.  Read through the whole piece--carefully. Annotate (underline, highlight, asterisk, star, flag things; comment in the margins) as you read.

II. When you finish, look back for the 1-2 sentences that state the author's main point. Write it/them down or place some special annotation in the margin of your book.  This is the article's thesis statement. While it may appear early in the essay--the first paragraph or two (as you are taught to locate yours), it may not, in fact, be stated until the end of the piece (almost as if it were a conclusion).

III. Reread the selection, dividing it into sections of thought. Each section may be one paragraph, but, more likely, each section will incorporate several paragraphs.

IV. Write a sentence or two summarizing each section of thought.  If you have trouble doing this, you might try writing a summary sentence for each paragraph and then revising where you see yourself repeating ideas.

V.  Write a first draft of your summary, including the following items:

A.  In the first sentence or two--
1.  the author's name.
2.  the article's or chapter's name (perhaps even the magazine's or book's name in which the article or chapter appeared).
3.  the author's thesis statement.
***Here's an example: "In our excerpt from The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman argues that the real purpose of a university education is to help students become wise, enable each one to understand as much as possible of the world in which (s)he lives and to see clearly how each piece of knowledge relates to each other piece of knowledge."
B.  Next, your summary sentences for each paragraph or section. Put them in the same order that the author presents the essay, because you are, after all, simply reporting back what (s)he says.
C.  You should make every effort to put the author's ideas into your own words--to avoid plagiarism. However, you may occasionally want to quote a point directly from the author. That's okay; just be sure to place quotation marks around what you have borrowed and cite your page number.

D.  Occasional supporting details, if and only if they are the most significant ones.

VI.  Check your draft against the original piece for accuracy.
VII.  Revise the summary to "smooth out" its choppiness. In other words, link your section summary sentences together with good transitional words or phrases (like in addition, moreover, on the other hand, however, finally).

VIII.  Proofread and spellcheck.



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