Pfeiffer Library

Writing a Summary

  • About this Guide
  • What Is a Summary?
  • Getting Started
  • Components of a Summary Essay

Further Reading

This article provides additional guidance for writing an abstract:

Leggett, T. (2018). Getting to the Heart of the Matter: How to Write an Abstract.  Radiologic Technology ,  89 (4), 416–418.

Common Attributes of a Summary

The dos of summaries:.

Whether you are writing an essay that is completely a summary, or the summary is one small component of a different style of writing, every summary that you write should include:

  • The name of the author
  • The title of the work
  • The main ideas of the work
  • Definitions of key terms

Summary essays specifically should also include:

  • An introduction paragraph
  • A strong thesis statement that focuses on the main idea or purpose of the work
  • Body paragraphs that support that thesis
  • A conclusion paragraph that ties it all together

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How to write a good summary essay: best tips.


Steps for Writing a Summary Essay

  • Thoroughly read and study the original text. When you read it, get a feeling for the author’s style, tone and mood, and try to identify the main ideas expressed.
  • Divide the text into several sections, and sketch a rough outline. Breaking the text into several parts will make the material easier to grasp. Then read each part once more, but this time highlight some of the key points. Mark areas you want to refer to in your summary, as well as those that shouldn’t be included in your essay.
  • When you have a clear understanding of the information in each part of the source, write down the main idea in each section in the form of a short overview.
  • Write an introduction. It should briefly present the main ideas in the original text. The introduction should include the name of the author, the title of their work, and some background information about the author, if needed.
  • In the main body paragraphs, state the ideas you’ve chosen while reading the text. Expand on them by including one or more examples from the original text. Include important information only and avoid describing minor, insignificant points.
  • After you have summarized the main ideas in the original text, your essay is finished. A conclusion paragraph should be added if your teacher specifically tells you to include one.

Summary Essay Topics

You can write a summary essay on a scientific work, an interesting article, a novel, or a research paper. This type of essay can be on any subject. For example, you might want to write a summary essay on:

  • Catcher in the Rye (book)
  • Citizen Kane (film)
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (book)
  • Captain Fantastic (film)
  • Lord of the Rings (book)
  • Song of Two Humans (film)
  • Of Mice and Men (book)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (film)
  • Moby Dick (book)
  • Ben Hurr (film)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • A movie by Ingmar Bergman
  • A novel by Jack London
  • The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
  • An article in The New York Times
  • A blog post of a famous journalist

Key Points to Consider

  • One of the most important aspects about a summary essay is its connection to the source. Keep in mind that your interpretation of the source can mislead your readers or even distort the meaning of the original text.
  • Your summary essay should serve as a substitute for the original source; by reading your summary essay, a reader should be able to develop an understanding of the original work.
  • This type of essay is about summarizing the original text, not criticizing it.

All of this means that you need to thoroughly read and analyze the text you are going to describe. In case you don’t have time for that, you can get extra help. Browsing through an essay writing company review can give you an idea where better to find it.

Do and Don’t

Common mistakes.

– Including too much or too little information in your essay. – Forgetting to cite quotations, so that the words of the original texts’ author looks like your own. – Concentrating on insignificant details, examples, and anecdotes. – Trying to interpret or explain what the author wanted to say in his or her work. You must give a concise overview of the source, not present your own interpretation.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic summary essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our summary essay samples to link theory with practice.

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Goals and Goal Setting

Goals Common to All RST Writers

Other Goals to Consider

Defining My Own Goals

Advice about Assignments

Getting Started: Listing Topics to Write about in the Tutorial

Narrative One: Personal Piece on a Significant Experience

Narrative Two: Academic Piece on a Significant Experience

Summary/Response One

Summary/Response Two

Tutorial Evaluation Postscript

On Using the Resources for Writers

Generating and Developing Ideas

Finding/Expressing Main Ideas

Showing v. Telling Sentences

Focusing Topic Sentences

Thesis Statements

Reading Strategies

Assessing Your Reading Strategies


Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays

Discourse Analysis Worksheet

Trade Magazines

Selecting Readings

A summary is a concise paraphrase of all the main ideas in an essay. It cites the author and the title (usually in the first sentence); it contains the essay's thesis and supporting ideas; it may use direct quotation of forceful or concise statements of the author's ideas; it will NOT usually cite the author's examples or supporting details unless they are central to the main idea. Most summaries present the major points in the order that the author made them and continually refer back to the article being summarized (i.e. "Damon argues that ..." or "Goodman also points out that ... "). The summary should take up no more than one-third the length of the work being summarized.

The Response:

A response is a critique or evaluation of the author's essay. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions in relation to the article being summarized. It examines ideas that you agree or disagree with and identifies the essay's strengths and weaknesses in reasoning and logic, in quality of supporting examples, and in organization and style. A good response is persuasive; therefore, it should cite facts, examples, and personal experience that either refutes or supports the article you're responding to, depending on your stance.

Two Typical Organizational Formats for Summary/Response Essays:

1. Present the summary in a block of paragraphs, followed by the response in a block:

Intro/thesis Summary (two to three paragraphs) Agreement (or disagreement) Disagreement (or agreement) Conclusion

Note: Some essays will incorporate both agreement and disagreement in a response, but this is not mandatory.

2. Introduce the essay with a short paragraph that includes your thesis. Then, each body paragraph summarizes one point and responds to it, and a conclusion wraps the essay up.

Intro/thesis Summary point one; agree/disagree Summary point two; agree/disagree Summary point three; agree/disagree Conclusion

The Difference between an Essay and a Summary

If you sat down to write your essay and realized that what you've been assigned to write is a summary, you may be asking yourself what the difference is. Don't worry, there are just a few things you need to know.

What is an Essay?

Essay vs. Summary

An essay is a short, informative piece of writing that requires an introduction with a thesis statement that explains the writer's point in writing the essay. The introduction is followed by a body of at least three paragraphs with topic sentences that relate back to the thesis statement and expand on it. Finally, an essay should end with a conclusion that sums up the points and explains why those points led the writer to the conclusions they made on the topic.

Traditionally, an essay comes in four basic types: expository, descriptive, narrative, and persuasive. While essays are short in length, they should fully lay out the writer's thoughts in a concise way.

What is A Summary?

While an essay includes a summary at the end, the definitions of an essay and a summary are quite different. A summary is usually a very short piece of writing that is concise yet thorough. When all the main points in a piece of writing are explained in a much shorter way, a summary is complete.

What Should You Include in Each?

For most essays, you should include relevant information from outside sources and a bibliography or works cited page that gives proper credit to the writers of those sources. A clear thesis statement is key, as every essay should have a point that's easy to understand to anyone reading your essay. You should also include a summary of all your main points.

A summary should include only a quick recap of what's written in your essay or any other piece of writing you're summarizing. Give only the main points and a brief description of why they're important without expanding on them or adding additional commentary not found in the writing itself. A summary is never the place to introduce new information.

If you've been assigned a summary to write, your teacher or professor just wants to know that you understood the writing and were able to clearly identify the most relevant points. For an essay, you're being asked to offer new thoughts or information in a way that is solely yours.

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How to Write a Summary for Essays, Articles, and Books

As you’ve already guessed, today’s blog post is the ultimate guide on how to write a summary for different papers.

Not only will you learn about four academic summary types, their purpose, and their proper formatting, but you’ll also master the art of summary writing step by step and get answers to all the frequently asked questions on the topic.

Here we go! (It won’t take much time, we promise.)


Table of Contents:

  • What is a summary?
  • Descriptive vs. evaluative summaries
  • How to write a summary, step by step
  • Four types of academic summaries: writing tips
  • How to format a summary
  • Frequently asked questions

What is a Summary?

In plain English, it’s a brief paragraph summarizing a bigger work: an article, a scientific paper, a book, a movie’s plot, etc. The purpose is to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of the asset:

You gather the main ideas of an essay , a book, a film, etc., and provide the overview for the reader to know what it’s about. You mention critical details and information there but avoid sharing your personal opinion about the work.

It’s also critical to understand the difference between a summary and an abstract :

An abstract is a summary type , used when writing academic texts like theses, dissertations, and research journal articles. It summarizes the whole text in the very beginning. Like this:


A summary works elsewhere in academic writing:

It can be a stand-alone assignment or a part of your essay, book critique , literature review, annotated bibliography, etc.

When writing an academic paper , summaries can be your way to integrate sources: Besides using quotes or paraphrases from the original text, you can provide an overview of the whole text before analyzing it.

Below is an example of a summary overviewing this work :

Descriptive vs. Evaluative Summaries

It’s also worth noting that summaries can be of two types: descriptive and evaluative. In most cases, you’ll write descriptive summaries while in school or college; however, a teacher can assign an evaluative summary as a stand-alone task to check your critical thinking or analysis skills.

What’s the difference between these two summary types?

  • You write a descriptive summary to tell the reader about the content of the original text. The focus is on the main points and critical supporting details; you convey the work’s essential elements via a concise description without expressing your opinion on it.

Usually, descriptive summaries go as a part of assignments in college. They are short paragraphs you mention in essays or reviews before analyzing them, or you place summaries in your annotated bibliographies when telling about the sources you used to craft your paper.

  • You write an evaluative summary to examine the original text’s usefulness, argumentation, and other elements. While the facts about the original texts are still present here (the author, the title, and the main points), evaluative summaries are also opinion-heavy. You evaluate the original, detailing your perception of its purpose, intended audience, usefulness, etc.

Usually, evaluative summaries go as stand-alone assignments like, say, rhetorical precis . They are longer works than typical descriptive summaries because they involve extensive explanations where you examine the author’s points and evaluate them.

How to Write a Summary: 7 Short Steps

And now, to business:

Here’s how to write a summary, step by step. Not only will it save your time and increase the effectiveness of your study, but it will also help develop good note-focus thinking, speed up the learning process, and understand the material better.

The 7 steps in writing a summary are:

  • Read the original
  • Get the main idea
  • Reread, take notes
  • Organize notes
  • Write a thesis
  • Write a summary draft
  • Proofread and revise if necessary


1 – Read the Original

The first step is the most obvious: Read the original text you’ll need to summarize later. Do not take notes while reading; your goal is to get the writer’s style and tone and grasp the main idea (s) they convey.

Read it two times if necessary. Practice smart reading here: You should understand the author’s point and the problems covered.

2- Get the Main Idea

Once done, take your time and analyze what you’ve read. You need to identify the original text’s main idea (central point); otherwise, you won’t be able to summarize the work.

How to identify the main idea?

Three ways:

  • Eliminate minor details and examples so you wouldn’t mistake them for main ideas. The 5Ws rule can help here: find the “what, who, when, why, and where” of the text to identify its core elements.
  • Identify the order in which the author presents the information. It can be two methods: (1) main idea – example, when a point goes first and its clarification – afterward; (2) example – main idea, when the author introduces cues together with a point.
  • Make a guess at which is the main idea, and then check whether the original text’s details support it.

3 – Reread, Take Notes

Now it’s time for active reading. You’ve identified the main ideas and points, so reread the original text again and note what you’ll include in your summary.

Ensure you separate facts from opinions. Highlight the topic sentences, critical quotes, data, and events.

4 – Organize Notes

For efficient summary writing, it would help to organize notes so you could indicate relationships between pieces of information. Feel free to try the following methods:

List the main idea (s), with numbered or bullet points for supporting details; it will make the outline clear .


  • Diagrammatic layout

Super useful for future recall, it represents the essential relationship between the man and supporting ideas. Here’s how to organize notes with this method:


This one is among the most popular ways to visualize research : You place the main topic at the center, craft the supporting details around it, and extend less important information further in branches. Like this:


5 – Write a Thesis

In summary, a thesis statement goes for a one-sentence claim highlighting the original text’s main idea. It demonstrates that you understand the original.

Generating a thesis is critical, especially if you write a book summary. Our free online tool can make this process easier for you.

6 – Write a Summary Draft

Use your thesis statement as the first sentence of your summary. Remember that you write a short version of a larger work: Stick to the 1/4 length of the original.

Consider linking words to maintain the information flow, and remember that you write in your own words. Use a so-called “summarizing language” reminding the reader it’s a summary. Try phrases like “The author suggests,” “The article claims,” etc.

Avoid direct quotes; paraphrase, not plagiarize .

Stay objective: Describe, not evaluate or share your opinion about the work. Write a summary in the present tense.

What to include in a summary:

  • An opening line listing the author’s name, work title, and overall idea
  • Main points or ideas the author conveys. Avoid tiny details; there’s no need to provide every aspect of the original text in your summary
  • A closing line where you restate the overview in one sentence


7 – Proofread and Revise If Necessary

Now that your summary is ready, do your best to edit it before submitting it to a professor. Reread the draft several times and make changes if necessary. Don’t hesitate to ask someone to check your summary and provide feedback.

Professional editing service is worth trying if you are still unsure if your paper is A-worthy.

The checklist to consider while revising:

  • Your summary has a title.
  • The summary is short.
  • You’ve covered all the critical points from the original text.
  • You’ve used your own words: There are no direct quotes or plagiarism.
  • Your summary doesn’t include your own ideas, opinions, or interpretations.

Also, remember to proofread your summary to prevent tiny typos and grammar mistakes.

Four Types of Academic Summaries: Writing Tips

As you’ve already got it (we hope!), summaries can be different: descriptive and evaluative, super short or longer — they highlight the original work’s essence for the reader to understand the meaning without unnecessary details.

Speaking of the academic world, four main types of summaries exist:

  • Summary papers
  • Annotated bibliographies
  • Academic notes
  • Summaries within essays

Each of them requires slightly different things. Below are the details:

1 – Summary Papers

A summary paper is longer than other forms of summary: It reminds a descriptive essay where your entire work is a summary of the original text: an article, a book, or a report.

Your teacher can ask you to write a summary paper to see how well you understand a reading assignment. The point is to help you digest reading so you can tell about it in your own words.

While summary papers are longer than other types of academic summaries, you can describe more details there but still focus on the most critical ones. As a rule, this summary is 1/4 length of the original text. Thus, if you need to summarize the full book, your paper may be 3-4 pages long.

2 – Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources you’ve used for research, with a short paragraph about each one.

Annotations are more like evaluative summaries, requiring a specific style of writing. Here you’ll need to summarize the source and explain why it’s relevant and critical for your paper’s topic.

An annotation starts with a summary: You’ll have 2-3 sentences to represent the original work, so it matters to focus on the essential information it says.

Here’s our ultimate guide to help you: How to Write an Annotated Bibliography: Formats, Types, Steps

3 – Academic Notes

This type is about summarizing the original work (a lecture, a discussion, a lesson) in the form of personal notes.

You write academic notes for yourself, writing down the critical information a teacher says during a lecture. While it seems easy, it’s still about finding the balance between what to note and what to ignore.

  • Focus on what your professor writes on a board.
  • Refer to a textbook: What does it summarize about the topic?
  • Decide how often you’ll make notes: Will it be one point per minute or maybe one point per five minutes?

4 – Summaries Within Essays

It’s the most common type of academic summary: a quick one within the body of another assignment. For example, when you write argumentative or critical essays, you’ll need to introduce some sources to explain your arguments.

Such summaries are super short: 2-3 sentences for the reader to get an idea of the work before you move on to the specific parts that support your point.


How to Format a Summary: Tips

Summaries don’t have any specific format. As a rule, it’s a paragraph including the introductory sentence, the original text’s main ideas, and the final sentence wrapping up (rephrasing) the main point.

Below are some writing tips on how to format a summary:

  • Make it a paragraph.
  • Start with a sentence specifying the original text’s title, author, and main point.
  • Use your own words, don’t cite the original.
  • Avoid sharing your thoughts or interpretations about the work you summarize. Use an objective tone.
  • Specify critical sub-points the author used to support the main point. If you decide to quote them, mention the paragraph number after each point, thus specifying where it was in the original. (See the example.)
  • Wrap up your summary in the last sentence: restate the main point.

How to format a summary: Example

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long is a summary.

The length can range from a few sentences to several paragraphs, depending on the assignment type, the purpose of the summary, and the length of the original work itself. As a rule, summaries are 1/4 length of the original text.

How many sentences are in the summary?

If your summary is a paragraph, it will be around 5-8 sentences : an introductory one, a few ones specifying the author’s points, and a final one wrapping up everything.

What should a summary include?

A summary includes an introductory sentence with the original work’s title, author name, and overview; then comes 3-5 sentences specifying the work’s main ideas; finally, the last sentence comes: it concludes the whole summary, rephrasing the main idea of the original text.

What assignments involve writing a summary?

A summary can be a stand-alone assignment (a summary paper) when you write a descriptive essay on the material you’ve read. Also, summaries are present in annotated bibliographies, some academic papers to support arguments, presentations, and personal notes a student takes during a lecture or a class discussion.

How to format a summary?

Write a summary as a paragraph, using your own words and specifying the main ideas of the original text. The first sentence will include the text’s title, author, and overview. The following 3-5 sentences specify the core ideas, and the last sentence wraps up everything. Do your best to avoid personal thoughts, interpretations, or comments in a summary.

How to write a summary for an essay?

Read the original text and figure out the main idea (point). Start a summary with a sentence about the work’s title, author name, and main idea. For example, “In his essay, Inside Out, John Smith covers the problem of multiple personality disorder .” After that, write about the core points the author represents; conclude by rephrasing the main idea of the essay you summarize.

How to write a summary of an article?

Make your summary about 1/3 length of the article. State the main ideas, identify the critical supporting details, and express the article’s meaning. Avoid copying phrases unless you use a direct quotation; if so, mention the paragraph number from where the quote comes.

How to write a summary of a book?

First, ensure you make notes while reading: It will help you remember the characters and core points and then identify which ones to include in a summary. Focus on introducing the characters and establishing the setting in your summary’s introduction; write about the “problem” of the book in the body; end your summary with resolving the book’s problem.

Who can help me write a summary?

You can address social media groups or forums on writing to ask members to assist you and explain how to write a summary. Or, feel free to ask Bid4Papers professional writers : we are here 24/7 to improve your writing skills and help you get better grades.

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How to Write A Summary Essay? 7 Easy Steps & Common Mistakes

We all do essay writing in our college life. Too much content in your essay to remember? Easy, the summary essays are there for that!

Ah, the summary… the students’ best friend! With the large number of materials that need to be assimilated in a short time, proofreading can be a little complicated. But, thankfully, the summary essay is there to help us remember what is most important to know in each content.

There are two basic kinds of summary:

  • Reader Summary: You need to explain what you have read to make people understand that better.
  • Summary Essay: It is mostly written for other readers that is a summary of a legitimate resource. The primary reason behind writing a summary essay is that the readers get to know the detailed overview of that particular resource. It is beneficial for readers who do not wish to read the complete original text.

Cool huh? But I must warn you: knowing how to summarize an essay is not that easy. As you already know the importance of this ally when studying, I elaborated the steps to write a summary essay outline! I got these tips when I asked someone to write my essay. Come with me:

How to write a summary essay

Steps to Write A Summary Essay

1. read and reread the text.

How to start a summary essay? The first thing you should know is that preparing a summary is also a way of studying – after all, to prepare it, you need to be well in tune with the subject. You need to examine and observe that unique text. Ideally, you must read and reread the text a few times to make sure you understand everything correctly. While reading, try to sense the vogue, tone, and mood of the author. Also, try to catch and sense the primary ideas that the author wants to express. Enjoy the moment you are studying the subject! Doing some exercises may benefit to some extent.

2. Search for the most important concepts and fundamental points of the text

Now that you have read your essay a few times, you must be prepared to highlight- what is most important, that is its essence. You should try to search for some keywords on the subject, help you get organized, and highlight what is most important in the essay. You must sketch a random outline for the text after breaking down the original text into various parts. It would be easy for you to grasp when you break the text into several sections.

Then read those sections once again to mark a few key points. Highlight those texts you want to refer to in your summary section and not in the essay you write.

For example, if you are doing a Physics summary on thermology, the keywords can be heat, temperature, expansion, the study of gases, Kelvin scale, etc.

Besides gathering the keywords, you can also highlight the essential items and phrases for understanding that content, or even what you can’t escape from being decorated.

For example, in an exact story, the formulas will be essential, and, of course, they must be included in the summary.

Likewise, In History, you can highlight some names of protagonists of historical facts (for example, Robespierre in the French Revolution or Otto von Bismarck in German unification); and some very representative dates (like 1945, the year in that ended World War II).

Similarly, in geography, basic concepts cannot be left out, especially in geophysics.

Attention! When looking for the summary essay’s fundamental parts, you will need to have some text interpretation skills. There is no point in underlining or emphasizing the entire text, so it is necessary to understand what is essential in the middle of those words—access here a guide on how we can help you improve your interpretation.

3. Organize the main ideas

Now is the time to organize what you understand about the subject. With the most important keywords and formulas, names, and dates, it’s time to guide the summary you will write. To do this, try to answer two questions:

  • What is being said in your essay?
  • How would I explain this to anyone?

When you have gathered complete knowledge about every portion of the text, pen down a short review on the main idea every part of the text wants to convey.

It is also important to list the subject on topics that you consider important (if it is a summary of History, do it in chronological order of events). This is where you can “draw” a small outline for the subject, stipulating several main concepts, like three or four, so you don’t put too many things in the summary.

4. Introduction

After following the above guidelines, the next step for you would be to write an introduction for a summary essay. It should give a brief about ideas conveyed in every section of the original text. Here, you must include the author’s name, their work title. If required, you may also include a little background about the author.

5. Main body paragraphs

In that passage, compose the idea you encountered while reading those texts in every section. You can expand them by mentioning one or more as provided in that original text. Remember to mention only the vital information and not those that may be irrelevant.

6. Conclusion paragraph

After you ended summarizing the primary ideas behind the text, your essay might be completed. On your teacher’s advice, you must include a conclusion paragraph at the end of your essay.

7. Write the text with your words

Get to work! It’s time to write your summary essay. You have read and reread the text, highlighted the most important words or formulas, already listed the most important topics. You must be almost an expert on the subject. After all that, writing will be easy. Take the subject by the general basics and then move on to the specific subjects within that subject.

Summary Essay Topics

You can write down a Summary essay on:

  • A research journal
  • Any interesting article
  • Summary of any scientific work

It can be on any subject. For example, you might want to write a summary essay on:

  • A blog post of a famous journalist
  • A movie by Ingmar Bergman
  • A novel by Jack London
  • An article in The New York Times
  • Ben Hurr (A film)
  • Captain Fantastic (A film)
  • Catcher in the Rye (A book)
  • Citizen Kane (A film)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (A book)
  • Lord of the Rings (A book)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (A film)
  • Moby Dick (A book)
  • Of Mice and Men (A book)
  • Song of Two Humans (A film)
  • The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

Key Points to Consider for Summary Essay

  • The foremost vital aspect of a summary essay is its association with the topic. Remember that your translation of the source text will mislead the readers or even twist what the original text signifies.
  • Your summary essay should be represented as an alternative to the original text. Readers must easily gather correct information about the original text by reading and analyzing your summary of the source.
  • A summary is all about summing up the original text and not finding faults.

Do’s and Don’t’s in Summary Essay

Common mistakes in summary essay.

  • Mentioning excessive or insufficient amount of information in your essay.
  • Not referring to the citations with the goal that the expressions of the original text resemble your own.
  • Emphasizing inconsequential information and examples.
  • Attempting to decipher or clarify what the author wanted to say. You need to provide a concise summary of the source and not represent your own understanding.

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When people hear about a new book or movie, they often look it up on the internet to learn what it is about. They usually find a  summary  of the source, which tells them whether they will like it. 

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When people hear about a new book or movie, they often look it up on the internet to learn what it is about. They usually find a summary of the source, which tells them whether they will like it.

A summary is an overview of a source's main ideas. Reading and writing summaries is useful for strengthening skills in studying, research, and writing 5 paragraph essays.

Summary Definition

When writers summarize a source, they identify the main points of that source and then discuss them in their own words. A summary is an account of this information. Writers can summarize all sorts of sources, such as essays, books, films, and lectures.

A summary is a brief overview of something's main points.

Parts of a Summary

The content of a summary will depend on the topic and intended length. However, the basic parts of a summary are typically the same. A summary opens with an introduction in which the writer provides information about the source. For instance, if a writer is summarizing a book, the introductory section of the summary will include the book's Title , author, and year of publication. This information introduces the reader to the source. At the end of the introduction, the writer will craft a Thesis Statement , which expresses the Main Idea of the summary.

After the introduction, the writer will move on to writing the body of the summary. The body will include a discussion of the main ideas of the source. For example, in a summary of a work of fiction, a writer will mention important information about the main characters and what they do in the text. The writer will also discuss important elements of the story, such as the main conflict and the climax.

Next, the writer will wrap up the summary with a conclusion . The conclusion of the summary will restate the Main Idea of the source, so the reader leaves the summary with a comprehensive understanding. For instance, a concluding sentence for a short summary of John Updike's story "A&P" (1961) might look something like this:

Overall, "A&P" is a coming-of-age story in which John Updike explores teenage idealism.

The final element of a summary is the reference list. The writer needs to cite the sources they used according to an established referencing style, such as MLA or APA.

Summary, Checklist, StudySmarter

Characteristics of a Summary

In addition to having the aforementioned parts, summaries are full of:

Concise writing

Accurate information

Objective descriptions (if it is a descriptive summary)

Summaries are also always shorter than the source they describe. Since a summary is a condensed overview of something's main points, writers of summaries leave out unimportant details from the original source, thereby making the summary shorter.

Types of Summary

Summaries are either descriptive or evaluative.

Descriptive Summaries

A descriptive summary is a summary in which writers provide an objective overview of the source they are summarizing. The writer of a descriptive summary does not include their own opinions or analysis of the source.

Researchers frequently use a type of descriptive summary called an Abstract . An Abstract is a concise summary of a research paper that readers read before reading a full research paper. The abstract provides an overview of the research question, Methodology , and findings. This helps readers determine if the article is relevant to their research.

Evaluative Summaries

An evaluative summary does include the author's Opinion on the source. Like in a descriptive summary, the author discusses the most important information in a source. However, in an evaluative summary, as the name suggests, the author evaluates the source. They can analyze it and discuss their own opinions about it.

Although writers of evaluative summaries can include their own opinions on the source, they still have to maintain a formal academic tone to ensure their evaluation of the source is credible. For instance, instead of writing: "This book was stupid," an evaluative summary would have to make a claim like: "The author failed to create an engaging plot and dynamic characters."

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Examples of Summary

The following is a descriptive summary of W. W. Jacob's short story "The Monkey's Paw" (1902).

"The Monkey's Paw" is a short story that W. W. Jacobs wrote in 1902. In the beginning, a man named Sergeant Major Morris shows the White family a magical monkey's paw that he found in India. Morris says the paw grants three wishes to three people, but the wishes never come true in the way the owner wants them to. He throws the paw in the fire, but Mr. White takes it and wishes for money to pay off his mortgage. Then he learns that his son Herbert has died in a work accident, and the financial compensation is the amount of money he wished for. A distraught Mrs. White takes the paw and wishes for Herbert to come back to life. That night there is a knocking at the door, and Mr. White desperately searches for the paw. In the end, Mrs. White opens the door, but no one is there to answer. The reader is left wondering exactly what happened but might infer that Herbert's dead body was knocking at the door and disappeared because Mr. White made one last wish.

The above summary does not include the writer's opinion, making it a descriptive story summary.

The following is an evaluative summary of the text.

"The Monkey's Paw" is a spooky short story that W. W. Jacobs wrote in 1902. In the beginning, a man named Sergeant Major Morris shows the White family a magical monkey's paw that he found in India. Morris says the paw grants three wishes to three people, but the wishes never come true in the way the owner wants them to. He throws the paw in the fire, but Mr. White takes it and wishes for money to pay off his mortgage. Then he learns that his son Herbert has died in a work accident, and the family's financial compensation is the amount of money he wished for. A distraught Mrs. White takes the paw and wishes for Herbert to come back to life. That night, there is an eerie knocking at the door, and Mr. White desperately searches for the paw. In the end, Mrs. White opens the door, but no one is there to answer. The reader is left wondering exactly what happened but might infer that Herbert's dead body was knocking at the door and disappeared because Mr. White made one last wish. Jacobs does an excellent job creating suspense and engaging the reader throughout the story, especially in the last scene.

Examine the differences between the descriptive summary and evaluative summary. They both discuss all the story's main events, but the evaluative one goes a step further and expresses the author's opinions on the story.

Importance of Summary

Summaries can improve people's writing, reading, and research skills.

Importance of Reading Summaries

Summaries are important because they educate readers. If a reader wants to know what a book is about but does not know if they want to read the entire text, reading a summary can help them decide. This process can be particularly useful when researchers decide whether to read a source as a part of their research process. In this case, readers typically read an abstract to determine if a source will be useful. A summary of a text can also help students review what a text is about without reading it again.

Importance of Writing Summaries

Writing summaries can also help people strengthen their writing skills. Crafting a summary requires knowing how to identify the main ideas of a text, put them in one's own words, and discuss them with concise language. All of these skills take practice, and writing summaries can help writers develop them. Writing summaries can also help students test their knowledge of a source.

Summary - Key Takeaways

  • A summary is a brief overview of another source and are very useful for 5 paragraph essays.
  • A strong summary is a precise, succinct Statement about a source.
  • A summary includes an introduction, Thesis , body, conclusion, and references.
  • Descriptive summaries provide an objective overview of a source.
  • Evaluative summaries include the writer's perspective on a source.

Frequently Asked Questions about Summary

--> what is a summary.

A summary is a brief overview of another source.

--> How to write a summary?

To write a summary writers should read the entire source and then highlight the main ideas. Then they should discuss the main points in their own words. 

--> What are the 5 parts of a summary?

The parts of a summary are the introduction, thesis, body, conclusion, and references. 

--> What are the 3 main requirements for a good summary?

A summary is succinct and precise. Descriptive summaries are also objective. 

--> What are the characteristics of a summary?

Summaries are precise, succinct overviews of a source. They are always shorter than the source they are about. 

Final Summary Quiz

Summary quiz - teste dein wissen.

What is a summary?  

Show answer

A   summary   is a brief overview of something's main points.

Show question

True or False. Descriptive summaries can include the author’s opinions.  

False. Descriptive summaries are purely objective. Evaluative summaries can include the author’s opinion.  

What is an abstract?

An   abstract   is a concise summary of a research paper that readers read before reading a full research paper.

What type of summary is an abstract?


True or False. Writers should include lots of specific details in a summary . 

False. Writers should only include the main points of a source in a summary.  

Which of the following is not a characteristic of summary?

Should summaries be shorter or longer than the source they are about?

 Which of the following skills can summary writing help strengthen?

All of the above

A writer is summarizing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel  Tender is the Night (1934) and says that Fitzgerald did a great job using figurative language to explore the concept of love. Would this sentence go in a descriptive summary or an evaluative summary?

An evaluative summary

What are the parts of a summary?

The parts of a summary are the introduction, thesis, body, conclusion, and references.    

You can summarize a lecture.

A summary sometimes is more complex than what it summarizes.

A summary should not make a source more accessible.

A summary should contain a chronicle of publication years.

A summary never contains a thesis.

Like essays, a summary can have an intro, a body, and a conclusion.

In the summary of a story, should you include spoilers?

In your summary, you can use which styles to generate citations?

All summaries are objective.

A descriptive summary should contain elements of analysis.

This is a concise summary of a research paper.

An abstract goes into research questions but not research methodology.

An abstract should not reveal the findings of research, allowing readers to study them for themselves.

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Summary Essay

Table of Contents

summary essay is

Simple Stages for Summary Essay Writing

How to write an objective summary, purpose of summary writing, follow simple writing rules, first steps to writing a summary, take a look at our free excellent summary response essay, writing a good summary: basic steps.

Summary writing can be divided in two common types. The first one is called a “reader summary” – a sketch or notes that you make while reading the paper, which help you better comprehend authors’ ideas. The second summary type if called a “summary essay” – an academic piece of writing that students are asked to submit as a part of educational curriculum in different subjects. Summary essays help teachers check if students have read the assigned text or not.

  • Always read the assigned book or article to the full. Skim reading will not help you, especially if your teacher gave you precise instructions and asked to analyze each part separately. Try to identify the mood and tone of writing as well as major themes that authored explored in writing.
  • No matter how many chapters your book includes, you can divide it into more sections. It will be much easier to work with small sections. In such a way, you will never overlook essential elements that author tried to address. While reading, you should write down the most remarkable ideas that will constitute your summary writing.
  • Write down your own ideas and interpretations of author’s claims. You can provide a short overview of writer’s standpoints.
  • Create an introduction. You should include a full title of the article or book and author’s name. There is a need to provide some background details that made the author explore this topic. The last sentence in your opening paragraph (thesis statement) should clearly state your standpoint.
  • Your main body paragraphs in a summary essay should be dedicated to the detailed discussion and exploration of the text. You can divide information into different sections and create subheadings to make reading easier. Choose relevant and significant points for your discussion, proving that you carefully read and analyzed the book.
  • Conclude your summary essay stating what the author tried to address in the book. You should restate the main points from the thesis statement.

If you are a student, you have probably been asked to write an objective summary. What is a summary? This type of writing entails providing a brief statement of the main points of a something, such as an article, chapter of a book, or even an entire novel. Class lectures, movies, and speeches can also be summarized. A summary leaves out details and does not include any commentary or opinion. Instead, it should remain objective. If you do not know how to write an objective summary, read further to find out more about this writing task.

If you do not have much experience with writing a summary, it can seem like an intimidating experience at first. As you read the text, especially a lengthy book, it is a good idea to highlight the key plot points. Likewise, if you are watching a movie, you should take notes as you go along. Once you are finished reading, watching or listening to the medium, you can start arranging the summary by considering what important points to mention while leaving out the less essential parts. Note that all summaries are written in chronological order. In addition, you are not being asked to interpret the message or discuss the strengths and weaknesses. If you feel strongly about the content, it can be difficult to summarize without allowing your feelings to get in the way. However, you should stay disciplined and only focus on what the author has said.

Now that you have a general idea about how to write an objective summary, let us discuss the two main uses for this writing task.

  • Broadly speaking, objective summary tasks are a great way to help you understand the whole of the article or narrative rather than the individual parts.
  • As it relates to academics, there are a couple benefits to summarizing:
  • If you are reading an article, book or watching a movie that contains important but complex concepts, summaries make it easier to make sense of the information. In turn, if you are discussing it in class or taking a test, you will be able to recall the information better and therefore perform better academically.
  • When you are writing a lengthy research paper, you will almost certainly need to include summaries of some of the sources that you use especially when they are relevant to your paper’s topic. The literature review is one such example of when you need to summarize the content. Often the summary will come in the form of paraphrasing, although direct quotes can be appropriate as well.
  • Summary writing deals with a close connection to the source (book, article, etc.). If you cannot interpret author’s ideas and provide false claims, you will mislead the reader. Do not distort and adjust the meaning of your text.
  • Your summary should include enough details for the reader to understand the whole book. By reading it, the reader should have a sense of exploring the original source.
  • Summary writing differs much from criticizing. Your goal is to summarize the source and not to state if author was successful in writing or not.

Writing Rules: "Do and Don’t"

  • As you go about reading the article or book, make note of all the important plot points. If certain words are repeated or concepts elaborated upon, they are essential to include in the summary.
  • Make an outline that includes the main ideas, the supporting ideas, and any evidence that backs them up. If you are summarizing a highly technical article, repeating some of the keywords is something you will not be able to avoid. Just make sure to write it in your own words rather than copying verbatim.

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  • What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? How or why did it happen?
  • What is the main plot or idea of the text?
  • What are the major subplots or supporting points?
  • What evidence supports this?

Do not rewrite the entire text. Also, the text should refer to the fact that you are writing a summary. This can either be included in the title, in the first sentence, or in a footnote.

  • As noted, the point of the summary is not to praise or criticize the work or provide any insight, such as what you believe to be the author’s motivations. Even when the purpose of the paper is to critique the work, the summary itself should remain objective before you proceed to the actual critique.
  • Do not include any details or information that is not critical to the text or movie as a whole. For instance, a movie might make reference to where a certain character is from, but unless this fact has significant bearing on the plot, you would not want to include this in the summary.
  • The summary should not contain a conclusion, but if the text, lecture or movie itself contains an important message as part of its conclusion, it does belong in the summary.
  • Although the summary can include concepts and keywords from the article, passage or book, you should not use full sentences, paragraphs or expressions without quotation marks. But even when you do directly quote the work, keep it to the minimum. However, there are cases in which it is entirely unavoidable, such as when the information uses highly technical language that cannot be expressed in different ways without sounding awkward.
  • Structuring the summary to mirror the original text or rearranging the words is not acceptable. Instead, you should structure it in a unique way and find a way to describe the information through paraphrasing.

At this point, you should know how to write an objective summary. Write it with confidence and put in your best effort!

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