How To Write A Summary Example

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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How To Write A Summary Example

What Is a Summary?

A summary is a brief summarization of a larger work that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding. To write a summary, a writer will gather the main ideas of an article, essay, television show, or film they’ve read or watched and condense the central ideas into a brief overview. Summaries provide an abridged description of another work in the form of a paragraph, providing enough detail so that the reader understands the subject of the summary, while highlighting the summary writer’s personal understanding of the subject matter.

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What Is the Purpose of a Summary?

The purpose of a summary is to provide readers with a succinct overview of important details or interesting information, without inserting a personal opinion. A summary gives a brief rundown of the main points of a text or piece of media, like the abstract to a scientific paper, a description of a movie’s plot, or in the form of a novel synopsis.

What Is an Example of a Summary?

You can use a summary across many writing genres. You can summarize an academic essay and its supporting arguments, or the plot to a novel or television show. You can also summarize an historical event or a fairy tale. For example:

“Hansel and Gretel” follows the story of a brother and sister who must use their cunning to outsmart an evil witch intent on consuming them. In the beginning of the story, a great famine sweeps across the land, leaving little food or resources to spare. Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother leads the children into the woods intent on leaving them there to die. However, when Hansel hears of her plan, he collects a pocket full of white pebbles, dropping them as a trail for he and his sister as their stepmother attempts her plan the next day. When the duo makes their way home, the stepmother decides to bring them deeper into the woods. Hansel takes a slice of bread with him, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind. This time, birds eat the crumbs, destroying the trail back. Hansel and Gretel wander into a clearing, where they find a cottage made of treats. As they eat the house, the elderly woman who lives there invites them inside, where they discover she’s not a generous, old lady after all—she’s a witch with a particular taste for children.

4 Tips for Writing a Good Summary

Whether you’re summarizing an event, novel, play, or newspaper article, being able to write an effective one-paragraph summary is an important skill for every writer to possess. For some tips on how to write a good summary, see below:

  1. Find the main idea. A useful summary distills the source material down to its most important point to inform the reader. Pick the major point you want to communicate to the reader, and use your limited sentences wisely to convey it. Take down a few notes to help outline your thoughts in an organized manner.
  2. Keep it brief. A summary is not a rewrite—it’s a short summation of the original piece. A summary paragraph is usually around five to eight sentences. Keep it short and to the point. Eliminate redundancies or repetitive text to keep your paragraph clear and concise.
  3. Write without judgment. If you are summarizing an original text or piece of media, you are gathering and condensing its most relevant information, not writing a review. Write your summary in your own words, and avoid adding your opinion.
  4. Make sure it flows. Transitions are incredibly helpful when it comes to building momentum in your writing. Connect your sentences with transition words, making sure they flow together and convey your summary clearly.

how to start a summary example

A summary paragraph should tell the reader essential information about a larger text. You may write a summary paragraph about a short story or a novel for class. Or you may write a summary paragraph for an academic text or a scholarly article. To get started on a summary paragraph, begin by organizing the original text into an outline. Then, create a strong opening line and craft a good summary paragraph that is short but informative.

Part1Organizing the Summary Paragraph

  1. 1Take notes on the original text. Start by reading and reviewing the original text. Mark up the original text, noting any keywords and important phrases or points. Highlight or underline any sentences that feel important to you. Note the topic sentence in the original text as well as the main idea or theme in the text. The topic sentence will contain the main topic or idea in the text.[1]
    • If you are working with a long original text, create a brief outline for each paragraph in the margin of the text. Include any keywords, phrases, or points in the summary. You can then use these notes in your summary paragraph.
  2. 2Outline the main idea of the original text. Create a one to two sentence outline of the main idea or ideas of the original text. Keep the outline short and to the point. Ask yourself, “What is the author trying to say in this text? What is the main idea or theme in the text?”[2]
    • For example, if you were using The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the original text, you may list several themes or ideas such as “friendship,” “social status,” “wealth,” and “unrequited love.”
  3. 3Include several supporting examples from the text. Once you have the main idea down, identify one to three examples from the original text that support the main idea. These could be quotes from the text or scenes in the text. You could also choose a pivotal moment or passage in the text as a supporting example.[3]
    • List these supporting examples and briefly summarize them by noting what happens in each example. You can then refer to these examples in your summary paragraph.

Part2Creating a Strong Opening Line

  1. 1Include the author, title and publication date. The first line of the summary paragraph should state the author, the title, and the publication date of the original text. You should also note what type of text it is, such as a novel, a short story, or an article. This will present the reader with the most basic information about the original text right away.[4]
    • For example, you may begin with, “In the novel The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald…”.
    • If you are writing a summary of an article, you may begin with, “According to her article, “What is intersexuality?” Nancy Kerr (2001)…”
  2. 2Use a reporting verb. The first line of the summary paragraph should include a strong reporting verb, such as “argue,” “claim,” “contend,” “maintain,” or “insist.” You can also use verbs like “explain,” “discuss,” “illustrate,” “present,” and “state.” This will make the introduction of the summary paragraph clear and concise.[5]
    • For example, you may write, “In the novel The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald presents…”
    • For an article, you may write, “According to her article, “What is intersexuality?” Nancy Kerr (2001) claims…”
  3. 3Describe the main idea in the original text. Finish the opening line by including the main theme or idea in the text. You can then include supporting points in the rest of the summary that relate back to this main theme or idea.[6]
    • For example, you may write, “In the novel The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald presents the tragic figure of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby through the eyes of his neighbor, Nick Carraway.”
    • For an article, you may write, “According to her article, “What is intersexuality?” Nancy Kerr (2001) claims that discussions of sexuality in academic circles ignores the growing public interest in intersexuality.”

Part3Writing a Good Summary Paragraph

  1. 1Answer who, what, where, and why. Consider who is being addressed or discussed in the original text. Think about what is being addressed or discussed. Mention where the text is set, if relevant. Finally, determine why the author is discussing or addressing the subject matter in the original text.[7]
    • For example, if you are writing about The Great Gatsby, you should address the two main characters in the novel (Jay Gatsby and his neighbor/the narrator Nick Carraway). You should also focus on what occurs, briefly, in the novel, where the novel takes place, and why Fitzgerald explores the lives of these two characters.
  2. 2Have one to three sentences of supporting evidence. Aim to have one to three supporting points at the most, as you do not want to make the summary paragraph too long. Use events from the text as well as quotes or points in the text to support your opening line.
    • For example, if you are discussing an article, you may use the author’s key arguments in the article as supporting points. If you are discussing a novel or short story, you may use the key events in the story as supporting points.
  3. 3Use your own words to summarize the original text. Do not copy or paraphrase the original text. Use your own words in the summary. Avoid using the same language or word choice as the original text, unless you are quoting it directly.[8]
    • Keep in mind a summary paragraph should simply state the essential information in the original text. You do not need to present an opinion or argument about the text in the summary paragraph. This can be done in a separate paragraph or section in your paper.
  4. 4Keep the summary short and to the point. A summary paragraph should be no longer than six to eight sentences. Once you finish a draft of the summary paragraph, read it over and revise it so it is short and to the point. Remove any sentences or phrases that seem redundant or repetitive.
    • You may also show the summary paragraph to a writing instructor or a friend to get feedback on it. Ask the person to make sure the summary paragraph includes the essential information about the text in a concise, clear way.

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