Some Guidelines on Academic Summary Writing and Paraphrasing

What is a summary? Summary writing is an important writing skill in U.S. schools and universities. One important purpose of studying this type of writing is to enable students to demonstrate their understanding of reading material to their teachers or professors; therefore, the better you can summarize, the more likely you can prove to your instructor that you really understand assigned reading material, in whatever field. There are three main characteristics of an academic summary. First, it is a shortened version of a text which gives readers an idea of the most important information in that text. Second, generally speaking, a summary is about one-quarter to one-third as long as the original. Third, a summary is written in your own words, rather than just copied from the original text. Of course, for Read/Listen,Respond, and Present projects, you will be giving summaries orally, not necessarily in writing (unless your teacher requires it of you); however, the principles below can be applied to oral as well as written summaries.

How can one write a summary?
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Delete unimportant portions of the article. Delete redundant material from the article. If there is a set or list of items, events, or acts, organize them under a superordinate term. Decide what the main idea of the article is and then write a topic sentence for your summary.

What is a "topic sentence"? This is the sentence that contains the main idea of your summary. It is usually the first, as well as the most general, sentence of the summary. You create a topic sentence by figuring out what the main idea of the article is, and then rewriting it in your own words. (NOTE: Failure to rewrite other people's ideas in your own words, and then including the original words in your work without mentioning the original author, is called plagiarism.)

WARNING: In U.S. academic culture, plagiarism is a serious offense.

Committing plagiarism can result in being expelled from a university. Therefore, it is in your best interest to learn paraphrasing skills.

What is "paraphrasing"? We can define paraphrasing as restating (or rewriting) someone else's ideas using our own words. Often it is used to make the meaning clearer -- either to one's reader/audience, or to oneself. What are some "paraphrasing skills"? Here are some suggested paraphrasing strategies (adapted from Wecklser 1995): When paraphrasing: Be sure to include all the information in the original excerpt. To paraphrase you can do a number of things. 1. Use synonyms: ORIGINAL: People think it is asocial to sit at a computer terminal at a cafe. PARAPHRASE: People think it is anti-social to sit at a computer terminal at a cafe.

2. Use different forms of a word (noun --> verb; adverb --> adjective, etc.): ORIGINAL: Many girls model themselves after their mothers. PARAPHRASE: Many girls use their mothers as models.

3. Change the connectors/transitions, making sure to make any grammatical changes that are necessary: ORIGINAL: Computers are expensive; however, the prices are coming down. PARAPHRASE: Computers are expensive, but the prices are coming down. 4. Change active sentences to passive ones (and vice-versa): ORIGINAL: Most of the students of the IEI attended the fall picnic.

PARAPHRASE: The fall picnic was attended by most of the IEI students. 5. Change negative to affirmative, or vice-versa: ORIGINAL: All the political parties disagreed on that particular issue. PARAPHRASE: None of the political parties agreed on that particular issue. 6. Avoid giving your own opinion or new information when paraphrasing. 7. Avoid changing vocabulary items in certain fields, such as science, technology, education, government, geography (but sometimes you can paraphrase some geographical names), language, brand names, or ordinary, everyday words that have no synonyms, such as dictionary, chair, or toothbrush. 8. To avoid plagiarism: ALWAYS cite your sources. You can do this by writing an introductory clause (which can be written or spoken in several ways) which mentions the author and title of your source, for example, o In "Scientists Use Fiber Optic Network as Internet Alternative", the author syas/writes/states/informs... o Deborah Shapley, in an article entitled, "Scientists Use Fiber Optic Network as Internet Alternative," expresses/ states/writes/etc.... 9. If the information in the statement is common knowledge, you do not need to cite the source. For example, if you heard about something of major importance on the six o'clock news that was broadcast all over the country or world, citing the specific source is not crucial, although you should cite specific details and statements about this happening. 10. BEWARE of using a bilingual dictionary or a thesaurus when you paraphrase, because some synonyms are quite different in meaning or usage. (For instance, one dictionary gives change, vary, convert, and transmute as synonyms, and then gives separate definitions for each.) ORIGINAL: Cybercafes are changing the face of coffee shops worldwide. PARAPHRASE: Cybercafes are transmuting the face of coffee shops worldwide. (Incorrect synonym) 11. Be sure that the meaning of your paraphrase is the same as that of the original statement. Click here to return to the Respond main page. Content and layout by F. Scott Walters (based on material created by C. Wesolek) Please do not copy or distribute without permission of the author

How To Write An Effective Summary
Author: loren



Writing is not one task with a specific, unchanging set of rules. Consequently, it’s often counterproductive to classify writing as “Good” or “Bad” because doing so assumes an oversimplified view of what writing is. Instead of aspiring to the title of “Good Writer,” I propose that each of us should strive to become a more effective writer. Effective writers know that there are many different types of writing, from proposals to poems, from diary entries to legal defenses. They realize that different types of writing have different requirements: the elements that make a good poem are not the same ones that make a good encyclopedia entry. Moreover, effective writers know how to adapt their writing to suit their particular audience, genre, topic, context, and purpose. The ability to adapt your writing for maximum effectiveness is an immensely useful skill. And learning how is easier than you might think. You’ll need to focus on two things: 1) increasing your consciousness concerning what different types of writing require and 2) gaining the tools to respond to a given writing situation. Let’s practice these two components of effective writing using summary, an essential building block in many modes of writing.

Component 1: Increase consciousness concerning what a summary requires. A summary provides given information in a shorter form. A good summary has three basic characteristics: conciseness, accuracy, and objectivity.

Conciseness: unlike paraphrase, summary condenses information. The degree of density can vary: while you can summarize a two-hundred page book in fifty words, you can also summarize a twenty-five-page article in five hundred words. Both are summaries because both condense the material, although one condenses its material much more than the other does.

If the writing task is being assigned to you - in a work or school setting, perhaps - you’ll likely have the summary’s length defined for you. If not, there are a couple of factors to consider when deciding how long the summary should be. What is the goal of your communication? If the goal is to present a summary, then you can use more space. If, however, the summary is only a piece of the puzzle, you will want to be careful not to overdo the length. For example, if you are writing a book review, only part of the review summarizes the book. The other, and arguably more important, part of the review is the evaluation. Your judgment about the book, what you thought of it and why, is what readers are primarily looking for when they read your review.

Accuracy: summaries should provide a clear and precise picture of the material, shorter length notwithstanding. In order to do this, you as the summary writer must understand the material thoroughly, and you must convey your understanding so that the reader gets an accurate picture as well.

The previous paragraph’s point may seem obvious, but it can be a lot harder than it sounds. Over the past forty-five posts, we have discussed many ways for you as the writer to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If the writing is less than clear, the reader may misunderstand. But when you summarize a written piece, you’re a reader first. As a reader, you may misunderstand the writer’s point if the writer hasn’t made it clear.

Objectivity: summaries should only contain the original author’s viewpoint, not your own. You are reporting, not editorializing. Even a seemingly innocuous statement like “Smith helpfully points out that…” is subjective. You are not just presenting Smith’s point; you are also expressing your opinion that Smith’s point is helpful.

Becoming aware of distinctions like these will add power and purpose to your summary. Component 2: gaining the tools needed to summarize. You must apply your critical reading and thinking faculties in order to construct an effective summary. The following paragraphs take you through the reading, thinking, and writing processes one at a time. The first thing you must be able to do is get to know the material you are preparing to summarize; take time and care to become comfortable with it. Read and review it repeatedly, breaking down the material into sections. It is often helpful to summarize smaller sections as you go. These “mini-summaries” will aid your understanding as well as make the summary process less painful later on. Second, you must prioritize the information and/or arguments contained in the piece. Think about the piece’s structure, and decide what the piece’s main point is, which statements are supporting points, and which are details. Not all pieces are organized in the same way. For example, some pieces state their main points up front, while others bury them in the middle of the essay. As a summary writer, you are always working backwards: looking at the finished essay and trying to discern the argument’s basic outlines. After all, outlines are all you have room for. After you have prioritized the information, you will decide what to include, and how much of it, based on how much space you have to construct the summary. You’ll always choose to include the main point. If you have space, you can present a sketch of the supporting points. If you have even more space, you may refer to a few salient details to exemplify the piece’s approach. When you prepare to write the summary, get the original out of your sight. Instead, use the notes and “mini-summaries” that you constructed during the reading step. This will make it easier to put the points into your own words and sentence structures, which is important when summarizing. After you have finished drafting, check your summary against the original for accuracy. On a separate review, check each sentence for hints of subjectivity or judgment, and remove them where you find them.

The summary is a mainstay of informative and persuasive writing. Conquer it, and you’ll be well on your way to effective writing.

Writing a Good Executive Summary - Guidelines for Students
Ask About This Article 26th January 2006 Author: Tamara Kliw Views: 2643
Writing an Executive Summary is very similar to writing any other sort of Summary, in that its main purpose is to condense, simplify and highlight a larger document.?An Executive Summary, however, is usually written intended for an audience that does not have time to read the entire document. It is usually read by key decision maker/s, such as Executives or policy makers, regarding whatever the proposal or report addresses, and the Summary aims to convince or persuade the audience to take certain actions. An Executive Summary is sometimes referred to synonymously with a scholarly Abstract, although an Abstract differs slightly in its purpose and function.?An Abstract in a scholarly report is simply a shorter version or overview of the entire document.?It is like an extraction of the whole document and retains the general sense of unity as the original. The Executive Summary, on the other hand, does more than give a Summary or overview.? It lends more insight into the significant messages in the proposal or report, and the conclusion and justification of that proposal.?The Executive Summary informs the reader what is being proposed in the report, makes recommendations, and tells the reader what response is instigated by the report. The Executive Summary is usually no longer than 10% of the main document, which can be anywhere from 1-10 pages, depending on the length of the entire report.?It will most often follow a cover page, and will include several elements.?The elements used in or omitted from any given Executive Summary will vary according to each proposal or report's intended audience and purpose.?Elements commonly included in Executive summaries include purpose and scope of document, methods, results, conclusion, recommendations and any other supportive information.?Again, the Summary will highlight the proposal recommendations for action by listing or outlining various goals and objectives, and making justifications for the recommendations.?The conclusion will summarize research findings and analysis of the research that then lead to the reasoning for specific recommendations mentioned in the proposal or report. In order to write a good Executive Summary, you must understand the function of the Executive Summary.?To reiterate the guidelines above, the Executive Summary's function is to give readers essential contents of the main document in 1-10 pages.?The Summary will preview the main points of the document and enable readers to build a mental framework for organizing and comprehending the details of the document.?It will help readers determine key results and recommendations in the document, and hopefully induce an initial response.?

Writing a strong Executive Summary is quite feasible if a student is careful about preserving its traditional purpose and function to aid readers in comprehension and cause initial persuasion.? Executive summaries should not be written until after research is complete.?Before writing an Executive Summary, scan research to determine what the content, length and structure of the report will be.?Highlight key points or main ideas, and determine the central theme or purpose of the report.?Review research and determine what the major concepts and ideas are.?Group ideas in a logical and coherent way by constructing a point form outline of the Summary before proceeding to the actual Summary.?Edit the outline several times before going on to the actual Summary, eliminating any secondary, irrelevant or inconsequential points or ideas.?Decide when bullets, subtitles and bolding or some other form or organizational structure will help "clean up" the Summary or make it easier to read.?Remember to make the Summary clear, and use personal judgment upon reading it.?Write it in your own words but use a professional style, as Executives and policy makers will be reading it.

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