A dictionary definition of a summary is “a presentation of the substance of a body of material in a condensed form or by reducing it to its main points”. In terms of academic writing a summary (Ukr. ðîçøèðåíà àíîòàö³ÿ, sometimes ðåôåðàò) is a shortened version of a text aimed at giving the most important information or ideas of the text. Summarizing is an important part of writing academic papers, which usually include extensive references to the work of others. At Ukrainian universities, writing summaries of professional and scientific texts in English is often an examination assignment.
Requirements for Summaries
A good summary satisfies the following requirements:
1. It condenses the source text and offers a balanced coverage of the original. Avoid concentration upon information from the first paragraph of the original text or exclusively focusing on interesting details.
2. It does not evaluate the source text and is written in a generally neutral manner.
3. The first sentence of the summary contains the name of the author of a summarized text, its title, and the main idea.
4. In the summary the logical relationship of the ideas is shown.
5. It satisfies the requirements set to its length (which may be quite different; however, for a rather short text, the summary is usually between one-third and one-fourth of its length).
Identify the characteristic features of the summary (“Metaphors We Live By”)
Steps in Summarizing
1. Skim the original text and think about the author's purpose and main idea of the text.
2. Try to divide the text into sections, or, if it has subheadings, think about the idea and important information that each section contains.
3. Try to write a one-sentence summary of each section/part of the outline in your own words; avoid any evaluation or comments. Use the words and expressions synonymous to those used by the author of a summarized text.
4. Write the first sentence of the summary with the name of the author of a summarized text, its title, and the main idea.
5. Add logical connectors to show the logical relationship of the ideas and to improve the flow of the summary.
Useful Phrases: Beginning a Summary
The purpose of the first sentence in a summary is to acquaint the reader with the summarized text. The first sentence, therefore, includes the name of the author of a summarized text, its title, and the main idea. It uses the present tense. Below are some possible patterns that you may use in your summaries:
According to Charles G. Morris in his book Psychology, … (main idea)
Charles G. Morris in Psychology discusses … (main topic)
Charles G. Morris in his book Psychology states/describes/explains/ claims/argues that … (main idea)
In Charles Morris' discussion of firstborns in Psychology, …(main idea)
In his book Psychology, author Charles G. Morris states/describes/explains/ claims/argues that … (main idea)
Thus, at the very beginning of a summary the reader gets to know the name of the author, the field of his/her scientific interest, methods of investigation. It's the direct reference to the name itself. But of great interest for the reader may be the (scientific) degree of the author as well which is traditionally mentioned in (round/square) brackets after the citation, e.g.:
"Refinements of this technique have been summarized by… Rudis" [S.Rudis, Ph.D., thesis (in progress), University of Iowa]
Though the indication of a degree represents objective information it possesses evaluative meaning as well.
The next part of this routine is to make a summary of every paragraph in a few words and verify the fact, opinion, or the author’s attitude towards the event described. The main body of the summary consists of the key points which can be identified while summarizing each paragraph of the article (book).
Useful Phrases for Longer Summaries
In longer summaries, it is advisable to remind a reader that you are summarizing. For this purpose, you may use the following patterns also adding some logical connectors (such as further, also, in addition, furthermore, moreover, etc.) and using, if necessary, reporting verbs. E.g.:
In the third chapter of the book, the author (or his name) presents…
The author (or his name) (also) argues/believes/claims/describes/claims/ states that…
The author continues/goes on to say…
The author (further) states that…
The author (or his name) concludes that…
In longer summaries, the author's name is usually mentioned at least 3 times – at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Although some reporting verbs have an evaluative meaning, they are used in summaries.
If we divide the story into much longer parts, it may become evident that some parts of the summary text are irrelevant. So, in the end, while going through the summary again, it’s advisable to see if there are any statements which go together, or if there are some ways of combining the points into one statement, or the order of statements should be changed.