Answered By: James Whitmer
Last Updated: Jun 19, 2020     Views: 3

Please Note: These are only common assumptions and suggestions about writing a summary. The requirements of such assignments often vary, so please follow your instructor's guidelines. 

While you are writing a summary, remember that you must only include the most significant information -- this means you will generally ignore any examples, data and statistics, and most evidence because generally, you want the summary to be about 1/5 the length of the original. If it helps, imagine that you are writing the summary for someone with very little time, but they need to be able to discuss the video or text as though they watched or read all of it.

To write an effective summary, it is recommended you follow these steps:

  1. Put yourself in the right frame of mind so that the summary doesn't feel overwhelming: don't think, "I have to summarize 20 pages!" Instead, break the video/text into smaller parts, and take the task one step at a time. The work is less daunting if you focus on summarizing one page or section, finish that, then the next page or section. Before you know it, you will have finished summarizing the entire text/video.
  2. Read the text/watch the video to get an idea of its content, how it is divided into parts, and how everything in it connects to each other.
  3. Reread/rewatch the text/video, but this time, take notes as you go. For a text, highlight/underline the most important ideas. For a video, pause it constantly to give yourself time to write down the most important ideas.
  4. On a separate sheet of paper, go through your notes one step at a time and rephrase the text or video's ideas into your own words. While rephrasing, don't let yourself look at the original text or your notes so you don't copy the words. After rephrasing, compare your new words to the original's words and change your phrasing if it is copying the original.
  5. Finally, transpose your notes to a Word document, and start turning them into sentences. From there, you can add transitions and combine sentences to make your summary flow smoothly.
  6. If the summary is becoming really long, break it into separate paragraphs. To guide you in breaking the paragraphs, look at the original video/text and how it was or could be broken into smaller parts. If the original had specific sections, then your summary could follow the same pattern for its paragraphs.

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