Rhetoric and Composition
Department Chair:
Laurie McMillin

Administrative Assistant:
Linda Pardee

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8907
Fax: (440) 775-8619

King Building 139
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Writing Effective Summaries

Writing Effective Summaries

1. Read the entire passage over, identifying the main ideas by marking the text, making margin notes, and asking questions. Remember that because you are looking for main ideas, you do not have to note each specific supporting example.

2. Identify the main point, or thesis, of the passage and write it down in your own words.

3. Using your annotations, identify the main stages of thought that develop the author's thesis, and restate each one in a summary statement of a sentence or two, again using your own words. Note key concepts and terms as you prepare the statements.

4. Write a first draft of your summary by combining the thesis with your summary statements. Arrange your sentences so they represent the order of the writer's main ideas. Add details from the text only if the main ideas are not clear without them. Do not simply list examples or specific supporting evidence.

5. Be concise and accurate in your wording, and do not allow the writer's language to slip into your own text.

6. Check your draft to make sure it accurately represents the progression of the writer's main points. Be sure that your sentences represent the writer's ideas accurately, but in your own words.

7. Revise your summary to strengthen the language and accuracy of your representation. Add transitional words and phrases where necessary to create a smooth progression of ideas in your writing.