Stages Involved in Summary Writing

What is a summary?

A summary is a short—but thorough—objective restatement of the main idea and key points of a passage. A summary may mention examples the author used to illustrate key points. Personal opinions and thoughts, as well as details of the passage, do not belong in the summary.

Why write a summary?

Writing a summary will help you to fully understand and remember what you read. It also is a useful guide for responding critically to the material in your own writing.

Stages of Summary Writing

First reading:

As you read, look out for to the main idea and points.

Second reading:

Divide the passage into thought progressions (looking at paragraph divisions will help you to identify these stages). You may indicate each new progression by using brackets in the margins, or highlighting.
Underline or highlight main ideas and terms.


Write a summary sentence for each thought progression.

Thesis statement:

Write a summary of the entire passage that is one or two sentences long and includes the main idea of the passage (the who, what, where, how, and when).
  • For a "persuasive" passage, this should include the author’s conclusion.
  • For a "descriptive" passage, this should include what is being described and its important characteristic(s).

First draft:

Combine your thesis statement with the one-sentence summaries of each thought progression. Take out repetitious parts—use as few words as possible. Take out minor details, or rewrite them in more general terms.

Third reading:

Make further adjustments by comparing your summary to the passage.

Final draft:

Check to see that transitions between sentences are smooth, and make sure the summary is coherent as a whole. Lastly, check grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Need Assistance?

Don't forget: if you would like assistance with this or any other type of writing assignment, learning coaches are available to assist you. Please contact Academic Support by emailing; calling 1-800-847-3000, ext. 3008; or calling the main number of the location in your region (see Academic Support Regional Contact Information for more information).

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