Although we frequently use the term “summary” to mean any condensed or shortened version of an event or piece of writing, a correct Academic Summary is a piece of writing which shows the following characteristics.
1. It is IDENTIFIED. This means that, very early in the summary, you must mention both the author (if known) and the title of the piece being summarized. You should mention the title of the original in the title of your summary, but you must mention it again in the summary itself.
The first time the author is named, use his or her entire name as given in the article. (Look for author’s name at the beginning or at the end of the article.) It is also helpful to your reader if you identify the author’s background or expertise on the subject.
After the first time the author’s name is given, you should use just his or her last name when you need to mention him or her. Do not refer to the author as “Ms. Rolland” or “Mr. Laurence”; also, do not refer to the author by his or her first name.
As far as identifying the title of the piece being summarized, use the title exactly as given at the top of piece being summarized. If it is a short piece contained within another publication, put quotation marks around the title.
However, if it is an entire work published separately, you should underline the title or put the title in italics. For example, “Did George Bush Want to Lose?” would be correct for an article contained in a magazine, but George Bush: His Life and Times would be correct for a book.
2. It is ORIGINAL. The purpose of writing an Academic Summary is to restate the main ideas in your own words. This means that you must read the piece to be summarized several times so that you completely understand it since you can’t restate what you don’t understand. Of course, there may be some words, phrases, or even sentences which you will need to quote, but use your original language to the extent possible.
3. It is HONEST. Sometimes you will need to use certain words or groups of words exactly as written because you are not able to restate these ideas in original language. Being honest means that, even though you have named the author and title, you must use quotation marks around the author’s words if you use any word or short phrase which the author has used in a distinctive way. You must, of course, also use quotation marks whenever you use the author’s exact words for a phrase of several words or for a complete sentence. When in doubt, consult your instructor. If you must decide on your own, put quotation marks around even very short phrases. Otherwise, you may be accused of plagiarism even though you had no intention of being dishonest.
4. It is OBJECTIVE. An Academic Summary must accurately reflect the author’s meaning. You may not change or distort the meaning, even if you disagree with it or have other information on the subject. You should not include your opinions of the author’s information, nor should you praise or criticize the piece being summarized. Your goal is to restate the meaning as accurately as you can, and not to alter the meaning in any way.
5. It is COMPLETE. A correct Academic Summary will contain all of the major points made in the piece being summarized.
6. It is CONCISE. A correct Academic Summary be considerably shorter than the piece being summarized. Most textbooks suggest that a summary be between 10% and 25% of the length of the original. Notice that conciseness and completeness are in conflict with each other. You must include all the major ideas, yet make the summary much shorter than the original. Generally, the key is to include all the major points (restated in original language) and leave out minor points, details, and examples. You must therefore read the piece to be summarized very carefully to decide which are the truly important points.
7. It is COHERENT. This means that, to the extent possible, the summary should begin with a very general overall statement and then give the major points in a smooth and logically connected way. Transitional words and phrases are often helpful to the reader in seeing the connections.
8. It is CORRECTLY FORMATTED. Use the same format (typed double spaced) as you do for essays. In the upper left hand corner of your first page, put your name, WRTG1150, and Summary #1 (or whatever number it is). The title of your summary should be centered, state that it is a summary, and name the title of the piece being summarized. A model title appears below: