The Summary                      

What is a summary ?

A summary is a brief account of the main ideas in a text. In a summary, we condense and point out only main events, ideas and characters. We leave out unimportant details. Note that a summary should not be longer than one-third the original length of the passage.

Why should I learn to summarize?

Writing a summary is a valuable academic skill. It enhances reading skills : If we can write a clear and concise summary of a text, it is obvious that we have clearly interpreted and understood it. It enhances writing skills : To write paragraphs that are well developed and well supported, we must learn to identify the main ideas and the relevant supporting details

How do I learn to summarize?

Writing a summary is a learned skill that is enhanced by practice. To write a clear and succinct summary of a text, we will need to understand the reading passage and identify its main ideas and most essential details. To do that, we must ask specific questions about the reading passage:

For what purpose was this piece written? To inform? To persuade? To entertain? Who or what are the main characters, ideas or events? What is the significant information? Time? Place? Background? If our questions are to the point, the answers will be a good foundation for a well-written summary.


  • Accurately reflect the writer's thoughts,
  • Identify the author and the title of the passage,
  • Use your own words,
  • If you use the writer's words, put them in quotation marks,
  • Keep the same emphatic order,
  • Be comprehensive, selective and brief
  • Review your summary and ask yourself if you followed the guidelines above.

Try It

Franklin D. Roosevelt's active and intelligent mind helped him to get through the worst periods of his illness. He was always curious about every detail of the various treatments given to him. As soon as he could sit up, he worked on his stamp collection, and he began to write a history of the United States and a book about John Paul Jones, a navy hero. He was ready to try anything that might help him get well. A member of his family has written that Roosevelt got a great deal of exercise later by crawling around on the floor. Next, he decided to learn how to go up the stairs by himself. Day after day he would pull himself up the stairs by the power of his hands and arms. While doing this, he insisted that his family and friends watch him and talk with him. He wanted to give the impression that what he was doing was an everyday, routine activity. (Arnaudet, 1990)