Summary Writing Skills for English Language Learners: An Effective English Writing Process Skill
by Stephen E. Dew, hbicambodia.com, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Table of Contents
- 1 LESSON 2
- 2 Take the quiz now
- 3 Related
Summary writing skills don’t come naturally, and when ESL students are asked to summarize, they will often copy verbatim, write long, detailed summaries, or write very short summaries missing key information. This occurs because students don’t really know what a summary is or how to write one. The main point for you to understand is that a summary is a concise, much shorter form of writing than the original material which is put into your own word.
What is summary writing?
A summary is condensed version of a larger reading. A summary is a short, but thorough objective re-statement of the main idea and key points of a material. Your purpose in writing the summary is to give the basic ideas of the original reading. What was it about and what did the author want to communicate? To write a summary, use your own words to express briefly the main idea and relevant details of the material you have read. Personal opinions and thoughts, as well as details of the material, do not belong in a summary.
What is the purpose of a summary?
The purpose of a summary is to give the reader, in about 1/3 of the original length of material, a clear picture of the original material. Most importantly, the summary re-states only the main (key) points of a material without giving examples or details, such as dates, numbers, or statistics. In other words, a summary is shorter than the source material, and it repeats the ideas of the source material in different words and sentences. Writing a summary will help you to fully understand and remember what you read. As I have said previously, it is a useful tool for responding critically to material in your own writing as professors and instructors at university require you to submit summaries for course related materials to demonstrate understanding of your chosen major.
What are the benefits of learning summary writing?
Summary writing is one of the best activities to improve your writing skills and reading comprehension. It combines the two skills into one activity.
Summary writing improves reading comprehension because writing a summary requires you to read more closely. Since you must read the material more than once to get a sense of the ideas presented, you will recognize and maintain more information than you would from just reading it once. And yes, you need to answer the questions and take notes while reading the material to find the most important points that you need to write the summary with. It also helps you to see the relationship between ideas and improves your recognition of vocabulary through context.
Summary writing improves writing skills because after you have finished reading the material, you will write a complete paragraph that captures the ideas presented in the text. The structure of a single-paragraph summary will help reinforce the structure you need to write paragraphs in your essays. As you write the summary paragraph, the structure of the original text, vocabulary, and sentences will influence your writing style. As a result, you will be forced to write more concise and original sentences.
What are the important situations where a summary is written?
- Summary Skills in university.
The ability to write an effective summary might be the most important writing skill a university student or ESL student can possess. You need to be able to summarize before you can be successful at most of the other kinds of writing that will be asked of you in university, and it is an important part of note taking, too.
- Summary skills in daily life.
To answer questions such as “what was the movie about”, “how did the party go”, and “what did I miss in class today”, you must be able to summarize. The person asking the questions doesn’t want to know every line and action in the movie, every event at the party, or every word from class; the question asks you to select the important details and summarize them. Similarly, when you summarize the material you need to be able to find the important points and then present it as clearly and concisely as possible.
- Summary skills in business and politics.
Politicians, businesses, and corporations employ people to read every newspaper and magazine and summarize relevant articles. The more concise the summary the better, yet if any major details are left out, the purpose of the summary is lost. Its readers will be uninformed on key aspects of the news and may make errors as a result of misinformation The summaries that you write in university are just as important to your academic career as these summaries are to these politicians and business people, and accuracy and concision are just as important, too.
Types of summaries
In scholastic and professional settings alike, you are likely to be asked to compose a summary of articles, interviews, lectures, essays, papers, reports, or other documents. The most common that you will use in university are:
- Book and chapter summaries
A summary is something that is comprehensive but brief. A book summary, therefore, contains the most important elements of the book. It re-tells (in condensed wording) a book’s beginning, rise, climax, fall, and ending. Good book summaries also capture essential points about the main characters and the setting in which the action unfolds. When you have read a well-written book summary, you should be able to say in your own words what the book is generally about, who the main characters are, and where it takes place. Imagine going to your local library. You could have forgotten the name of a book, but you can remember enough of the pertinent information to help the librarian find the book for you. A chapter summary is a condensed version of the major action in a book.
A chapter summary provides key action points, primary (and sometimes secondary) characters, and tells where the action takes place. Further chapter summaries can also briefly revisit actions that happened in earlier chapters. Chapter summaries are useful because they can help you recall a key event or character that you need to include in an essay or a book report.
- Essay and article summaries.
Most summaries are written as part of other essays or articles. An essay or article summary is often a part of obtaining understanding because readers need to know a little about the ideas you are bringing together.
Similarly, you have to summarize ideas from essays or articles before you can compare them, classify them, or divide them into their component parts. You will find that almost any texts you read in university and outside university will contain at least a small summary.
- Lectures and interviews.
An alternative purpose of summary writing is for of interviews and lectures. One that is very commonplace in university. It demonstrates your comprehension of the lecture or interview. Sometimes, teachers assign summaries for lectures and interviews when they want to make sure that students fully understand the material.
How do I write a summary overview?
Writing a good summary demonstrates that you clearly understand the material, and that you can communicate that understanding to your readers. A summary can be tricky to write at first because it’s tempting to include too much or too little information. However, using the following method, you will be able to summarize materials quickly and successfully for any class or subject.
- First reading:
- Second reading:
- Summary sentences:
- Outline the article:
- First draft:
- Edit and revise your summary:
- Third reading:
- Final copy:
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