Writing A Summary

Writing A Summary

Paper details:
A summary is a BRIEF restatement in your own words of the content of a text or passage.  Summaries range from brief one-sentence condensations to point form outlines to the precise or abstract – it is a formal condensation of a book or article to a specific length that retains the author’s approach and order of ideas.  It DOES NOT (in the case of this assignment) contain your own opinions, observations or conclusions.  For this assignment, you will produce a formal condensation (300 words maximum).

When it comes to academic writing, the ability to summarize (completely, accurately and objectively) is essential to nearly all written forms (including definition, description, instructions, reviews, reports, explanations etc.).  Summaries are not only useful in themselves; they can help to develop thinking, reading and writing skills.  Your ability to summarize will help you to pause before judging or interrupting a text so that you can first decide what, at the core, a writer is actually saying.

Summaries are not easy.  Undertaken correctly, they can be among the most difficult kinds of writing.

Principles to Keep in Mind About Summaries:

1. Summaries generally reduce the original material to about 10% of its length (unless otherwise stated).
2. Summaries depend on paraphrase: use your own language, not that of the original and avoid taking direct quotes from the text.

Steps Toward Producing an Effective Summary:

1. Identify the central point and secondary points (Caution: be careful not select too many points).
• read article to obtain the general sense
• read again, noting cues to central and secondary points (headings, topic sentences)
• make notes in the margins
• re-read the areas noted in the margins, underlining explicit statements of central and secondary points.

2. State the main points
• write out the central point in your own words in one or two sentences
• write out the main supportive points in your words.  Check that you have not distorted the meaning of the original.

3. Revise to meet the length requirements
• estimate how much you are over the length limit.  Carefully discard secondary points if you are over the limit by 1/3rd. Discard only at the level of greatest detail and work up to the main points of which you are absolutely certain.
• when you are within 20% of the length limit, work on conciseness by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases.
• polish for clarity, coherence and conciseness.  Insert transitions where necessary, minimizing the number of short choppy sentences.
• check diction, grammar, punctuation and spelling.

NOTE: the thesis statement should come FIRST in your summary no matter where it appears in the original work.  It will then be followed by the order of ideas as they are presented in the original.

Assignment Expectations

In a single paragraph 250-300 words long, write a summary of the article “Pharmaceutical innovation: Can we live forever? A commentary on Schnittker and Karandinos” by Joel Lexchin on page 397 of your textbook. The summary should demonstrate you ability to understand the writer’s argument and translate it into your own words for your reader.

Your summary should do the following:

• be objective
• begin with a clear statement of the writer’s thesis or main idea
• include the title of the work and the name of the author
• focus on the main points only
• maintain the same order of ideas as the original
• connect ideas with appropriate transitions
• use your own words and sentence structures
• use precise diction and sentences
• demonstrate correct punctuation, grammar and spelling


Thursday, Jan 22rd: In-class you will work with a group to text-map the article and DRAFT a thesis statement, topic sentences and conclusion (you should have come to class with notes and underlined key concepts within the article).

Monday, Jan 26th: Draft for workshop
Thursday, Jan 29th: Final Version for Grading


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