Summary writing is said to be selecting or abstracting of the most important ideas and relevant details from a passage and restating the selected and abstracted ideas and relevant details in one’s words to form a fresh passage.
Such a fresh passage is normally and usually shorter than the original passage because it contains just only the most essential or vital details in the original passage.
In other words, it means intelligent selection of the thoughts, ideas and concepts from an original passage The fresh passage that now contains obly the essential details is called a summary.
Summarising a passage is a brief exercise. Clarity of expressions is presupposed that the passage is well comprehended and summarised.
To summarise means to re-state as briefly and clearly as possible the information gathered or selected from a passage which has been read or a speech listened to.
Human communication takes place within the limited frameworks of time and space. There is hardly enough time and space for a source of a message to say all he would wish to say or write.
It is the same to read or listen to all he would wish to read or listen to at a given point in time.
The simple reason responsible for this situation is that both the sources of messages and receivers of messages are involved in many and varied human activities for which further messages or information must be shared or disseminated.
Because of this reason, human beings are likely to listen and react effectively to short, clear and direct messages.
The following are some steps you may take in your effort to write a good summary.
Read effectively and efficiently
The main key to a good summary is an understanding of the passage. You should read the passage carefully and meaningfully.
You should pronounce the words correctly and understand their meanings as used in the passage.
Understand the message
An understanding of the message in the paragraph is essential. What is the writer of the passage saying, how and why is he saying it.
Analyse the message
How has the writer organized his thoughts? Is the method chronological, spatial, cause-to-effect, effect-to-cause or problem-to-solution?
Apart from using these methods, writers also use certain devices to clarify or support the main ideas.
Such devices are explanation, comparison/contrast/analogy, citing, specific instances or examples, illustrations, statistics, testimony/authority.
Get hold of the topic sentence
Get hold of the sentence in which the main ideas of the passage is expressed. It is the heart of a passage.
It tells the reader the main focus or idea of the passage. The topic sentence may be found as the first sentence, in the middle or at the end of the passage.
Note and understand the supporting details
Note and understand the points with which the writer has supported or expanded the main idea of the passage.
In doing this, the writer would define, explain, illustrate, compare, contrast, amplify or emphasize, repeat or create redundancy.
Understand devices as signposts
The devices such as illustrations, examples, etc are signposts to enable you to comprehend the main idea of the passage.
They should never be summarized unless they are absolutely essential or form an integral part of the main idea.
Understand the function of the paragraph
Certainly, the passage you are asked to summarise was taken from a paragraph or it is a paragraph or is made up of one or more paragraphs. What function does the paragraph serve in the passage?
- It introduces the main thought or idea.
- It develops the main idea or central thought.
- It provides transition to main ideas or central thought or between ideas.
- It concludes the main idea or central thought.
Preview the passage
You should preview the passage by reading fast through it. Do not be distracted by the difficult words in the passage, rather, understand their contextual meanings. Look out for the central idea of the passage. Note the supporting ideas or details.
Formulate mental question
You should try to formulate some mental questions about the thoughts, ideas and concepts and how they are developed in the passage.
Find out the thought pattern
You should read to find out the thought pattern and what constitutes it. Read and repeat the passage paying greater attention to the main idea and the important details with the aim of eventual recall in an organized manner for summary writing.
Recite mentally to yourself
You are required to recite mentally to yourself. In an organized and logical manner, the main idea and important details should have been gathered from the passage.
Now, summarise them as they express the thought pattern in the passage. Do this in your own words and in one short paragraph.
Review the passage
You should review the passage to ensure that you have been able to select the main idea and important details from the passage in an organised and logical order.
Identify again the main ideas and the important details, relate them to the thought pattern in the passage by asking why, how, where, when and what of the ideas and important details.
You have to check to make sure that you have really selected the information as needed and rightly expressed them in your words in the first draft.
Try to revise the draft, remove all the unnecessary words and restructure the draft as necessary as possible. This is the summary of the passage.
Read to summarise
Bad reading habit and low rate of comprehension are serious impediments to writing a good summary.
Summary writing demands a careful selection of pertinent details from a passage. This calls for the understanding and interpretation of the thoughts beneath the written language.
You must, therefore, be concerned with reading to, get the main ideas, select important details, follow direction, predict outcomes, differentiate between facts and opinions, follow the written plan and intent of the writer, understand charts, tables, maps and graphs and grasp the sequence of events.