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Writing a Summary – Explanation & Examples

Published by at October 17th, 2023 , Revised On October 17, 2023

In a world bombarded with vast amounts of information, condensing and presenting data in a digestible format becomes invaluable. Enter summaries. 

A summary is a brief and concise account of the main points of a larger body of work. It distils complex ideas, narratives, or data into a version that is quicker to read and easier to understand yet still retains the essence of the original content.

Importance of Summaries

The importance of summarising extends far beyond just making reading more manageable. In academic settings, summaries aid students in understanding and retaining complex materials, from textbook chapters to research articles. They also serve as tools to showcase one’s grasp of the subject in essays and reports. 

In professional arenas, summaries are pivotal in business reports, executive briefings, and even emails where key points need to be conveyed quickly to decision-makers. Meanwhile, summarising skills come into play in our personal lives when we relay news stories to friends, recap a movie plot, or even scroll through condensed news or app notifications on our smartphones.

Why Do We Write Summaries?

In our modern information age, the sheer volume of content available can be overwhelming. From detailed research papers to comprehensive news articles, the quest for knowledge is often met with lengthy and complex resources. This is where the power of a well-crafted summary comes into play. But what drives us to create or seek out summaries? Let’s discuss.

Makes Important Things Easy to Remember

At the heart of summarisation is the goal to understand. A well-written summary aids in digesting complex material. By distilling larger works into their core points, we reinforce the primary messages, making them easier to remember. This is especially crucial for students who need to retain knowledge for exams or professionals prepping for a meeting based on a lengthy report.

Simplification of Complex Topics

Not everyone is an expert in every field. Often, topics come laden with jargon, intricate details, and nuanced arguments. Summaries act as a bridge, translating this complexity into accessible and straightforward content. This is especially beneficial for individuals new to a topic or those who need just the highlights without the intricacies.

Aid in Researching and Understanding Diverse Sources

Researchers, writers, and academics often wade through many sources when working on a project. This involves finding sources of different types, such as primary or secondary sources, and then understanding their content. Sifting through each source in its entirety can be time-consuming. Summaries offer a streamlined way to understand each source’s main arguments or findings, making synthesising information from diverse materials more efficient.

Condensing Information for Presentation or Sharing

In professional settings, there is often a need to present findings, updates, or recommendations to stakeholders. An executive might not have the time to go through a 50-page report, but they would certainly appreciate a concise summary highlighting the key points. Similarly, in our personal lives, we often summarise movie plots, book stories, or news events when sharing with friends or family.

Characteristics of a Good Summary

Crafting an effective summary is an art. It’s more than just shortening a piece of content; it is about capturing the essence of the original work in a manner that is both accessible and true to its intent. Let’s explore the primary characteristics that distinguish a good summary from a mediocre one:


At the core of a summary is the concept of brevity. But being concise doesn’t mean leaving out vital information. A good summary will:

  • Eliminate superfluous details or repetitive points.
  • Focus on the primary arguments, events, or findings.
  • Use succinct language without compromising the message.


Summarising is not about infusing personal opinions or interpretations. A quality summary will:

  • Stick to the facts as presented in the original content.
  • Avoid introducing personal biases or perspectives.
  • Represent the original author’s intent faithfully.


A summary is meant to simplify and make content accessible. This is only possible if the summary itself is easy to understand. Ensuring clarity involves:

  • Avoiding jargon or technical terms unless they are essential to the content. If they are used, they should be clearly defined.
  • Structuring sentences in a straightforward manner.
  • Making sure ideas are presented in a way that even someone unfamiliar with the topic can grasp the primary points.


A jumble of ideas, no matter how concise, will not make for a good summary. Coherence ensures that there’s a logical flow to the summarised content. A coherent summary will:

  • Maintain a logical sequence, often following the structure of the original content.
  • Use transition words or phrases to connect ideas and ensure smooth progression.
  • Group related ideas together to provide structure and avoid confusion.

Steps of Writing a Summary

The process of creating a compelling summary is not merely about cutting down content. It involves understanding, discerning, and crafting. Here is a step-by-step guide to writing a summary that encapsulates the essence of the original work:

Reading Actively

Engage deeply with the content to ensure a thorough understanding.


  • Read the entire document or work first to grasp its overall intent and structure.
  • On the second read, underline or highlight the standout points or pivotal moments.
  • Make brief notes in the margins or on a separate sheet, capturing the core ideas in your own words.

Identifying the Main Idea

Determine the backbone of the content, around which all other details revolve.


  • Ask yourself: “What is the primary message or theme the author wants to convey?”
  • This can often be found in the title, introduction, or conclusion of a piece.
  • Frame the main idea in a clear and concise statement to guide your summary.

List Key Supporting Points

Understand the pillars that uphold the main idea, providing evidence or depth to the primary message.


  • Refer back to the points you underlined or highlighted during your active reading.
  • Note major arguments, evidence, or examples that the author uses to back up the main idea.
  • Prioritise these points based on their significance to the main idea.

Draft the Summary

Convert your understanding into a condensed, coherent version of the original.


  • Start with a statement of the main idea.
  • Follow with the key supporting points, maintaining logical order.
  • Avoid including trivial details or examples unless they’re crucial to the primary message.
  • Use your own words, ensuring you are not plagiarising the original content.


Fine-tune your draft to ensure clarity, accuracy, and brevity.


  • Read your draft aloud to check for flow and coherence.
  • Ensure that your summary remains objective, avoiding any personal interpretations or biases.
  • Check the length. See if any non-essential details can be removed without sacrificing understanding if it is too lengthy.
  • Ensure clarity by ensuring the language is straightforward, and the main ideas are easily grasped.

The research done by our experts have:

  • Precision and Clarity
  • Zero Plagiarism
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Dos and Don’ts of Summarising Key Points

Summarising, while seemingly straightforward, comes with its nuances. Properly condensing content demands a balance between brevity and fidelity to the original work. To aid in crafting exemplary summaries, here is a guide on the essential dos and don’ts:

Use your Own Words

This ensures that you have truly understood the content and are not merely parroting it. It also prevents issues of plagiarism.

Tip: After reading the original content, take a moment to reflect on it. Then, without looking at the source, write down the main points in your own words.

Attribute Sources Properly

Giving credit is both ethical and provides context to readers, helping them trace back to the original work if needed. How to cite sources correctly is a skill every writer should master.

Tip: Use signal phrases like “According to [Author/Source]…” or “As [Author/Source] points out…” to seamlessly incorporate attributions.

Ensure Accuracy of the Summarised Content

A summary should be a reliable reflection of the original content. Distorting or misrepresenting the original ideas compromises the integrity of the summary.

Tip: After drafting your summary, cross-check with the original content to ensure all key points are represented accurately and ensure you are referencing credible sources.

Avoid Copy-Pasting Chunks of Original Content

This not only raises plagiarism concerns but also shows a lack of genuine engagement with the material.

Tip: If a particular phrase or sentence from the original is pivotal and cannot be reworded without losing its essence, use block quotes, quotation marks, and attribute the source.

Do not Inject your Personal Opinion

A summary should be an objective reflection of the source material. Introducing personal biases or interpretations can mislead readers.

Tip: Stick to the facts and arguments presented in the original content. If you find yourself writing “I think” or “In my opinion,” reevaluate the sentence.

Do not Omit Crucial Information

While a summary is meant to be concise, it shouldn’t be at the expense of vital details that are essential to understanding the original content’s core message.

Tip: Prioritise information. Always include the main idea and its primary supports. If you are unsure whether a detail is crucial, consider its impact on the overall message.

Examples of Summaries

Here are a few examples that will help you get a clearer view of how to write a summary. 

Example 1: Summary of a News Article

Original Article: The article reports on the recent discovery of a rare species of frog in the Amazon rainforest. The frog, named the “Emerald Whisperer” due to its unique green hue and the soft chirping sounds it makes, was found by a team of researchers from the University of Texas. The discovery is significant as it offers insights into the biodiversity of the region, and the Emerald Whisperer might also play a pivotal role in understanding the ecosystem balance.

Summary: Researchers from the University of Texas have discovered a unique frog, termed the “Emerald Whisperer,” in the Amazon rainforest. This finding sheds light on the region’s biodiversity and underscores the importance of the frog in ecological studies.

Example 2: Summary of a Research Paper

Original Paper: In a study titled “The Impact of Urbanisation on Bee Populations,” researchers conducted a year-long observation on bee colonies in three urban areas and three rural areas. Using specific metrics like colony health, bee productivity, and population size, the study found that urban environments saw a 30% decline in bee populations compared to rural settings. The research attributes this decline to factors like pollution, reduced green spaces, and increased temperatures in urban areas.

Summary: A study analysing the effects of urbanisation on bee colonies found a significant 30% decrease in bee populations in urban settings compared to rural areas. The decline is linked to urban factors such as pollution, diminished greenery, and elevated temperatures.

Example 3: Summary of a Novel

Original Story: In the novel “Winds of Fate,” protagonist Clara is trapped in a timeless city where memories dictate reality. Throughout her journey, she encounters characters from her past, present, and imagined future. Battling her own perceptions and a menacing shadow figure, Clara seeks an elusive gateway to return to her real world. In the climax, she confronts the shadow, which turns out to be her own fear, and upon overcoming it, she finds her way back, realising that reality is subjective.

Summary: “Winds of Fate” follows Clara’s adventures in a surreal city shaped by memories. Confronting figures from various phases of her life and battling a symbolic shadow of her own fear, Clara eventually discovers that reality’s perception is malleable and subjective.

Frequently Asked Questions

A summary condenses a larger piece of content, capturing its main points and essence.  It is usually one-fourth of the original content.

A summary is a concise representation of a larger text or content, highlighting its main ideas and points. It distils complex information into a shorter form, allowing readers to quickly grasp the essence of the original material without delving into extensive details. Summaries prioritise clarity, brevity, and accuracy.

Write a summary when you need to condense lengthy content for easier comprehension and recall. It’s useful in academic settings, professional reports, presentations, and research to highlight key points. Summaries aid in comparing multiple sources, preparing for discussions, and sharing essential details of extensive materials efficiently with others.

To summarise without plagiarising: Read the source thoroughly, understand its main ideas, and then write the summary in your own words. Avoid copying phrases verbatim. Attribute the source properly. Use paraphrasing techniques and cross-check your summary against the original to ensure distinctiveness while retaining accuracy. Always prioritise understanding over direct replication.

A summary condenses a text, capturing its main points from various content types like books, articles, or movies. An abstract, typically found in research papers and scientific articles, provides a brief overview of the study’s purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. Both offer concise versions, but abstracts are more structured and specific.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.