How to Write a Summary: Tips, Strategies and Best Practices

How to Write a Summary: Tips, Strategies and Best Practices

Writing a summary requires a deep understanding of the original text and the ability to concisely restate its main ideas in your own words, highlighting the essence of the content. 

This process begins with crafting an organized paragraph that opens with an introductory sentence, clearly mentioning the text’s title, author, and central theme, steering clear of personal commentary to maintain the integrity of the summarized information.

In this blog, you will discover various strategies and best practices for summary writing, including ways to start a summary, summary steps, and the recommended length for a summary.

Purpose and Benefits of a Summary

Understanding the purpose of a summary is pivotal in grasping its significance in both academic and professional realms. Summaries serve multiple functions, each tailored to enhance comprehension, retention, and communication of key ideas. 

Here's a breakdown of the types of summary, core components and benefits of summary writing:

  • Types:
    • Academic Summaries: Used in scholarly contexts to condense research findings, theories, or literary works.
    • Executive Summaries: Often found in business settings, these provide a snapshot of reports or proposals, highlighting key points for decision-makers.
    • Abstracts: Common in scientific articles, abstracts offer a brief overview of research aims, methods, results, and conclusions].
  • Core Components of a Summary:
    • Main Idea or Thesis: A summary must encapsulate the central theme or argument presented in the original text.
    • Essential Supporting Points: It should also highlight crucial supporting arguments or evidence that back the main idea.
    • Independence from Original Text: While a summary relies on the content of the source material, it should stand on its own, providing a clear and concise rendition of the original work.
  • Functions and Benefits:
    • Improves Comprehension: Summarizing forces the writer to distill complex ideas into simpler, more digestible formats, thereby enhancing understanding of the subject matter.
    • Facilitates Future Reference: A well-crafted summary serves as a handy reference tool, allowing quick recall of a text’s key points without the need to revisit the entire work.
    • Better Understanding: By summarizing, writers can showcase their grasp of the material, making it a valuable tool in educational settings to assess understanding.
    • Objective Representation: Unlike critiques or analyses, summaries aim to objectively convey the essence of a text, focusing solely on the author’s ideas without personal bias or interpretation.

Understanding these aspects of summary writing underscores its value in effectively communicating complex information. This skill, once honed, becomes an indispensable tool across various domains, from academia to industry, underscoring the importance of mastering the art of summary writing.

Steps to Deep Reading Before Summarizing

Before embarking on the task of summarizing, engaging in deep reading is essential to fully grasp the content and nuances of the text. 

Listed below are some of the benefits of deep reading

Deep Reading Benefits:

  • Deep reading is the mind's default mode for processing texts, allowing for deeper thinking and association with unique ideas.
  • It improves focus and teaches the brain to commit to one task at a time, which is essential in today’s world of information overflow.
  • Engaging deeply with a text provides more value, as immersion in the material follows the reader everywhere, encouraging positive action based on the information absorbed.

Here are the steps to ensure effective deep reading:

  1. Initiate with Skimming and Active Reading:
  • Begin by skimming through the text to get a general idea of its main themes and structure.
  • Actively read the article or text, paying close attention to its presentation. This might involve rereading certain sections and keeping the purpose and intended audience in mind.
  1. Breakdown and Understand the Content:
    • Divide the text into manageable sections. This helps in focusing on smaller parts of the text, making it easier to understand and summarize later.
    • Summarize each section individually while ensuring it aligns with the overall main idea of the text. This step is vital in understanding the content thoroughly before proceeding to write a summary.
  2. Engage in Deep Reading Practices:
    • Deep reading requires complete engagement with the text. Eliminate all distractions to immerse yourself fully in the material.
    • Understand every word in the writing, especially unfamiliar ones. This might require looking up meanings to ensure comprehensive understanding.
    • Read carefully and multiple times if needed, particularly the difficult parts, until they are fully understood.
    • Question the text and identify any discrepancies or mistakes, fostering a critical thinking approach.
    • Discuss insightful parts of the text with others. This can provide different perspectives and deepen understanding.
    • Attempt to rewrite what you've read. Successfully doing so indicates a deep comprehension of the material.
  3. Post-Reading Activities:
    • After a thorough initial reading, it's beneficial to give the article a deep re-read, highlighting passages that stand out.
    • Refine the highlights to make the author's ideas easier to understand and scrutinize their relevance to personal experiences and existing knowledge.
    • Write out high-level ideas by hand to further embed the new knowledge into the mind, and then explain these concepts in detail in a fresh document for a comprehensive understanding.

By adhering to these steps, readers can significantly enhance their understanding of the text, which is a crucial precursor to writing an effective summary. This deep engagement ensures that the summary captures the essence of the original text accurately and cohesively.

Crafting the Perfect Introductory Sentence

Crafting the perfect introductory sentence for a summary involves several key components that ensure clarity, conciseness, and a comprehensive understanding of the original text. Here's how to get started:

  1. Identify the Core Elements:
    • Title and Author: Always include the title of the text and the author's name in the introductory sentence. This provides immediate context to the reader.
    • Main Point: Clearly state the main point or thesis of the text as you understand it. This sets the stage for the rest of your summary.
    • Use Your Own Words: Avoid direct quotations; instead, paraphrase the author's main ideas in your own words to demonstrate your understanding and keep the summary original.
  2. Structuring the Sentence:
    • Start with the Source: Begin your summary by acknowledging the source material. This could be as simple as "In [Author's Name]'s [Title of the Text], the main argument focuses on...".
    • Incorporate a Reporting Verb: Use verbs like 'argues', 'claims', 'contends', or 'insists' to present the author's main ideas. This not only introduces the summary but also sets a scholarly tone.
    • Be Concise but Comprehensive: Your introductory sentence should capture the essence of the text in a nutshell, providing a snapshot of the author's thesis and the text's main theme.


  • For a novel: "In [Author's Name]'s novel, [Title], the story revolves around the central conflict faced by [main character], highlighting [main theme or journey]." 
  • For an academic article: "In the article '[Title]' by [Author's Name], published in [Year], the author contends that [main argument], supported by [key evidence]." 
  • For a scientific research paper: "The research paper '[Title]' by [Author's Name], focuses on [main research topic], where the author argues [main findings]."

By following these steps and structure, you can craft an introductory sentence that effectively sets the stage for your summary, providing your readers with a clear, concise, and comprehensive overview of the original text. 

Condensing Main Points with Precision

Condensing the main points of a text with precision involves a meticulous process of identifying, prioritizing, and articulating the essence of the original material. Here's how to approach this crucial step in summary writing:

  • Identify Key Components:
    • Main Idea: Determine the central thesis or argument of the text. This is the backbone of your summary.
    • Supporting Points: Pinpoint the essential arguments or evidence that bolster the main idea. These should be included to provide a comprehensive overview.
    • Keywords: Spot keywords within the text as they often signal important concepts or themes.
  • Crafting the Summary:
    • Use Your Own Words: Paraphrase the author's ideas into your own language to demonstrate understanding and avoid plagiarism. Remember, a summary should significantly condense the original text while accurately representing its main points.
    • Structure: Present the main ideas in the order they appear in the original text, using transitional phrases for coherence. However, avoid creating an outline or merely listing the points as they occur.
    • Omissions: Exclude any examples, detailed evidence, or rhetorical questions used by the author. The goal is to distill the text to its most pivotal elements, not to replicate its detailed discussions.
  • Formatting Tips:
    • Abbreviations and Symbols: Use abbreviations and symbols to note down key points. This helps in keeping your summary concise.
    • Mind Maps and Columns: For longer texts, consider organizing the main points using a mind map or columns. This visual organization can help in understanding how ideas connect and which details are most important.
    • Highlighting: Use colors and highlighting to differentiate between themes or categories of information. Writing small can also help in fitting more content on a single page.

In summary writing, the ability to discern and distill the essence of the text is paramount. By following these steps, writers can ensure that their summaries are both accurate and concise, providing readers with a clear and succinct overview of the original material without injecting personal opinion or unnecessary detail.

Ensuring Coherence and Smooth Transitions

Ensuring coherence and smooth transitions in writing is akin to creating a map for readers to follow, guiding them through the ideas presented in a logical and fluid manner. Here are strategies to achieve this:

  • Transition Techniques:
    • Use of Transitional Words and Phrases: Incorporate words such as 'subsequently' and 'conversely,' or phrases like 'as a result' and 'in conclusion' to link ideas and signal logical connections between them.
    • Key Phrases Repetition: Pick up key phrases from the previous paragraph and incorporate them in the next. This creates an obvious progression for readers, making the text more accessible and easier to follow.
    • Transitional Paragraphs: After major sections, employ transitional paragraphs to pause, regroup, and indicate where you are in your argument. These paragraphs should summarize major points, relate the previous section to the thesis, and connect it to what will follow, enhancing the overall flow of the essay.
  • Avoiding Common Pitfalls:
    • Avoid using personal pronouns such as 'I' or 'We', which can disrupt the objective tone of a summary.
    • Beware of poor transitions that can lead to choppy, jumpy, or disconnected writing. These hinder the reader's ability to follow the organization or train of thought.
  • Building Logical Connections:
    • Within Paragraphs: Use transitional words or phrases, or keywords from the preceding paragraph, to ensure connections are clear within a paragraph. This helps in joining ideas together in a sentence and sentences together in a paragraph.
    • Between Paragraphs: Highlight connections between corresponding paragraphs by referencing relevant material from previous paragraphs in the next. Writing transitions that specifically connect one paragraph to another enhances the effectiveness more than using generic transitions.

By employing these strategies, writers can significantly enhance the cohesiveness of their writing. Effective use of transitions not only aids in better understanding by the reader but also ensures a smooth flow of ideas, making the summary more engaging and easier to comprehend. 

Conclusion: Wrapping up Your Summary

Throughout this article, we've explored the nuanced skill of summary writing, offering readers a detailed guide on effectively condensing complex texts into clear, concise summaries. From understanding the foundational purpose and benefits of summaries in various contexts to mastering the art of crafting the perfect introductory sentence and ensuring coherence with smooth transitions, the guidance provided aims to enhance both academic and professional writing capabilities. Emphasizing the importance of using one's own words and maintaining objectivity, this article has underscored the critical skills required for precise and effective summary writing, making it an invaluable resource for individuals looking to refine their summarizing abilities.


What are the essential guidelines for creating a summary?

To craft an effective summary, you should:

  • Paraphrase the content using your own language.
  • Focus on the core ideas of the original material and keep it concise.
  • Refrain from incorporating your own interpretations or analyses; the summary should reflect the author's ideas, not yours.

How can I develop a strategy for summarizing a text?

Developing a summary strategy involves:

  • Thoroughly reading and understanding the text.
  • Taking notes on the central theme and key points that should be included.
  • Using the author's original keywords and considering how their ideas pertain to your own arguments in your work.

Can you outline the five steps involved in writing a summary?

Certainly! The five steps for summarizing are:

  1. Read and comprehend the material you intend to summarize.
  2. Highlight or underline significant sections of the text.
  3. Jot down the primary arguments.
  4. Include relevant supporting details.
  5. Review your summary for accuracy and clarity.

What makes a summary both good and effective?

A good and effective summary should:

  • Start with an introductory sentence that mentions the text's title, author, and the main thesis as perceived by you.
  • Be composed in your own words, ensuring it's a paraphrase of the original.
  • Only encapsulate the original text's ideas without adding your personal opinions, interpretations, or commentary.