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Summary Text

What's your favorite book about?

When faced with this question, most people will reply by briefly describing their favorite story. This description will likely include the book's title, the author's name, the main characters' names, and the plot. When a person explains these features of a text, they are creating a summary. A summary is a brief overview of a work's main points.

Readers use summaries for many purposes, including reviewing sources to study for exams or deciding if they want to read a text. Writers also benefit from creating summaries, as the skill lets them review their own knowledge of a source and develop concise writing skills.

Summary Text, stack of books, StudySmarter. Fig. 1 - Reading and writing summaries can help scholars review many sources in a short period of time.

Summary Text Meaning

A summary text is an overview of another source. It is shorter than the original source and only focuses on general ideas. To write a summary text, writers identify the main points of another source and describe them in their own words.

Summaries are useful because they briefly introduce readers to a larger text. They also show that the writer of the summary has understood the source.

A summary text is a condensed overview of another source.

Types of Summary Texts

There are several types of summary texts. Some will focus on just describing the source at hand and others will analyze the source.

Descriptive Summaries

A descriptive summary is an objective overview of important information from another source. When writing a descriptive summary, writers do not mention their own opinions or interpretations of another source. Instead, they focus solely on the facts.

Abstracts

An important type of descriptive summary for academic researchers is called an abstract.

An abstract is a concise summary of a research paper.

After researchers finish a paper, they typically write an abstract to tell readers what the main objectives, methodology, and findings of their research were. These summaries are approximately between one hundred and three hundred words, so writers have to only focus on the most important aspects of the research. For instance, the following summary is an example of an abstract.

The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a global shift to online learning. While researchers have examined the impact of remote learning on elementary students' academic performance, less is known about elementary teachers' perceptions of teaching online during the pandemic. This qualitative inquiry used interviews to better understand how elementary teachers experienced remote instruction. The results suggest that teachers need more guidance from administration and resources to manage stress. These findings can inform the development of future distance learning plans that better address teachers' needs.

Note how the author of this abstract got right to the point. They briefly provided context by mentioning the pandemic, situated the research alongside similar research, and then stated the main objective. They then noted how they conducted research and what they found. The abstract provides a comprehensive overview of the main points of the research.

Evaluative Summaries

An evaluative summary is a type of summary text in which a writer both summarizes the important information from a source and evaluates it. When writing an evaluative summary writers can mention their opinions and analyze the text. Evaluative summaries are therefore often longer than descriptive summaries. However, they still focus on the main points of a source rather than specific details.

Although writers can mention their opinion in an evaluative summary, they should still utilize academic language. This means that writers should avoid slang and informal phrases. They should not make statements like "This was an awesome book!" Instead, they should analyze the text and explain their claims with supporting evidence. For instance, the writer of an evaluative summary might write something like: "The author does an excellent job using imagery such as the pear tree to represent the love between the main characters."

Techniques in Summary Texts

To write a summary, writers need to follow the rules of how to summarize.

To summarize is to briefly describe something's main points.

To summarize information, readers have to take the following steps:

1. Read All of the Text

To understand the main ideas of a source, readers need to ensure they have read it in full. Reading it from start to finish at least once is a critical first step to summarize a text.

Read the text with a pencil or pen in hand to actively engage with it. Annotating while reading helps readers stay focused and note important detail and points.

2. Identify Relevant Information

After reading the text, readers should outline the most important ideas to make sure they understand them. Note them in the order they appear. Referencing your annotations, such as your highlights of key quotes or actions in the text, can help streamline this step.

Remember that summaries are overviews of general ideas in a source. This means that writers should not note specific details within a source.

3. Write the Summary

Once readers have a strong understanding of what the most important information from a text is, they can start writing the summary text. Writers should start by mentioning key information about the source, such as the title, author, and publication date. Then they should identify and explain the most important ideas of the text.

A key feature of summary texts is that they are shorter than the source they are about. Writers writing a summary text should thus make sure they are describing the source concisely.

Summary Text, Typewriter, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Once writers have read and outlined the text, they can begin writing the summary!

Example of a Summary Text

The following is an example that demonstrates how a writer might write a descriptive summary of John Updike's short story "A&P" (1961).

A&P is a short story by American writer John Updike. It is a coming-of-age story about a teenage boy named Sammy who works at the grocery store named A&P. One day, he sees three girls come in wearing bathing suits. Sammy's boss Lengel yells at them for how they are dressed and says they cannot shop there without decent clothes on. Sammy is attracted to the girls and thinks they will be impressed if he stands up for them. Hoping it will come across as a heroic gesture, he quits in front of them. The girls leave unimpressed, and Lengel tells Sammy he should reconsider his choice. Sammy is too proud to take back what he said and quits anyway. When he walks out into the parking lot, he realizes that life will be hard from here on out. He learns about the harsh realities of adult life and the naivety of teenage impulsivity.

Note how this writer did not include any unimportant details. `There are several other elements of this short story, such as Sammy's reflections on society and the interactions with the girls. While they are interesting, these details are not essential to a descriptive summary of the text. The writer thus focused solely on the main events and the lesson to give the reader the most important information about the story.

The above summary is a descriptive summary because it is objective and does not include the author's opinions. However, if the author added their opinions, then it would make it an evaluative summary. For instance, adding the following lines at the end would change this summary from descriptive to evaluative.

Updike does an excellent job depicting Sammy's realization in a subtle, realistic manner. This story is a relatable presentation of adolescent idealism and growth.

Summary Text - Key Takeaways

  • A summary text is a condensed overview of another source.
  • To write a summary text, writers summarize information, which means they briefly describe it in their own words.
  • Descriptive summary texts provide objective information about another source and include abstracts, outlines, and synopses.
  • Evaluative summary texts provide analytical information about another source and include the author's opinion.
  • Writers summarizing a text should read and annotate the text, outline the text, and then write the summary with a focus on main points, rather than small details.

Frequently Asked Questions about Summary Text

A summary text is a condensed overview of another source. 

An abstract is an example of a summary text because it is a concise overview of a research paper. 

Highlighting the main ideas in a text and annotating a text to note important information can help writers write summary texts. 

To write a summary text writers should read all of the text, identify the most important information in the text, and then write an overview of that information. 

The three steps of summarizing texts are reading the text, identifying the main ideas of the text, and writing an overview of the text. 

Final Summary Text Quiz

Question

What is a synopsis?

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Answer

A synopsis is a piece of writing condensed to its essential features.

Show question

Question

A book synopsis will condense a book into _____.

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Answer

Its main plot, characters, and themes

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Question

How long should a synopsis be for a novel-length book, double-spaced?

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Answer

4-6 pages

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Question

Unlike an essay, which is highly structured, a synopsis more or less mirrors _____.


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Answer

The structure of the book you are synopsizing.

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Question

If you don't like a scene in a book, how should you synopsize it?

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Answer

Without bias

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Question

What do you do if the book you synopsize is biased?

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Answer

Include the bias

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Question

Where should you include your commentary in a book synopsis?

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Answer

You should not include it.

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Question

If you have a strong thesis regarding the book, include that thesis in the beginning of your synopsis.

True or false?

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Answer

False. 

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Question

The goal of your synopsis is to give a reader the experience of reading the book, not the experience of _____.


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Answer

You reading the book.

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Question

If there is a funny detail in a book, should you include it in a synopsis? Why or why not?

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Answer

No, because you should only include major details.

Show question

Question

What is a "turning point" in a novel?

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Answer

Turning points are scenes that change the direction of the story.

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Question

You should not write about the story's theme in every paragraph of your synopsis.


True or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

Why should you synopsize the story's main themes?

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Answer

Your goal is to keep the reader engaged with the author’s story, which includes its purpose, and keeping up with the themes of the story is a great way to do this.

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Question

What is the difference between a synopsis and a summary?

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Answer

A summary is almost never longer than a page, and is often a single paragraph. You can think of it this way. A summary is intended to outline or sketch the plot of a story, while a synopsis is intended to follow the plot point by point.

Show question

Question

Which of these is a synonym for synopsis?

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Answer

None of these are synonyms for synopsis

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Question

An abstract is a concise summary of a(n) _____. 

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Answer

Research paper

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Question

What are the four main types of abstracts?

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Answer

Informative, descriptive, critical, and highlight abstracts are the four main types of abstracts.

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Question

What are the four main components of an informative abstract?

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Answer

1. The purpose of the research

2. The research question 

3. The methodology

4. Research findings

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Question

True or False? Abstracts can be written in the future tense. 

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Answer

False. Abstracts should be written in the present tense.

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Question

Where does the word "abstract" come from? 

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Answer

Latin, meaning detached. 

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Question

How many keywords does an abstract have?

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Answer

3-5

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Question

Which type of abstract has about 450 words?

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Answer

Critical abstract

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Question

Which type of abstract has about 100 words?

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Answer

Descriptive abstract

Show question

Question

What is the difference between an informative abstract and a descriptive abstract?

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Answer

An informative abstract discusses conclusions and recommendations and descriptive abstracts do not. 

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Question

Reading abstracts can help researchers...

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Answer

Choose the best articles and papers for their research question.

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Question

What is a literature review?

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Answer

A literature review is an overview and evaluation of relevant sources on a research topic. 


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Question

What are the steps in writing a literature review?

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Answer

1. Conduct research 

2. Read and take notes 

3. Outline the literature review 

4. Write the literature review 

Show question

Question

True or False. A literature review is a list of sources on the same topic. 


Show answer

Answer

False. A literature review is a summary and evaluation of relevant sources on the topic 

Show question

Question

True or False. All literature reviews are formatted the exact same way.


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Answer

False. Literature review format and citation styles will vary depending on the required referencing guide, like MLA or APA.

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Question

Which of the following is a focused research topic? 

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Answer

How does playing soccer impact Belgian teenagers' self-confidence levels? 

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Question

What does a literature review do for the reader?

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Answer

All of the above.

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Question

True or False. Literature reviews can provide historical context for a topic. 

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Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

What is plagiarism?

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Answer

Stealing another’s work and pretending it is one’s own

Show question

Question

How can writers avoid plagiarism?

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Answer

Cite every source that they got information from

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an effective strategy for writing an analytical literature review?

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Answer

Identifying connections among the sources' findings

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Question

What is an academic reference?

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Answer

An academic reference is an acknowledgment of an external source of information. 


Show question

Question

What is plagiarism? 

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Answer

Plagiarism is the act of stealing another’s work and pretending it is one’s own. 

Show question

Question

What style is this? Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages. DOI

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Answer

MLA

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Question

When does a writer need references?

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Answer

When summarizing information

Show question

Question

True or False. Writers need to add references for paraphrases. 

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Which makes information from a text much shorter?

Show answer

Answer

Summarizing

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not included in a citation?

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Answer

The title of the source  

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Question

Which of the following describes footnotes?

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Answer

Numerical superscripts that correspond with numbers at the bottom of a page.

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Question

True or False. References weaken an author's credibility. 

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Answer

False. References enhance an author's credibility. 

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Question

What style is this? Author's Last Name,  Author’s First Initial Second Initial if available. (Year of Publication). Title of book. Publisher Name.

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Answer

APA

Show question

Question

What is a research methodology?

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Answer

A research methodology is a procedure a researcher chooses for carrying out research.

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Question

What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research methodology? 

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Answer

Quantitative research is based on numerical data and qualitative is based on non-numerical data.

Show question

Question

Which type of research seeks to describe a research phenomenon in detail through quantifiable data?


Show answer

Answer

Descriptive

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a part of a research methodology? 

Show answer

Answer

Personal experience with the topic

Show question

Question

What is ethnography?

Show answer

Answer

The qualitative study of cultural and social phenomena.

Show question

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