What is a summary?
The best way to demonstrate that you understand the information and ideas in any piece of writing is to compose an accurate and clearly written summary of that piece. Essentially, a summary is a brief statement, in your own words, of the content of a passage (a group of paragraphs, a chapter, an article, or a book). This restatement should focus on the central idea of the passage; it should indicate the main points in the passage that support or explain the central idea. It will reflect the order in which these points are presented and the emphasis given to them. It may even include some important examples from the passage.
Therefore, a good summary has three central qualities:
A summary is not a description of minor details. A summary does not involve repeating points (often referred to as regurgitating) simply for the purpose of retracing the chapter in a book. And a summary should not contain any of your own opinions or conclusions (i.e. “I believe that . . . “ or “I think that the author is wrong because. . . “).
Why is summarizing important? Writing a summary is an excellent way to understand what you have read. If you do not understand your source material, chances are you will not be able to refer to it usefully in a research essay.
Sample Book Summary
Read the following chapter excerpt from the book, Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education by Rosalie Pedalino Porter. A sample book summary using MLA style follows.
Use this sample summary as your guide to write your own book summaries. Pay close attention to the content and format of the summary. Apply this template to your summary assignments.
excerpt from Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education (62k .pdf file)
Book summary of Forked Tongues chapter excerpt (32k .pdf file)
10 Step Summary Method
Read the text at least twice so you have good understanding of the content. Look up any unfamiliar words.
While reading or after reading, underline important words, phrases, and sentences. Make marginal notations, noting main ideas and key supporting statements.
Copy the underlined or annotated material onto a sheet of paper (preferably a journal or notebook) and make any changes or additions (paraphrase, quotations).
Study and review your interpretations.
Insert transitional words or phrases to show relationship between ideas. Make a map or outline.
Prepare a draft from your map or outline and compare your wording with the author’s. Check to see your summary is an accurate reflection of the text.
Revise, revisit, add, and delete from the original draft, deciding what you do and don’t have room for and what is important enough to include.
Show your summary to someone else to get another set of eyes reading your masterpiece.
Repeat step #7.
Submit the summary.
Within the next two units (Unit 4 and Unit 5) you will collect 3 book sources and write a summary on each source. Each summary should be one page, double spaced with the MLA book citation formatted at the top. Each summary should include one relevant quotation from the book source and paraphrase of a chapter you found worthwhile from the original book source. Since time is important, you most likely will not have enough time to read the entire book – consequently, choose a relevant chapter that stood out to you and is directly related to your topic. Summarize that chapter in one page.
Submit each summary to me using each of the three links below. Check the due dates to submit these 3 summary assignments. Each summary assignment is worth 25 points.
For additional reference, re-read The Little Penguin Handbook: Custom Edition for College of DuPage, “Appendix: Writing Summaries,” pages 286-291.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact me.
Book Summary 1
Book Summary 2
Book Summary 3
General Assignment Instructions