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Formatting & References

Summarizing Explained

Summarizing is a way to include a large body of information from a source in your essay without using too many quotations. Your professor might want you to summarize:

  • An entire book, or a chapter/section of a book
  • An essay
  • Information from a textbook
  • A movie or tv show

You might have an assignment that is entirely a summary; you might just need to include a brief summary as part of a larger analysis. Whether it is the whole essay or just one small paragraph, knowing how to summarize correctly is an important skill to have. 

Summarizing is more than retelling. You also need to analyze information, sort important from nonessential elements, and turn large amounts of information into a few short cohesive sentences. Here are some steps you can take to help:

  1. Review the information.
  2. Identify the main idea - asking yourself why you want to use the source for your argument might help you figure out the main idea.
    • Determine the crucial details necessary for supporting the ideas.
    • What information is descriptive or extra? Leave this out.
    • What are the keywords or phrases to identify the main points from the text?
  3. Write only enough to convey the gist. Imagine you're writing a Twitter post or want ad.
  4. In the summary, you need the text's main idea in the first sentence followed by the most important information. Do not include your own ideas or any wording from the original text.
  5. Finally, you must still name the source of your information - either in the summary itself or as an in-text citation in the correct style guide for your assignment.