Best Tips on Text Summarization

Summarizing Text

When reading a piece of literature, especially if it’s lengthy, it can be difficult to pinpoint the main ideas and events that took place. Summarizing text is a useful tool for not only recalling lengthy text but also for organizing the text’s main ideas. In this video, we’ll look at how to write a summary and what a summary should include.

A good summary is a brief recollection of the main point of the piece. The summary should include:

  • Main characters, events, and places;
  • The overall purpose of the piece of writing;
  • And most importantly – it should be shorter than the original text.

Summaries should not include supporting details that aren’t important to the text’s main point or plot.

So, how do we identify what ideas to include and what to leave out?

First, it’s important to review the text. If you’re going to write a summary, don’t just skim through the text or just read a chapter here and there. Reading through the entire text at length helps you to have a clear understanding of the piece. If the piece has chapter names or subheadings, these can help you organize the main ideas that are mentioned in those sections.

The next thing you’ll want to do is identify the main ideas, characters, or events. Pinpointing any narrative arcs or sequential events can help abbreviate the major points of the text. Who are the subjects of the story? What is happening to them and where did it happen? Was there an exchange of ideas in the text? If so, did the text explain or give examples to support the idea? All these questions are important to keep in mind when you begin summarizing.

Once you have answers to these questions you’ll need to go through and choose what is most important. Which details move the story further or convey the main idea best? Pick these points and include them when writing your final summary.

As you begin to write, remember to use your own words. Make sure your recollection is accurate but not verbatim of the original text.

Whether you are summarizing a story or a research paper, it’s important to write chronologically so the important events in the story are in the correct order. Jumbling the order of events will make your summary confusing and hard to follow.

Lastly, it’s important to be objective. Not all literature is unbiased, however, it is still your job in a summary to retell events or ideas that do not convey your personal opinions unless explicitly asked. That means avoiding adjectives or other words that describe events negatively or positively unless you are quoting the original author or a character in the text you are summarizing. When summarizing the opinion of others make sure to state whose opinion it is.

When you are done writing your summary, it is a good habit to review your work to make sure all of the main points are covered or to determine if there are things you can exclude to make it shorter.

Thanks for watching, and happy studying!



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: March 16, 2020