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The Art of Summarising

A message for all senior secondary students…
Exams are approaching and being able to summarise texts and notes is an important skill for exam success. 

Summarising involves taking the main ideas from a piece of text and rewriting them in your own words. A summary is significantly shorter than the original text and tends to give an overview of a topic area. A good summary shows that you have understood the text. You can paraphrase any text for free here.

Below are 7 quick tips to create effective summaries:

1. Highlight the main ideas. This is a skill in itself. As you read the text, consider what the author wants you to remember and recall, and the purpose of the information. It can be helpful to read the ‘about the author’ section to understand their motive and purpose. Consider each idea and if it was left out, would it change the story, meaning or understanding of the summary.

2. Combine highlighted ideas. The key here is that this needs to be in your own words. You may use sentence starters such as; “Firstly… secondly… thirdly…” or “In the first place… pursuing this further… finally…”. What is very important at this stage is to ensure you use your own words to avoid plagiarism.

3. Correctly represent the original. Go back and check you have not left out any important facts, events or ideas from the original work. This step is similar to movie directors making a movie from a book. Not all the information is used from the original, however the story still flows and hopefully has the same intent as the original.

4. Avoid opinions. Do not include your own opinion on the topic. A summary does not ask for your personal thoughts on the subject. It is simply a factual representation of the original text, rewritten accurately, in your own words.

5. Avoid jargon. If the author uses words you are unfamiliar with avoid simply copying and pasting. Take a moment to use a thesaurus (I use the dictionary on my phone) to understand the words and use language you would use if you were discussing the work.

6. Cite your sources. Remember to clearly cite your sources. Check with your teacher or lecturer about how to correctly reference the sources you have used for your research using a recognised referencing format. Also, you can ask professionals to write my research paper for me. They can provide guidance on finding sources and references and help with creating all or part of the content you are having difficulty with. 

7.  Remind the reader. Keep reminding the reader that you are summarising the work of someone else by using the following phrases; “The author goes on to say…” or “The text further states that…”

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Karen Boyes is an expert in effective teaching and learning, study skills, motivation and positive thinking. She was awarded the NSANZ Educator of the Year 2014 award and works in schools throughout Australasia teaching students how to Study Smart and teachers how to raise achievement.


Karen Tui Boyes's picture
Study Skills Queen

Karen is an author and the creator of the Teachers Matter Magazine, Teachers Matter Conference, Kids Matter Conference, Study Smart Workshops and the Habits of Mind Bootcamp. She is also CEO of Spectrum Education, Affiliate Director of the Institute for the Habits of Mind,NZ Educator of the Year 2014, NZ Speaker of the Year 2013, NZ Business Woman of the Year 2001, wife of one and mother of two.