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4 Tips for Writing a Good Summary Essay

Summaries are typically a relief for students forced to write essays, night and day, for stern teachers. In many ways, the idea of a summary seems much easier and less stressful than many other academic assignments – and in some ways, it is. However, students still need to understand that a summary can be an essay – and a summary essay can be difficult if you don’t approach it the right way. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of 4 key tips for students needing help on writing a summary essay. By utilizing these tips, students can better fend off summary essay assignments.

  1. Don’t copy. A lot of students find it tempting to just take phrases (or sometimes, even whole passages) from stories, poems or other literature in order to sum up the content of the story. The blurb on the back of a novel, for example, is a typical victim of this lazy behavior. Avoid this at all costs! Put all summary information in your own words – never copy anything directly from the text. This is your summary, not a cut-and-paste version of the text.
  2. Don’t repeat what happened. Summaries aren’t necessarily supposed to be a retelling of what happened in the story, or what an author was claiming. You need to observe the main ideas and points of the author, not just repeat what happened at face value. Concentrate on different sections in the reading. What was the author trying to say? How was he trying to say it? What literary devices was he using? What are some themes? Answer these questions and you’ll have a deeper, more thoughtful summary.
  3. Plan. Like with all great written assignments, it helps to have a plan. Make an outline of what you’re going to summarize. Divide the reading into sections and outline each; what is the main point? What are some supporting details to uphold your thoughts? Tackle the summary in a similar way as to an old essay. With proper planning and prewriting, the summary will be exceptionally easy.
  4. Read and review. While you’re composing this summary essay, always be referencing the text. You should know the literature inside and out, as this will aid you in your overall approach to the summary. Reread for clarity and make sure you understand the exact details of the text. After this, review. Go back over your summary and make sure it makes sense. Revise and edit where needed. Do this, and you’re summary is guaranteed to be a hit, instead of a flop!