Welcome to this comprehensive write-up on summary writing.
This write-up will cover everything from the concept of summary writing to how to answer summary questions. There will be loads of intel on the subject in between, so please read meticulously.
To properly understand how to answer summary questions in an examination or test, you need to properly understand what the word “summary” means.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “summary” is a brief statement or account of the main points of something. Now, this is very correct, but I am sure we can come up with something easier to chew and swallow. So here’s something a little less complex:
“A summary can be described as a short, clear description of something”.
When considering the act of summarisation, please note the adjectives short, clear, concise and brief. This simply says to you that a summary ought to be short. It is straight to the point, like ripping off a band-aid.
But be sure to remember that even though a summary is characterised to be brief, it is mandated to make sense. In other words, carry the most important points to be delivered to your audience. This is highly imperative.
So, basically what I am saying is, when summarising, you have to be brief yet pass a tangible message.
Now that you understand what summary is, what is summary writing?
Think for a while, I’ll give you five seconds.
“Summary writing can be defined as the art of putting down a piece of information in a clear, concise yet tangible manner”.
If you thought about this a few seconds ago, good job! You are on your way to becoming a good summary writer. It is not that difficult, just stay with me.
When writing a summary, ensure that you find a way to put down all the most important information to be relayed to your audience. It is only deemed a good summarised piece if you find a way to put all your big ideas in one teeny-tiny box. This is an important strategy for college success.
Now, you might be wondering “How do I fit all my big ideas into a teeny-tiny box?”
Firstly, you have to know what you are talking about! What is your big idea? What are you trying to present? If it is a topic you are passionate about, it will be easy to summarise. If it is a topic you are not that ecstatic about, do your best to understand it! Make it make sense! The moment it makes sense, summary writing will become a walk in the park.
Five Important Tips to Aid Summary Writing
- Start with an opening line stating the author’s name, the title of the work, its year and genre.
- Write in your own words. This is where understanding comes in. The moment you understand, it becomes easier to own your presentation/text.
- Do not instil your own opinion into the summarised piece of work! It is not a feature article. Say it as it is but in your own words. Now you might ask,” How do I say what is not mine in my own words?” Allow me to give an example;
“The government cannot be relied upon due to its history of disappointing the people of the great nation, Nigeria. However with the right leadership, perhaps the credibility of the government can be restored and Nigeria’s amalgamation can be re-birthed”
In summary format:
“In the speech by the author, Moyosore Lawore, the crux remains that the government can attain salvation and Nigeria can be re-birthed if the right leaders step up to the office”.
I took someone’s words and made them mine without discrediting what the person had said. In professional terms, it is called Paraphrasing. That’s the idea!
When you paraphrase, be sure to state what page within that text or article you got the words from and input the date. Confused? Hold on, you will get it.
For example; “In the speech by the author, Moyosore Lawore (2024), the crux remains that the government can attain salvation and Nigeria can be re-birthed if the right leaders step up to the office (p.49)”.
In the finishing paragraph, provide a recap of everything stated from the beginning. It is like a synopsis within a summary. In one sentence, give an overview.
I sincerely hope the tips provided were helpful.
How to Answer Summary Questions
1. Read the Passage Meticulously
In my younger days, when I was in school, I had issues reading passages during examinations because I thought I was wasting my time. I’d passively read the passage and then begin summarisation.
This practice hindered me academically, as I never really got the important points in the passage. READ CAREFULLY! READ EARNESTLY! NOT SLOWLY! BUT CAREFULLY!
2. Read Again
Unless you have a photographic memory, I assure you, you have to read again. If you are not a reader, you cannot be a good summary writer, and that will not be good for you especially if you are currently in college.
3. Understand What the Question is Asking
Just as you need to read the passage, read the question. If you are reading this for a final year thesis, please understand your project topic. That is the only way you can properly understand the material you are sourcing.
4. Pick the Major Ideas in the Passage
If I were you, I’d be scribbling it at the back of my answer sheet, in a jotter, or highlighting, to be on the safe side.
5. Be Concise
Allow me to reiterate! Be brief! Be breviloquent! Hit the nail on the head! Own the words!
If it is an examination, read it again and again if you have extra time. If it is a project, have someone read it for you. It is important.
Summary writing is pretty easy once you have a proper understanding of it. Beyond this article, read more. You just have to read. Summarise from here, summarise from another write-up, and you will be more than ready to take that project or examination.
I hope you understand the concept of summary writing now.
If you are in secondary school, I wish you good luck.
If you are reading this for a thesis, follow the tips and you will be good!