Writing Summaries: Initial Reading and Writing Steps

In class on Tuesday 9.8, you offered up your strategies for reading a text and beginning to write a summary. We can add to this list and revise it as needed:


  • Read the title as a guide for main ideas and themes.
  • Look at the introduction to find the thesis and a map of the text.
  • Read the first sentence of each paragraph to look for main ideas (remember: sometimes the topic sentence is not the first sentence of the paragraph).
  • Pay attention to definitions, italicized and bolded words, headings, etc.
  • Jot notes and write questions while you read.


  • Include the basic information about the text you are summarizing (i.e. title, author, publication, purpose, audience).
  • Paraphrase the author’s ideas, focusing on main ideas and not minor supporting details.
  • Include repeating themes and motifs, and explain how the author supports his/her ideas.
  • Be concise. Use quotations selectively and minimally.

Something to keep in mind: when you summarize a text, you report the main ideas of that text, not what you think about the text. You remain objective when you write a summary.

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