Summarizing a Text

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When you finish reading a text, it’s a great idea to stop for a moment and write a summary of what you just read.

A good summary accomplishes the following:

  • It identifies or names the piece and its author(s) and states the main purpose of the text.
    Example: In his essay, “Consider the Lobster,” writer David Foster Wallace asks readers to consider the ethical implications of feasting on lobsters. (You can find a copy of this essay online at
  • It captures the text’s main points.
  • It does not include the reader’s opinions, feelings, beliefs, counterarguments, etc.
  • It is short. The idea of a summary is to “boil down” or condense a text to just a few sentences.

Most important of all, when you create a summary of a text, it helps you review what you read and helps your brain capture the main ideas. Writing these down cements the memories; this will help you recall them more easily later on.

Check Your Understanding: Summarizing a Text

Read “Replace Annual Physicals with Real-Time Biomarker Monitoring.” (This article by Alex Berezow and Eric Tan can be found online at the Scientific American blog site.)

Write a summary of this text, using the above guidelines.

See the Appendix, Results for the “Check Your Understanding” Activities, for answers.


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The Word on College Reading and Writing Copyright © by Carol Burnell; Jaime Wood; Monique Babin; Susan Pesznecker; and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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