How to Summarize a Text in English (7 Easy Steps)
Knowing how to summarize a text is an essential skill. It helps us in improving our understanding.
Yet sometimes, it can pose quite a challenge. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed because we have your back!
Here’s how to summarize any text in English:
- Carefully read the text and make sure you fully understand it.
- Identify the purpose of the text.
- Make notes of this information to make it easier to remember.
- Reread the text to categorize the most relevant information for you.
- Restructure the information according to your needs.
- Rewrite all the information that you have extracted from the text.
- Proofread your work to make sure there are no errors.
This article will dissect every one of those points and add some golden nuggets for you to become a pro at summarizing.
In the end, you’ll see examples of how to summarize a text in English.
Let’s get started!
1. Carefully read the text
You need to go through the entire piece carefully. Make sure you do not miss anything. Thoroughly understand the little details in the text. Those details could give context to things you read a while ago or will read in a few moments.
Understanding the important details in the given text is the first – and the most critical – step of summarizing.
Help for problems associated with reading
Some people tend to have a very short focus span. They only spend a few minutes on a text before it becomes incredibly tedious.
This happens because they lose interest or get distracted very quickly. Luckily, this practical guide will help you in overcoming the nuisance.
2. Identify the purpose of the text
If you make a mistake in understanding the context of what’s written, you will not restructure it correctly in your own words. So, determine the author’s intent, what you want to write, and try to comprehend the text. This is the most pivotal step for summarizing.
While reading the passage, ask yourself the following questions and try to find their answers. The process will help you understand the purpose of the passage and identify the information relevant to your scope.
What was the author’s intent while compiling this piece?
By answering this question, you would be able to put yourself in the author’s shoes. You will understand where the author was coming from when they wrote the passage.
Why do you want to write a summary?
The answer to this question will define the scope of your summary. It will help you pinpoint the purpose of your summary and thus find the relevant information.
Is your summary pro-text or against the points it makes?
Understand whether you’re writing the summary in favor of the text or not.
As long as you second the author, you would only need to summarize their points before stating that you agree with the text.
However, if you don’t agree with the author, you would have to summarize the text’s main points. After that, you can introduce your points against the claims made by the author.
Improving your reading & comprehension skills
You can start by watching movies and TV shows with subtitles. This will help you understand the words and their contextual usage.
You can also try practicing more reading or – ironically – read articles with easy tips on improving your reading skills.
There are also online exercises that help you practice and improve your comprehension skills.
Reading & comprehension skills come in very handy for this step. If you are good at reading, you would likely not face much of a problem with this step.
3. Make notes of the information
Notes can help you dissect huge paragraphs that might be important for the summary. You can write down all the critical bits of information. This will help you in identifying the context of the passage.
You can highlight the location of vital information in the text as well. This way, you don’t have to reread the whole thing repeatedly every time you want to write a sentence.
4. Reread and categorize the information
Reread the passage while focusing on the vital information. This ensures that none of the things you want to include in your summary are left out. As you reread, categorize information in two ways:
- Essential for your summary.
- Irrelevant to it.
This categorization will help you identify significant chunks of helpful information.
Then the subsequent steps will be much more effortless because you won’t have to comb through the entire passage.
Trim the passage
Leave out/delete any examples that are not necessary. You can also leave out figures and illustrations.
You can also leave out anecdotal evidence of the factual data you will summarize.
When categorizing the information, commit the fundamental points to memory. Don’t be afraid if things tend to slip out of your mind as you read them. Many people have this problem.
You can try to learn from a memorization expert.
5. Restructure the information
You need to restructure the text into an original document to write your summary. For this, identify the patterns and reorient the grammar. It would be reasonably easy if you understood the passage.
Identify patterns and relationships between the main points
Try to understand the link between the ideas and arguments presented by the text. Understand any cause/effect relationships that the text is discussing.
Making mental notes here could help you remember these links when writing the summary (step 6).
Reorient the grammar and reduce the complexity
To summarize the written information, you will need to write the sentences a little differently from how the author has written them.
Rearrange the sentences; tailor the information so that it fits your scope precisely.
You can also use this as an opportunity to reduce the complexity of the text. Make your text simpler to understand by using easier vocabulary.
However, if you’re summarizing an academic or technical article, it might be a little tricky to reduce the complexity.
Now that you have read, understood, and harnessed all the required information, you’re ready to write the summary.
6. Rewrite the information for your summary
You will start by looking at your notes and forming an outline of what you need to write. Then start putting words together.
Write all the text’s central ideas concisely and don’t change the context they were presented.
Once you rewrite the main information in your own words, you can further criticize or support the author’s argument.
7. Proofreading the summary
Read everything you have written to make sure that it makes sense. Ask yourself:
- Does the summary teach you the intended purpose?
- Does it fall within the scope I defined?
- Is it clear enough for the readers?
Answering these questions would help you in identifying any potential errors.
You can use Grammarly to remove typos and bad grammar. It is free to use and even offers experts’ help in the paid version.
This last step is relatively the easiest compared to the rest.
Instead of manually reading everything on your own, you can just quickly plug the draft into Grammarly. Within seconds, you would receive all the suggestions for the corrections you should make.
Here’s a guide on using Grammarly for beginners.
Proofreading summaries that need to be written on paper
Even if you have to write a summary on a piece of paper, you can create a digital version and run it through Grammarly.
Once you get a final, perfect draft from Grammarly that has all its errors removed, you can pen it down on paper.
Let’s summarize with an example
Now, let’s pretend you were tasked with summarizing the following passage to highlight the incident.
There were three men wearing brown coats and gloves at the door. They were constantly banging on the door, asking Stephen to come outside. They said, “Stephen, if you don’t come out right now, we will have to break the door.” One of the men rammed into the door and broke it down. He was hurt and exclaimed, “Argh, I hurt my shoulder.”
Example of identifying intent
You can see that the author is only describing the incident without blaming anyone. Clearly, the author’s intent was only to bring this incident to light.
Example of information categorization
You would instantly see that you can paint a complete picture of what happened, even with just the emboldened text. This is, hence, the crucial information.
Example of restructuring
Here’s an example of how you can restructure the passage given above:
Three men in brown coats were looking for a person named “Stephen.” They banged loudly on the door and called out his name before one of them rammed the door and broke it down.
With all these 7 steps in mind, you are now ready to summarize any passage you want! Just make sure to read everything carefully. Identify the purpose of both the passage and the summary.
Separate the wheat from the chaff while going through the information. Only select the information that’s important for the author’s message.
Restructure and rewrite in your own words to make it an original piece.
Finally, run your draft through Grammarly to remove grammatical errors.
While writing summaries, we often forget some crucial information because we’ve not trained the mind. Through memory enhancement programs, you can avoid missing out on valuable information.
Check out this phenomenal 90-minute course on memory enhancement for students and professionals.