Writing from Reading: Summarizing a Reading Assignment

Document created by Classroom Compass Administrator on Mar 24, 2016
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The assignment

Choose a reading that takes a position on a debatable issue (or use a reading supplied by your instructor). Make sure that your reading has a named author; in other words, avoid unsigned articles or anonymous Web site material.


In 150 to 200 words, summarize the reading by articulating the author's main idea and key points as simply and briefly as possible, without sacrificing accuracy. Part of your challenge, of course, will be in deciding what not to include.


If you have selected your own reading, provide your instructor with a photocopy or a printout. For this assignment, you do not need to include a works cited page (unless your instructor requires one).


Tips on summarizing a reading


  • In the first sentence or two, mention the title of the reading, the name of the author (or authors), and the author's thesis or central purpose.
  • Use a neutral tone; be objective and fair. The goal of a summary is to report the author's views as accurately as possible, without injecting your own opinions.
  • Write from the third-person point of view, and use the present tense: McGovern and Dole argue that… [not I thought that or You will see that or McGovern and Dole argued that].
  • Put all or most of the summary in your own words; if you borrow a phrase or a sentence from the author, put it in quotation marks.
  • Limit yourself to presenting the author's key points.
  • Although you must work within a word limit, give enough details to suggest the author's evidence for his or her key points.
  • Edit your draft for wordiness. A good summary is short but informative; every word should count.
  • At the end of your summary, briefly echo the author's main point.


Sample Student Paper (attached):