12 06

How to write a short summary of an essay

how to write a short summary of an essay Do not add your own concluding paragraph unless your teacher specifically tells you to.

Checking your own writing or that of your peers

Read the summary carefully and answer the following questions:
  • What do you like best about your peer's summary? (Why? How might he or she do more of it?)
  • Is it clear what is being summarized? (i.e.: Did your peer list the source, and cite it correctly?)
  • Is the thesis of the original essay clear in the summary? (Write out what you think that thesis is.)
  • If you have read the original source, did you identify the same thesis?

Using TRACE for Analysis

Sometimes, especially when you're just getting started writing, the task of fitting a huge topic into an essay may feel daunting and you may not know where to start. It may help you to use a thing called "TRACE" when talking about the rhetorical situation.

TRACE stands for Text, Reader, Author, Context, and Exigence:

Text, Reader, and Author are easy to understand. When writing the analysis, you need to think about what kind of text it is and what the author wanted to have the audience think, do, or believe. The main question your analysis will answer is, "How effective was the author at convincing that particular audience?"

Context means several things: how the article fits into the history of discussion of that issue, the historical moment in time when the article is written, and the moment in time when a person reads the article.

  • What do you like or dislike about the essay and/or the ideas in the essay?
  • How much of your response is related to your personal experience? How much is related to your own worldview? How is this feeling related to the information you know?
  • How will this information be useful for you in writing your own essay? What position does this essay support? Or where might you use this article in your essay?
  • Sample Format

    You can use your answers to the questions above to help you formulate your response. Here is a sample of how you can put this together into your own essay (for more sample essays, see the links above):

    Before reading this article, my understanding of this topic was ___________. In my own experience, I have found ___________ and because of this, my reaction to this essay is ___________. Interestingly, I have ___________ as common ground with the author/audience.

    [10]
  • Take notes on your research sources. These will show that you’ve legitimately researched the topic while giving credit to the person who forwarded the idea.[11] This is especially important if you plan to use direct quotes and will also help you add footnotes and bibliographic information to your essay without having to look them up in the sources.
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    Write an outline of your essay. Construct an outline of your essay to guide you through the writing process. By structuring it in the same form as your essay and adding evidence, you will simplify and expedite the writing process. You’ll also be able to identify any areas that need better development.[12]
    • Structure your outline as you will your essay, with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
    • The more detail you put into your outline, the easier and more quickly you can write the essay. For example, instead of just writing a basic paragraph about the body, flesh it out into bullet points or sentences that presents argument and supporting evidence.
  • You should not add your own examples and explanations, for instance.)

    An alternative purpose of the summary essay, one that is very commonplace in college, is a demonstration of comprehension: teachers sometimes assign summary essays when they want to make sure that students fully understand an assigned source. In this case, your essay does not substitute for the source, for the teacher has read the source, too. Yet your essay will be written in the same way, with fidelity to the source.

    Writing the Summary Essay

    A summary essay should be organized so that others can understand the source or evaluate
    your comprehension of it.

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