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Guidelines in writing plot synopsis

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Four Parts:Sample SummariesReviewing the PieceWriting The Summary in Your Own WordsRevising Your Draft into a Coherent SummaryCommunity Q&A

Writing a summary is a great way to process the information you read, whether it’s an article or a book. If you’re assigned a summary in school, the best way to approach it is by reviewing the piece you’re summarizing. Skim it first, then read it thoroughly in preparation for taking notes. When you get to writing your summary, rely on your memory first to make sure the summary is in your own words. Then revise it to ensure that your writing is clear and the grammar, punctuation, and spelling is all perfect.


Sample Summaries

Part 1 Reviewing the Piece

  1. Image titled Write a Summary Step 2.jpeg


    Read the piece thoroughly. You should read it without making any kind of marks. Instead, focus on really understanding what the author is saying. This might mean that you need to read one sentence or paragraph more than once. You might also want to reread the whole piece. That's fine.[1]
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    Write down what you think the main point of the piece is. This will help you start to put the piece's arguments in their own words. Compare that sentence (or two) to the author's argument, which can usually be found near the end of the first paragraph. Adjust your writing until your main point and the author's match.[2]
    • The author might also state their thesis more plainly by saying something like "my argument is...."
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    Reread the piece, taking notes on the major points of it. Once you know for sure what the author's main point is, reread the article, looking for the ways they support that point. Take notes on those supporting points, putting them into your own words.[3]
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    Don't focus on the evidence that the author uses to support those points. You only need to know what they're arguing. So, for example, say the author's main argument is: "The U.S. Civil Rights Movement actually began in the 1950s." They might say that black women's boycott of mass transit is an example of this. You only need to note the black women's boycott, not the examples of that boycott that the author uses.[4]

Part 2 Writing The Summary in Your Own Words

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    Start with the source’s information. You should start every summary with the author and the article’s title. This lets your reader know that you’re summarizing what someone else has written.[5]
    • For example, you can start with something like “George Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ is a play that addresses issues of class and culture in early twentieth-century England.”
  2. Image titled Write a Summary Step 3.jpeg


    Work from memory to write the main point of each section. Without looking at your notes, write a first draft that includes the main point of each section in your own words. A summary shouldn’t just repeat what the original author said, so using your own words is very important. Try not to reference your highlighted copy of the piece at all.[6]
    • If you absolutely must use the original author’s words, put them in quotation marks. This tells your reader those words aren’t yours. Not doing this academic plagiarism, and it can get you in a lot of trouble.
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    Present the material in a neutral fashion. As you write, make sure you’re only summarizing the original piece of writing. You shouldn’t be inserting your own opinions of the piece or of the events the piece covers. Instead, only summarize what the original author said.[7]
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    Use language appropriate to a summary. You want your reader to know that you’re summarizing another person’s arguments. So you should occasionally use phrases like “the author argues,” or “the article claims” when you’re presenting those arguments. This reminds the reader that it’s not your piece, but someone else’s.[8]

Part 3 Revising Your Draft into a Coherent Summary

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    Reread the draft you wrote from memory against your notes. Take your notes out and compare them to your from-memory draft. If there’s anything major you forgot to include, put it in your second draft.[9]
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    Eliminate repetition. Sometimes in an article or book, the author might make the same point multiple times as a way to underline their main points. In your summary, you don’t need to do this. When you’re rereading your summary, delete any repetitive points – even if the author makes them multiple times, you only need to make them once.[10]
    • If you notice an author has made the same point multiple times, though, it’s a good indicator that this an important point, and it should definitely be in your summary.
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    Add transitions where necessary. If you’re focused on getting all of the main points down, you might not be paying attention to how the paragraphs of your summary fit together. When you revise, make sure that you connect each paragraph to the next, and back to the main point.[11]
    • For example, in a summary of an article about the cause of the American Revolution, you might have a paragraph that summarizes the author's arguments about taxes, and another about religious freedom. You can say something like "Although some colonists believed that taxes should entitle them to representation in Parliament, the author also argues that other colonists supported the Revolution because they believed they were entitled to representation in heaven on their own terms."
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    Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Once you've finished revising the arguments in your draft, check the little things. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Look for any additional or missing punctuation and correct that as well.

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    Check your length. Once you’ve added anything you might have forgotten to your summary, check how long it is. A summary should be around one quarter the length of the original piece. So if the original piece is 4 pages long, your summary should be no more than a page.[12]
  6. Image titled Write a Summary Step 8.jpeg


    Ask someone else to read your work. Another person may see an argument or point in a completely different light than you have, giving you a new feel for the work and yours.
    • Not only should they be comparing your work for accuracy, ask them to read it for flow and summation. Can that person understand the sense of the article by reading your summary?[13] Don't hesitate to ask for criticism; then weigh those criticisms and make valid changes.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • How should I begin a summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    You should begin with "The book___________, by ___________, tells the story of______________________.

  • Are all main ideas included in the summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    You should try to include all the main ideas if you can, but some things may have to be left out to save space. If you think a point is important to the piece you're summarizing, add it to your summary. However, keep in mind that your summary should be concise rather than perfectly detailed.

  • How can I start a summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    These are some examples of the beginning of a summary: - The story is about... - The text describes... - The article shows...

  • Is three paragraphs considered "brief"?

    wikiHow Contributor

    A summary's length depends on the passage you're summarizing. If it's a short article or story, then it should just be one long paragraph. If it's a novel, however, 3 to 5 paragraphs should be enough. So really, it depends on the passage.

  • What if the book has a lot of characters that are only mentioned once or twice?

    wikiHow Contributor

    If they are minor characters then you shouldn't include them in your summary. Decide on whether the character is important to the storyline. You'll probably just need to focus on the main characters to write an effective summary.

  • Do I include headlines in a summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Yes it is obligatory, because readers of your summary must have a possibility to easily find and read the original text, that you have summarised.

  • Can I number things when summarizing?

    wikiHow Contributor

    No, just use the appropriate words to convey a chronological order, for example words like "first," "second," "then," "finally," etc.

  • Can I add points not covered in an article to a summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    No. A summary consists only of information/content that is written in the article.

  • How do I start a summary?

    wikiHow Contributor

    You start of a summary with the title of the book and the author. For example: "The Book___________ by __________ tells the story of..." And then you introduce the characters and the main idea of the story or book.

  • When summarizing an article consisting of many paragraphs, should I summarize it into one?

    wikiHow Contributor

    It depends on how your instructors/assessors want to see or be presented. Sub-topic wise paragraphs can be included in a summary.

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