The Best Way to Write a Summary

Writing HelpHow To Write A Summary

Writing a summary is something that most students do more often than other writers. Whether you want to write a summary for a newspaper article, a book or a poem extract, the steps you take are the same. I will walk you through the steps to show you how to write a summary. 


What is a summary?

summary is an abstract, shortening a passage or a write-up without changing its meaning but by using different words and sentences


It’s not difficult to write a summary. The key thing to remember is to write the summary using your own words and to write it in limited specific amount of words. For example, to write a summary which does not exceed 50 words. Meaning it has to be exactly 50 words. 


The purpose of writing a summary?  

Yagelski, R. P. (2016), writes that the core concept of writing a summary is to teach students how to become effective writers.


‘Text introduces students to the key rhetorical moves of three essential aims of writing (analysis, argument, and narrative) and then offers applied assignment chapters that use the ten core concepts to guide students’ thinking and writing.’


Writing a summary is a way to test how much you have understood from reading a given text. It is a comprehension exercise. And for you to write a good summary you need to have grasped the text and have a good vocabulary to draw from. To write a summary well doesn’t come easily unless you have a good vocabulary.


Writing a summary helps you develop a better understanding of the text you are focusing on. Personally, I find that I remember more when I read and summarise the text.


Steps to writing a summary

Writing a summary is a wonderful way to process the information you have read, whether it’s an article or a book. Let’s assume you are a student and have been asked to write a summary as part of your English lesson. The best way is to do it step by step. 


  1. Read and Review the Text.
     To begin with, you must read the text thoroughly. Reading and understanding are essential components to write a summary. You rely on your memory to be able to write a summary in your own words.

  2. Reread and take notes
    Reading the text over again carefully helps you to grasp the subject at hand in terms of the intention of the writer and themes. Pay attention to phrases or words that are not clear. You may want to reread the passage more than once just to makes sure you understand.

    Afterwards, with an understanding write down the main points from each paragraph. Also, write down what you think the author’s intention is or the main message behind the text. Is it about love or war?

    Compile all the notes you have written to make it one piece of writing. Write using your own words and write it as if you were explaining it to a friend. 

  3. Begin with the author and the article’s title.

    At the beginning of your summary, mention the title of the text you are summarising This lets your reader know that you’re summarizing, the name of the author and the central point of the text.

    For example, you can start with something like In ‘‘Fight Against Feelings of Low Self-Esteem’’ Euphemia asserts that ……

    TIP: Use a neutral tone and third person point of view, present tense).

  4. Leave out the evidence that the author uses to support his points. In writing your summary, focus on the major plot points and the main motivator for those points.

  5. Revising Your Draft to Make Sure Everything Is Spot On.

    Revise your draft to makes sure it’s perfect. How do I do that? Next, you need to compare your notes with your draft. This important to makes sure you have not left out major ideas raised in each paragraph you have summarised.

Also makes sure everything in your summary is presented in chronological order. Start with explaining what happened first in the story, in the sequence it happened.

Eliminate repetition and ensure that your writing is clear, and the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are all perfect.

Check your length.  

It’s so important to stick to the parameters or guidelines provided by your tutor if it’s a school assignment. The general view is that a summary should be approximately one quarter the length of the original piece.

Assignment: Read the following text and write a summary of 50 words.

Writing Summary Example

Dreams Don’t Come True, They ARE True

EXCITEMENT bubbled in Trisha’s stomach. She could not wait to begin her full-time studies at Loughborough University. She was lucky to have been offered a place to study Geography, the degree of her first choice. Now she had tangible evidence to convince her sceptics who had been doubtful all along and probably thinking, ‘Can dreams come true?’

Sadly, Trisha seemed oblivious to the enormous challenges that lay ahead of her. Little did she know that a combination of chasing higher education studies with parenting responsibilities were ma-mouth tasks. Only time would tell.

The university calendar kicked off as usual in the autumn month of September. Trisha eagerly completed all the registration for her enrolment. The first week passed smoothly with no hassles at all. It was a week hive of activities. A week of preparations before the start of serious learning. Social get-together and impromptu events ran one after the other to orient the newcomers. So far so good, Trisha mused on her progress.

Family commitments tend to take a heavy toll on students with children. Trisha, aged 43, was not in an enviable position. Being a single mother of two boys aged 3 and 9, was a huge responsibility.

Her former husband, Josh, deserted their matrimonial home after rekindling his romance with his teenage sweetheart. One morning he had packed his bags and vanished.

Trisha got an education loan and other social welfare grants from the Local Education Authority to help her with living costs. Compared to items on her buy-list, this was a drop in the ocean. She needed money to buy books, money for tuition fees on top of her everyday bills to cover gas, child care, food and travel. Moreover, she had to pay back the loan she received for tuition fees upon completing her degree.

Trisha had no choice except to get a part-time job to supplement her earnings. Night shift type of work seemed perfect. It gave her more room to juggle motherhood with her studies. Fortunately, she landed herself an order picking job in a warehouse. The all-night job was exhausting. It involved endless pacing up and down picking orders and lifting packed boxes to designated points. At the end of each shift, she had no bone in her body not aching.

Trisha’s shift started at 6.00 in the evening up to early morning. On knocking off, she would rush home, take a quick shower and have breakfast before dashing out for morning lectures. She lost considerable time due to travel alone. Disappointingly, she travelled on certain days just to attend one lecture. The hectic days and nights went on and on. The quality of her studies drastically deteriorated. We all know where it was coming from.

The unquenchable and competing demands from her family, job and studies gave her no rest. The pressure progressed to the extent her learning could no longer sustain the achievement of adequate grades.

Also, the pressure both from work and home made her fail to utilise the on-campus library, resources and computer facilities. To fill the gap, she bought herself a computer for home-based internet access but bills caught up with her. Trisha tried to put on a brave face despite everything.

It was not long before she succumbed to the pressures. She found herself dosing throughout lectures. To catch up, she tried to borrow notes from fellow students. Half the time the notes were scribbled in Hieroglyphics. Meaning, the handwriting was not legible. Most students preferred to use shorthand that was only meaningful to themselves.

The pressure began to take its toll. The pressure to achieve and pressure from exhaustion began to take their toll on Trisha’s health. Very often she would excuse herself for failing to prepare her tutorials in advance until it became a regular song.

Participating in field trips was out of the question because she had no time. Besides, it was not proper to be away for days on leaving her children alone. At least when away on night shifts, her best friend, Greta, looked after her kids.

Feelings of financial stress often stem from common issues such as carrying too much debt, not earning enough money, the expense of raising kids, marriage to a spouse that has different ideas about how to manage finances, and the list can go on. Source

Examination time approached sooner than she anticipated. Fortunately, Trisha passed 3 modules after resitting Physical Geography and Statistics.

Drastic alterations to her family life began to surface. Inevitably it caused strain. The relationships between her and school authorities got sour including Greta who helped her to look after the kids. Arguments over petty issues became a common thing until her mother who was living in the countryside was summoned to be with her.

Trisha was constantly in and out of her doctor’s surgery. She had significant weight loss after losing her appetite and having sleeplessness nights plus migraines.

Then, the doctor dropped a bombshell. He revealed that Trisha was experiencing a terrible bout of depression. The symptoms were obvious. She felt like she had no energy and struggled to concentrate. Sometimes she felt irritable all the time for no apparent reason.

She was lucky the doctor recognised the symptoms early enough to avoid progression into more serious health problems. He said the disease is difficult to treat if not diagnosed in good time since it has a tendency of recurring.

Many universities have special mature student advisers or welfare officers including a mature student’s society to provide help, support, and a forum for sharing experiences. Trisha was completely ignorant of all this support within her reach.

Her tutor came to her rescue and gave her wise counsel. He advised her how important it was to have marked time for quiet and uninterrupted study. Most importantly, to take leave of her studies so that she would concentrate on receiving treatment.

As a result, she took a break holiday. After 6 months of treatment, signs of improvement began to show. It is during that short break that she came to her senses. She had once heard about distance education learning but had paid it little consideration.

A distance learning qualification, like any other qualification, could open up new options and benefits for her. An open study was a great way to achieve a degree. Generally, it was cheaper and less time-consuming compared to qualifying from ‘conventional’ universities.

In addition, a wide range of grants for course fees, study materials and other costs were available. Because of its flexibility to accommodate her other roles, Trisha enrolled the following year. Today she is a proud primary school teacher.

The Sample Summary

Question: Write a summary of 110 words of the Dreams Don’t Come True, They ARE True article.

“Femia’s ‘‘Can Dreams Come True?’’ is a short story revealing the hardships that a mature student experiences, but she succeeds against all odds. Trish is pleased to get a place to study Geography at Loughborough University. She does not foresee the challenges lying ahead. Her orientation week goes well. Single- parent students face the most challenges. Although Trisha gets an Education loan, her finances fail to meet all her expenses. She finds a night-shift job to supplement but struggles to balance work, studies and raising children. To make-up for missed lessons, she borrows notes from fellow students, but the handwriting is eligible. She fails to participate in the field trip. (100 words). 

Be concise, every word counts!


If you have questions in relation to my post, ‘How to write a summary’ please feel free to leave them below, I will respond as soon as possible.

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