Assignment 1: Writing a Summary

Here are some strategies for comprehending and summarizing the book’s introduction:

1) Look over the introduction for the main idea. At this stage, avoid concentrating on details.

2) Make an outline of the introduction in your mind or on paper. What’s the logic of his organization?

3) Pay attention to topic sentences. The topic sentence is the general statement that controls the details and examples in the paragraph.

4) Don’t overlook signposts (words and phrases like but, however, nevertheless, yet, for example, the first reason, etc.). This is the author signaling to you that he’s providing support or shifting to a new point.

5) Look up unfamiliar words! Use a dictionary – if a word you don’t understanding seems important to the passage – look it up before going on.

6) If you use a highlighter to mark main points, use it sparingly. Focus on only the main points of the article, so you can use those highlighted sentences for your own summary.

This is called annotating a text – where you mark it up in various ways to increase your comprehension of the text (if you own the book!).

More useful than highlighting is marginal notes and underlining. You can go crazy with highlighting to the point that it’s no longer useful.

But if you underline a sentence or a phrase and then write a note in the margin of that paragraph, you will remember what that point the author was making.

As you annotate, you can also make notes of questions you still have after reading the text. These questions can be the basis for class discussion.

Basic Guidelines:

Start your summary with the title and the author’s full name. You should include the source title as well.


“In his Introduction to his book Outcasts United, Warren St. John explains that ___________”

“Warren St. John, in the Introduction to his book Outcasts United, describes ________”

After you have introduced the basic information about the book, the content of your summary should begin by providing the reader with the main idea or overall purpose of the text.

Ask yourself:

Why did St. John write the Introduction? What is the author’s purpose in writing the intro?

What is the main idea he wants to get across to the reader in the Introduction?

Use your own words throughout most of your summary.

Be sure to place any exact words or phrases from your text in quotation marks.

Limit your use of quotations in the summary to the author’s words or expressions that cannot be condensed or stated in your own way.

Your summary should contain only the main points of the text and avoid mentioning minor details.

Remember that a summary does not include your own opinion of the text on the issue. Save your opinion/thesis for essay writing. In a summary, you are just summarizing up what someone else has written, not writing your own opinion.

After naming the author in the opening sentence of your summary, use the author’s last name along with the words “the author” throughout the summary to remind the reader that the ideas belong to the author. Use signal phrases such as:

According to St. John
St. John also states
The author adds
The author points out that
The author asserts that

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