The writing of a summary is part of both English lessons in school and many scientific papers. We have a guide, all the important things to build with examples and 9 valuable tips for you. So the summary writing will be easier for you in the future.
Summary: The English summary
The term “summary” is the English word for “summary”. Like many other English terms, it has become established in our usage. It is no longer used exclusively in English lessons, but is also a common term when it comes to scientific work. The purpose of the summary is to present contents in a concise and structured manner and thus to give the reader a quick overview of a specific topic.
At school, it is often abandoned as a homework assignment because students can practice thinking in a structured way and focusing on the essentials. In addition, their language skills are trained. It’s not about arguing or interpreting, it’s about filtering out and rephrasing the most important information.
A step-by-step guide
Writing a summary requires concentration and structure. The best way to keep this structure is to follow the instructions below. Take your time and go step by step. The instructions also apply to English lessons. The language is different, but the principle remains the same.
First read the text slowly and in peace.
Tag keywords and passages that seem important to you and that you want to include in your text later.
Read through the text until you understand it completely and divide it into sections of meaning.
Formulate an introductory sentence.
Start by summarizing the first section of the meaning and continue with each sense section.
Finally, formulate a summary sentence.
Structure + examples
In this chapter, we’ll explain in more detail how your summary is structured. So you’ll learn in detail how to proceed step by step. In addition, you can orient yourself by our examples. Among them you will find formulas and some common vocabulary. First of all, the structure is classic and follows the pattern: introduction – main part – conclusion.
The introduction begins with an introductory sentence. This should always contain the text type, for example novel, poem, short story, newspaper article and so on. Equally important are the author and the title of the text that you summarize. Include the release date and main topic in your introductory sentence. If you are writing about a newspaper article, you should also mention the newspaper in which it was published. One of many possible patterns for an introductory sentence in English is:
The [text type] [title] is written by [author] in [year of publication] and is about / deals with / presents / shows the problem of [main topic].
Here are some example sentences in English for guidance:
The fairytale “Snow White” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm was published in 1812 and is about a girl who is chased by her jealous stepmother.
The movie “Stardust” (2007) by Matthew Vaughn is about a boy who is looking for a love for her, who finds out she is a human girl and then falls in love with her.
The novel “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 and deals with a doctor.
The main part
The main part is the bulk of your summary and should show all the important information that the text gives you. You can orient yourself to the classic W-questions: who? (Who?), What? (What?) When? (When?), Where? (Where?), How? (How?), Why? (Why?) – or in one sentence: who did what when and where how why?
You should rely on a fictional text on the chronological order and hang yourself piece by piece along the text. Use sections of meaning and plan to summarize each section in one or two sentences. Always include the outcome of the story. Even open ends should be made clear as this. Your summary should finally be round and omit any important information. We have collected some vocabulary for you, which can help you to write your final part in both German and English:
The author emphasizes … / The author points out that …
The author emphasizes … / The author stresses …
The author goes to the question … / The author examines the question …
The author argues with … / The author argues with …
First … / First of all …
Additionally (In addition) … / In addition …
In other words … / In other words …
Continue … / more …
In addition … / Moreover …
In the final part you once again call the most important statement (s) of the text. It is not necessary here to draw a conclusion or to repeat all the core statements again. Suffice a final sentence, possibly two. It should not be more. Always keep in mind that a summary should never go too far. So that you can find the right wording at the end, here are some examples of how to initiate your last sentence.
Finally … / Finally …
Finally … / In Conclusion
Finally … / At the end …
In summary … / Summarizing …
All in all … / All in all …
Overall … / Overall …
In the whole … / Altogether …
Summary: 9 helpful tips
The following tips are suitable for each summary. They tell you the most important things that you need to look out for in a summary and are primarily based on German and English summaries. You can find more information about the German summary here.
This time you should use
A summary or synopsis is always written in the present tense (for example, “He says …”). In special cases, the perfect is also allowed. It is also referred to as a completed presence and may be used when a past action has been completed in the present (e.g., “Other fossils have never been found.”).
The same applies to the English summary: The main time used is the Simple Present (eg “He says …”) and in exceptional cases the Simple Present Perfect (eg “Further fossils are never found”) or Present Perfect Progressive (eg “Further fossils have never been found. “).
Give up the rating of the text
A summary is simply a matter of factually reproducing the content of the text. Thus, it differs from the summary, conclusion and review, which may well get a rating. Forget the summary on phrases like “in my opinion” or “I think” (“I think”). However, if the author of the text evaluates something, you may play it without hesitation.
Also evaluative are words like “sudden,” “nonetheless,” “natural,” “self-evident,” “sad,” and so on. Do not try to build tension in your summary and focus on the facts no matter how you personally think about them.
Do not use verbatim speech
Even if verbal speech (direct quote) is used in the text, you should never use it in your summary. The synopsis could lose its objectivity and give the impression that you are of the same opinion. So stay completely objective and try to render everything neutral in your words.
Rule of thumb: So long may your summary be
A summary should never be longer than ⅓ of the original text. After all, it’s about playing the content in compressed form, not just rephrasing the entire text. In principle, shorter is always better here than longer. Just keep in mind that you are not omitting any essential information that is fundamental to understanding the topic. Half to one side is a good length to orient yourself. In particular, if you receive a summary in English or German as a homework assignment, you probably will not be required to write more than one page.
Use bullet points while reading
As you read the text, you should already be taking note points. Even if you have to briefly interrupt the flow of reading, it is worth writing out important information directly. So you can access them directly later and your summary is written almost by itself.
For illustrative purposes, omit examples
Examples are in themselves very reader-friendly and serve illustrative purposes. Nevertheless, they do not belong in a summary because they only take up space unnecessarily. Consider an alternative for this example: What would you like to illustrate? Summarize it in one or two sentences instead of the example.
Never write in the first person perspective
Since a summary is supposed to be a matter-of-fact, informative and objective text, you should take yourself completely out of this text as the author of this text. Avoid using phrases such as “I’m going to illustrate” and move on to phrases like “The Author Illustrations”.
Usage: Avoid monotonous writing
Especially with an English summary it is difficult for many non-native speakers to alternate in their choice of words. It is important not to use the same vocabulary over and over again. That’s why in our examples you’ll also find some vocabulary ideas for you. Learn it by heart or write it down and put it alongside your text.
In German, too, it is important to take turns in your choice of words. Otherwise, it creates a monotonous text that is not only boring for the reader to read, but also in the evaluation of your summary deductions can mean.
Do not forget proofreading
If you write a summary for the school, you should read it loud and clear at the end, so you recognize the best mistakes. If you are unsure about how to write a particular word, ask friends or your parents. Anyway, it can not hurt to let a relative or a friend read over your summary again at the end.