Summarizing in Academic Writing

Summarizing, like paraphrasing, is a way of including other writers’ ideas in your own work by rewriting the original so that it's in your own words. You can use summarizing when you don’t need to provide the same amount of detail as in the original text. A summary is shorter than a paraphrase, as it only contains the main points from the original and leaves out most of the details. Keep the main points, but leave out the rest of the information from the original.

Summarizing is a good way to add information to your own writing.

A summary should be cited in the text where you use it and the full reference should be included in the reference section.

When writing your summary you should make sure that it conveys the same information as the original did and has the same meaning. The balance of ideas should be the same in both.

Your summary should also fit in with the rest of your writing; especially the style and grammar should be the same.

Example of a Summary

Using the passage from ‘The Origin of Species’ 6th Ed. by Charles Darwin, below:

  • It is, no doubt, extremely difficult even to conjecture by what gradations many structures have been perfected, more especially among broken and failing groups of organic beings, which have suffered much extinction; but we see so many strange gradations in nature, that we ought to be extremely cautious in saying that any organ or instinct, or any whole structure, could not have arrived at its present state by many graduated steps. There are, it must be admitted, cases of special difficulty opposed to the theory of natural selection; and one of the most curious of these is the existence in the same community of two or three defined castes of workers or sterile female ants; but I have attempted to show how these difficulties can be mastered. Darwin, C (1872), On the Origin of Species, 6th Ed.

A summary of the passage would be:

  • It is difficult to fully understand the small changes that led to the evolution of all the different structures in nature. There are some especially difficult cases, but these can also be explained (Darwin, 1872).

Here the summary is significantly shorter than the original, about a quarter of the length. The details have been removed but the two main points from the original have been kept. The language used has been changed and there is a citation at the end to attribute it to the original author.

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