The Art of Creating A Great Summary

The chapter, “The Art of Summarizing”, states that there is an art behind super summary writing. The author describes this art by breaking it down into a few key statements and then delving into that point and describing how to effectively execute that aspect of good summary writing.

The first of these statements is that “Writers who make strong claims need to map their claims relative to other people.” In a nutshell, this is saying that if you, as a writer, make a particularly powerful claim then it would serve both you and the reader well if you relate that claim to something that someone else said (bouncing your “I say” off of a “They Say”). This is vitally important because oftentimes summaries, and writing in general. contain either too much of an author’s claim and not enough textual evidence or too much textual evidence and not a sufficient amount of claims from the author.

Good summaries do not just contain your claims, as well as the claims of other people, but also “Requires balancing what the original author is saying with the writer’s own focus.” What does this mean for you, as a writer? This quote is articulating that in order to efficiently incorporate somebody else’s claims into your writing “You must be able to suspend your own beliefs for a time and put yourself in the shoes of somebody else.” To further clarify, this means that a great summary are written by authors, in this case you, who can ignore their opinion to be able to convey someone else’s claims into their own writing. You must be able to convey a message, no matter how much you disagree with it, in order to successfully, and clearly, bounce your “I Say” off of it.

You knew all of this already, you say? Well another thing you may know but are not always mindful of is your sense of direction in summary writing, as well writing in general. While this may seem like common sense, many writers do not actively think of the direction that their writing will take because the emphasis that is placed on other important writing aspects (I.e. topic sentences, textual evidence and thesis statements) is not placed on being mindful of subject matter direction, in writing. If you miss any other part of summary writing, you may still end up with a good summary but if your summary has no sense of direction and your writing is all over the place then it is guaranteed that you will not end up with a good summary.

So what can you do to help yourself write better summaries?

  1. ALWAYS have a “They Say” to bounce your “I say off”. Before making ANY assertion think, “Who’s claim can I use to strengthen my statement?” and “How can I incorporate this claim into my argument?”
  2. Pay close attention to not bias the way you incorporate someone else’s claims into your summaries. What does this mean in simpler terms? Before making adding someone’s claim, think “How can I present this in a way that will not ruin my credibility with the reader when it comes time to present my own claims”. Also, be mindful to think about not rushing the introduction of the “They Say” or else you risk sounding superficial because it will look like you are so eager to give your argument that you did not take the time to properly present the side you are arguing against.
  3. Finally, after you finish making a claim think to yourself “Does what I just wrote have ANYTHING to do with the overall topic of my summary?” At the beginning of each paragraph think to yourself, “How can I start this new paragraph so that my summary flows as seamlessly as possible from one paragraph to the other” and then at the end of each paragraph ask yourself “Does what I just wrote flow efficiently with the rest of my summary?” Keeping these critical questions in mind, and you will never losing track of where it is you’re going in your writing.

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