How To Write A Good Summary.

English Lesson Notes for Junior Secondary

How To Write A Good Summary.

How To Write A Good Summary.

Summary writing has posed a lot of challenges among native speakers and learners of English, especially those sitting for their Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), probably because they don't have the patience to read the text over and over again in order to get the intention or purpose of the writer. Many have even resorted to 'mindless lifting'. Mindless lifting is when you copy a writer 'word for word' while summarizing his/her text.

Summary writing has rules and, at all times, these rules need to be strictly adhered to. Flouting any of these rules simply means you are not writing a summary.

Today, I'm going to take you on a ride to show you all the nooks and crannies of summary writing.

What Is A Summary?
A summary is a precise rephrasal of the substance of a text. It is a brief and clear statement of the main points of a given text in a condensed form with minimal elaboration or explanation. A summary must contain only the essential idea(s) or main points. It must be accurate and brief; precise and clear.

Guidelines/Rules for Writing a Summary
  • Read the text more than once and try to find out the intention or purpose of the writer.
  • Pay close attention to the topic sentence which is found in each of the paragraphs. A topic sentence is a sentence which contains the main point in a paragraph. Every other sentence in a paragraph explains the topic sentence.
  • Distinguish between the relevant and irrelevant information and make use of only the relevant information. 
  • Omit examples, illustrations and details from your summary.
  • In writing down your answers, make sure you use your own words and do not distort facts. In other words, you should try not to lift words from the passage. Hope you remember what I said about 'mindless lifting' in the introductory paragraph of this essay?
  • Use words economically, and be brief.
How To Select The Main Ideas In A Summary Passage.
  • Understand the text, and this is done by reading the text more than once.
  • Study the topic sentence carefully because that is where the main point is found.
  • Give a suitable title to the passage if none is provided in order not to shift from the writer's intention.
Qualities Of A Good Summary/ How The Main Points of A Summary Can Be Stated.

  • Clarity: This means that you have to state your points clearly when summarizing a text.
  • Brevity: This means that, in stating the points, you have to be brief, forgetting about examples and illustrations.
  • Correctness: This means you have to keep the original line of thought while stating your points.
Importance of Summary Writing.
  1. Summary writing helps us to eliminate what is not relevant from a text.
  2. It encourages thinking in us since we are to restate only the main points clearly.
  3. It helps us to state the basic knowledge we get from various sources and to communicate effectively with it.
  4. Summary notes are very important to students at later dates.
  5. It is a time-saving device as it helps us to quickly get only the main facts from a text.
To The SSCE Students:
Students writing WAEC, NECO and NABTEB are always asked to summarize a passage in three, four or five sentences. For example, "In four sentences, one for each, state the effects of noise pollution according to the passage."

What this simply means is that you should state four effects of noise pollution, and each of the stated effects should explain a single idea. Therefore, you are expected to give your answers in  simple sentences in questions like this because a simple sentence expresses a single idea. Avoid the use of coordinating, subordinating and correlating conjunctions in order not to express two or more ideas in a sentence. Read about conjunctions here.

However, you can use either of the aforementioned types of conjunction if the question is asked like this: "In four sentences, state the effects of noise pollution according to the passage. 

The difference between the first and second questions is the phrase, 'one for each'. Whereas question one has 'one for each,' which introduces the use of a simple sentence, question two does not; thus, giving you the freedom to make use of conjunctions.

A good summary shows how an individual understands the content of a text.