Summarising means briefly outlining the main points of a source in your own words without adding your own ideas or changing the author’s meaning. Summarised information must be accompanied by a citation.
A summary is particularly useful if you need to refer to the main idea/argument presented in a source (e.g. a book/chapter/article, etc.).
How to summarise
- Similar to paraphrasing, the first step in summarising is to read the original text and get a full understanding of it. You may need to re-read the original source a few times and look up the meaning of key words to accurately understand it.
- When reading, ask yourself: What is the overall message? What are the key points?
- Concentrate on the essentials and leave out details and examples.
- Put the source aside and state its key points in your own words.
- When you can do this, you are ready to write your summary. Write the summary from your notes, reorganising the structure where appropriate.
- Finally, proofread, revise and edit your summary as necessary. Importantly, make sure that your summary accurately reflects the key points of the source.
Check your understanding View
View the tabs below to check your understanding of summarising by analysing the quality of a summary, and comparing three different summarising attempts.
The following paragraph is a summary of the original source below written by a student as part of a report on the dietary habits of Australian adolescents. Compare the student's summary to the original text and answer the question.
The student’s summary:
Read this section of an article and choose which option from the answers below best summarises it.