What’s a summary?

A summary is a piece of writing in which you identify and synthesize the key ideas in a text, and report them in a neutral style without copying words from the original text.

A summary is shorter than the original text and leaves out any ideas that are irrelevant.
You can summarize in writing or orally, although at university you will mainly be asked to summarize books or articles in writing.

When you write a summary you do not have to give your own opinion. A summary reports a writer’s ideas, not our own.

Summaries and paragraphs
A summary can be an assignment on its own or could be part of a larger assignment. In either case it should also be written in paragraph form.

A summary is not just a collection of main ideas. It is an ordered selection of ideas, in which connections are established among those ideas and where the characteristics of an academic piece of writing have to be respected too.

In other words, ideas should be presented in a paragraph format. Every paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence or by one of the main ideas in the original text. Discourse markers or linkers should be used to link those ideas and find connections between them.
In a summary you can include references like the writer’s name, the name of the book and the date of publication.

How long should a summary be?
The length of your summary will largely depend on the length of the original text and also on the characteristics of the assignment given.

You may be able to summarize a text in one or several paragraphs. If you are not sure about how long your summary should be, contact your tutor.