The Concept of a Summary: What You Need to Know
The Concept of a Summary: What You Need to Know
The concept of a summary is probably known to everyone, although there is often confusion about what it exactly is. The term actually encompasses different types of written text, albeit with some common characteristics. In general, the first major distinction that can be made is between:
Summaries written for the reading of third parties
These can be written to anticipate the content of a long text (such as in the case of abstracts), to indicate the plot of books and volumes (such as in book blurbs) or as an exercise assigned by teachers.
Summaries written for the use of the student
They can also be used by students themselves to study, understand, and memorize the assigned concepts.
Summaries are useful for dealing with a large amount of information and having it easily available even after a long time.
In general, all types of summaries must be neutral, maintaining the maximum degree of detachment from the writer. Furthermore, they must be written in such a way that they are understandable even to those who do not know the original text, thanks to a solid logical structure that follows the general rules of coherence. But how can a summary be useful for a student approaching a subject, perhaps in view of an assessment?
The very activity of summarizing allows for the application and development of different skills: even in the processing phase, the process of memorizing the initial content is initiated. In order to achieve a satisfactory result, in fact, the student must be able to understand, synthesize, and reformulate the text - therefore being able to select the concepts to be reported with a scale of importance. This is how a student can make the topics his/her own based on a completely autonomous learning method.
How to Make a Perfect Summary: The 10 Steps
Although summarizing skills are often taken for granted, there are actually simple and clear steps to make a perfect summary. In this section, we will illustrate step by step the ten steps to follow, complete with general indications to always keep in mind:
1. Preparation of the work plan
To start creating your summary, prepare the work plan and everything you will need to proceed:
- The original text
- Stationery (pencil, pen, eraser, sharpener...)
- Several sheets, including at least one for the rough draft and one for the final version
This step is particularly important to immerse yourself in the learning activity, especially for students with attention disorders - who are also advised to clear the workspace of any other elements.
Having an organized and functional study plan is important to maintain concentration and optimize work times. To summarize, you can also decide to take advantage of technological tools. In this case, you will need a computer, but it is still advisable to have paper handy, as manual schematization can help in learning and organizing ideas.
2. First approach to the text
Start by approaching the text, which you should carefully read trying to understand each step immediately. The first reading is important to become familiar with the content, beginning to form an idea of the main concepts conveyed.
3. In-depth reading
Then move on to a second reading, which should be more in-depth and focused on the logical connections within the text. In other words, you need to understand the threads the author weaves to convey their ideas and lead the reader to conclusions.
4. Identification of the five WH
After reading the text for the second time, you can ask yourself and jot down the so-called five WH-questions that serve as the "identity card" of the original text:
- Who - who: who is the subject or protagonist of the text?
- What - what: what are the actions of the subject?
- When - when: identify the moment and any temporal sequence present in the text;
- Where - where: what is the setting of the text?
- Why - why: what motivations move the subject and underlie the described concepts?
At this stage, remember that some texts may not have answers to all of these questions, especially if they are narratives rather than more informational study topics. In that case, don't worry and only select the information present in the text, without forcing or adding your own.
5. Dividing the text into sections
Identify the different sections that make up the text: often they are easily identifiable thanks to the presence of formatting (paragraphs, line breaks, and spacing). Each section can be seen as a small standalone part of the text from which to extract the key concepts.
6. "Double" underlining
Proceed to highlight the key concepts of each section. Depending on the length of the text parts, they may be more or less numerous, but generally keep in mind that the final summary should have about one-third of the number of words as the original text. At the same time, underline the logical connectors and relevant prepositions that, by connecting the various parts of speech, make the internal relationships in the text understandable.
The highlighting phase is crucial to keep the fundamental concepts of the original text in mind.
7. First schematization
In the rough draft, transcribe the crucial elements you previously identified. Strictly adhere to what you see written, also using arrows and very small graphic elements to have a clear progression in mind of what you are summarizing.
8. Writing the summary
Based on the outline, develop the concepts with very short sentences: refrain from any type of commentary and try to avoid adjectives and parenthetical phrases. In this phase, you must follow the formal criteria of summaries:
- Use the third person;
- Lexicon as close as possible to the original;
- Use temporal and logical connectors to maintain a clear logical thread.
9. Revision of the summary
Before moving on to copying the summary in clean copy, make sure to reread the rough draft. Ideally, you should allow some time to pass between writing and revising so that your brain can better spot errors and understand if the result is understandable even without the original text in front of you.
10. Copying the final version
After reviewing - and possibly modifying - your summary, you can proceed to copying in clean copy. If you are using the summary as a study method, this phase will still be important to consolidate the concepts learned, taking a last look at the selected information.
Automatically Summarizing a Text in a Concept Map
The way of summarizing a text is evolving, along with the rest of the world of school and learning, enriching itself thanks to the opportunities offered by technology. After all, if reduced to the essential, they can be seen as simple ways to start from complex texts and reduce them, making them more accessible for study and assimilation.
Thanks to the tool for automatically creating a concept map from a text, you can use the Algor Education platform to summarize study material and approach it with much more ease. This functionality will allow you to overcome many obstacles related to reading - especially of particularly complex content. Moreover, it will allow you to use the concept map as a preliminary outline if you want to develop a proper written summary.