Writing An Effective Summary

An effective summary condenses the original text and provides the author’s thesis (an overarching idea/ theme/ purpose) and the key points or important evidence for supporting that thesis.

At the college level, you will also want to demonstrate your understanding of the orginal source’s rhetorical context by including information about author, audience, context, medium, strategies, and arrangement.

Watch this instructional video to learn the Name It/ Author+ Verb It+ Big Picture and jot dot method. This first sentence of your summary should include those features.

Name it=Source title
Author=Author’s first and last name, as well as their credentials
Verb it=A rhetorically accurate verb that indicates the purpose of the source
Big Picture=Phrase that indicates the thesis or main idea of the source, also called an “umbrella statement”

In a recent 5 Cent Cigar (source) article titled “Day of Peace at the University of Rhode Island,” (name it) Jennifer Geoffreys, a student journalist, (author & credentials) describes (rhetorically accurate verb) the events that took place on September 21 at URI to promote peace and nonviolent action (umbrella statement).

The rest of the summary would follow from your “jot dots” as you discussed the main ideas of the source.

Summary Checklist

Your summary should:

  • Be radically shorter than the original.
  • Include the author’s last name and, usually, the title of the text.
  • Include a brief statement about the authors and their ethos or credentials.
  • Include a rhetorically accurate verb.
  • State the overarching thesis of the text.
  • Hit only on the main points or evidence provided in the text, stating the kind of evidence that is provided.
  • State the intended audience of the text.
  • Include a statement about exigence or why this text was written when it was for the audience and purpose.
  • Indicate what kind of text it is and, briefly, how it is arranged or organized.
  • Include an MLA citation of the source.