Writing and Resource Center

Writing a Summary

The purpose of writing a summary is to explain to others, in a concise and clear way, what you have read without adding your own opinion.

Step One: Read the piece through once. If you have no idea what's going on in it, read it again.

Step Two: In one sentence, state the title, author, and overall thrust of the piece you read.

Step Three: Go back to the piece and explain, in order as they appear, the main points or events in the essay. Make sure to explain these points in your own words.

Step Four: Write a last line that sums up the article, again in your own words.

Step Five: Go back to the sentences you have written and find transitions/links that will improve the flow of your writing.

SAMPLE SUMMARY:

"Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space"

In his essay, "Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space," Brent Staples explains how throughout his life, others have discriminated against him because he is a tall, black man who works as a journalist in a predominantly white field. As he explains, he first realized how much his appearance frightened others, particularly a white woman, when he used to take late night walks as a graduate student. While he understands that we live in a culture that has become increasingly violent and dangerous, he feels frustrated that black men, in particular, are still being judged and misjudged based on their appearance alone. For example, he cites two instances where he was mistaken for a burglar and a fellow journalist was mistaken for a killer. These incidents, he claims, are not uncommon. In order to deal with the misunderstandings on others' parts, Staples says that now when he has the urge to go out for a late night walk, he whistles classical music as a way of assuring others that he is not a dangerous man. His whistling, he concludes, allows others to see him for who he really is: a cultured and sensitive man.

Staples, Brent. "Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space."

Connections: A Multicultural Reader for Writers. 2nd ed. Ed. Judith Stanford. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1997, 227-231.

L. Lordi, November 1999

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