How to Write a Summary Essay in No Time

By Nicholas Klacsanzky

Hi everyone.

Today’s blog post is about the rushed writing of summary essays. In case you’ve got only one or two hours left before you need to submit your paper, and are hurriedly reading this blog post, relax: summarizing a novel or a movie is no big deal, even if you are short on time. There are, however, some points you need to consider before starting to write a super-instant summary essay:
- you are not going to read the original story (or watch an original movie)
- you will have to do some Internet research
- it’s boring, compared to proper writing

I must say I don’t support this way of doing academic tasks. But, we’ve all been students: sometimes you just have no other choice, and this I can understand. So now that you are aware of what is waiting for you, follow the steps below to craft a decent summary essay. In this example, I will be explaining a mechanism of writing a short story summary, but you can extrapolate this method to any source you need to review. So:

  1. Google the source you need to review. Rather often, all the necessary information–including the brief paraphrase of the plot–can be found on Wikipedia. However, do not fall for the temptation to simply copy-paste and rewrite the article from it: it’ll be obvious to your teachers, and besides it is just dumb. Instead, find several summaries, and quickly read through them; one of them should be more specific (you will take some details for your essay from it); you should also find at least one super-concise summary to get yourself acquainted with the story in general. Spend about 25-35 minutes studying these materials. Make sure you remembered the plot outline.
  2. Things about the source you need to pay attention to: author, full title, year of publishing, the main idea, popularity. If the source has been influential in some way–or, on the contrary, was undeservedly ignored or forgotten–make sure to mention this fact as well. All this you will insert into your introductory paragraph.
  3. Get yourself acquainted with the characters. What you need to know is who are the main characters (usually there is one central character, or a pair of characters in some kind of relationship with each other); the most important secondary characters; relationships between the most significant characters; time and place of action; the main conflict driving the plot forward, or the main idea of the story; and how everything turns out in the end.
  4. In the first main body paragraph, introduce the characters and mention the setting: a historical period or epoch, a country or a city in which the story develops, and so on.
  5. In the second main body paragraph, mention the main idea of the story, and show how the character’s actions help disclose it. List the main interactions between characters in the order they appear/occur in the original story; the same refers to various events affecting the characters (for example, a car crash) and the storyline in general.
  6. In the third main body paragraph, describe the the story’s culmination; chalk out (but better show in details, if you can) how the finale of the story is connected to the characters’ actions–or, on the contrary, how little they could do to prevent something from happening. If the finale had any consequences on the main characters, mention them as well. And remember, you don’t need to write a concluding paragraph in summary essays.

This is basically it. In my experience, writing summary essays according to this method shouldn’t take longer than two hours. However, my experience also tells me that chances for an A grade with this approach are proportionately lower compared to normal writing–with proper research, outlining, and so on. But still it’s better than nothing, isn’t it?


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