Writing a Summary Essay Properly

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Hi everyone!

Today, we are going to discuss summary essays. But before we start, I’d like to ask you to remember any conversation—with your friends, for example—when you were sharing impressions about a recently-watched movie or a book you’ve just read. Most likely, your paraphrase of the storyline, visual effects, characters, and other details was rather generalized. This is natural, because when we need to convey the meaning of something voluminous and lengthy, we omit smaller details and focus only on what is important; we paint a picture with large strokes, so to say.

Writing a summary essay is basically the same as retelling a movie plot to your friends—the only difference is that you do it in written form. Here are some clues to help you.

  1. Naturally, in order to be able to review and summarize something, you must first get yourself acquainted with the source. Study the original text thoroughly (most likely, in high school or college you will need to summarize a book), trying to understand the author’s main idea.
  2. Now it’s time for a more meticulous analysis. You can skip this part if you want to write any essay; however, in order to write a quality one, you will need this step. So, what you need to do is to break the original text into smaller parts. After you do this, read each of the parts and write down all the important or interesting sections.
  3. Decide on what exactly you are going to include in your essay. Also, decide on which of the points from the list you will expand on, and which of them you will just mention.
  4. In the introduction, briefly introduce the main idea of the text you are summarizing. Say something about the author, about the work you’ve been reading—in other words, provide some background info to get your readers into the context. Then, move to writing the main body section. In it, you must present and describe your chosen ideas. They must be organized in such a way that your reader can understand the general plot of the book, the logic of the story, plot twists, and so on. You can also include some quotations from the text. You can also include one or two minor details, but in general it is better to omit them.
  5. Usually, summary essays do not require a concluding paragraph. However, it is always better to double check and figure out your teacher’s requirements.
  6. Proofread and edit your paper. It should be written in present simple tense (even if the author describes events that happened long ago, or has already died). Make sure your summary essay can serve as an adequate substitute to the original text.

Well, that is it. I hope these succinct recommendations will help you write a solid summary essay. Good luck!


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