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A summary is a short and concise representation of the main points, ideas, concepts, facts or statements of a text written in your own words. Unlike a paraphrase, which is generally of a similar length to the original text, a summary is much shorter.

When either summarising or paraphrasing, you should not alter:

  • the author’s original idea(s)
  • the degree of certainty with which the ideas are expressed.
How to summarise?

To create / write a good summary, you should read the article or text a number of times to develop a clear understanding of:

  • the author’s ideas and intentions
  • the meaning and details
  • the force with which the ideas are expressed.
  • Summaries need to be referenced. Whether you have summarised or paraphrased an author’s words, thoughts, ideas etc, a citation to the original source of the words, thoughts, ideas etc must be provided.
Writing a Summary

Use the following steps to write a summary.

Step 1

  • Write notes in point form using keywords; this will make it easier to express the ideas in your own words.

Step 2

  • Write the summary directly from your notes without re-reading the passage.

Step 3

  • Refer back to the original to ensure that your summary is a true reflection of the writer’s ideas.


  • Topic sentences provide a quick outline of the main idea(s) presented in a paragraph.
  • When summarising a chapter or article, the introduction and conclusion should provide a good overview of the content.
  • An abstract is a concise and accurate representation of the contents of a document, in a style similar to that of the original document.
Purpose of abstracts
  •  As an aid to the reader. It helps the reader assess the contents of a document without having to read the whole document.
  •  The reader can narrow the selection of documents based upon their abstracts. It increases the efficiency of searching.
  •  Professional abstractors Employed by organisations to abstract numerous documents. If they know the subject well enough, they can write a good abstract.
  •  Authorsmany publications, conferences, ask the author to include an abstract of 100-200 words with the original document. This saves time, but authors are not always good as abstractors.
  • Abstracting services
  • Abstracts are used in abstracting services, such as Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA).
  • This serves –
  •  current awareness
  •  retrospective searching
  • value of an abstract
  •  Abstract length.
  •  Abstract orientation
  • Abstract quality
  • Nature of the original document
  • 1. Abstract length.
  •  Long abstracts have more detail. They will be found more often by keyword searches. This may be what the research wants, but it will be have low precision.
  • Short abstracts are quicker to read. They can be more precise but there will be lower recall.
  • 2. Abstract orientation
  •  Professional abstracting is done for a special market. Some abstracts are written for a general audience.
  • 3. Abstract quality
  • Not all abstracting is of high quality. Author abstracts are often low quality. Professional abstracts are usually better.
  • 4. Nature of the original document
  •  Abstracts can be in a different language to the original. As an example, the original document is in English, and the abstract is in Vietnamese.
Types of abstract
  • Informative abstracts
  • Indicative abstracts
  • Critical abstracts

1. Informative abstracts

  • Represent as much of the information from the document’s content as possible. This means they can be long (up to 500 words). Good for documents describing research that contains a single process. Not good for review documents with many different concepts to describe.
  • An informative abstract stands in the place of the real document. It may be all that researchers need to read – the abstract contains enough information for their purposes

2. Indicative abstracts

  • Indicates general content without trying to describe it all. Usually a list of topics but no detail.
  • Very useful as a selection aid – will contain all relevant keywords.
  • Easier to write than informative abstracts!
  • An indicative abstract does not stand on its own. It leads the researcher to the full document. The abstract helps with searching the literature.

3. Critical abstracts

  • Does more than just describe content.
  • Evaluates work and places it in context, so write of abstract is adding personal opinion to abstract.
  • Not common.

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