A summary is a restatement of the main ideas of a source that is written in your own words. Typically, a summary will abbreviate more information than a paraphrase, and can abbreviate as little as a few paragraphs, or as much as a chapter or even an entire book.
The most important things to remember when summarizing an outside source are:
- Make sure your summary is accurate.
- Make sure your summary represents the intent of the source you're using.
- Make sure that you properly attribute the source immediately after the summarized material in the body of your paper as well as in your notes or references.
When to Summarize
As you draft, summarize often so that your paper doesn't turn into a string of undigested quotations.
- Main points. Use summary when your readers need to know the main point the original source makes but not the supporting details.
- Overviews. Sometimes you may want to devise a few sentences that will effectively support your discussion without going on and on. Use summary to provide an overview or an interesting aside without digressing too far from your paper's focus.
- Condensation. You may have taken extensive notes on a particular article or observation only to discover in the course of drafting that you do not need all that detail. Use summary to condense lengthy or rambling notes into a few effective sentences.
For a long time I never liked to look a chimpanzee straight in the eyeI assumed that, as is the case with most primates, this would be interpreted as a threat or at least as a breach of good manners. Not so. As long as one looks with gentleness, without arrogance, a chimpanzee will understand and may even return the look.
Jane Goodall, Through a Window 12
Goodall learned from her experiences with chimpanzees that they react positively to direct looks from humans (12).
Goodall reports that when humans look directly but gently into chimpanzees eyes, the chimps are not threatened and may even return the look (12).