General Information

A summary is similar to a paraphrase in that you again use your own words.   This time, however, not all the details are included.  You must decide what the source’s main points are and condense them into a few concise sentences. For this reason summaries are often much shorter than the original source. Summaries should not use exact quotes from the source except in those unusual situations where there is a special word or phrase that cannot be expressed in your own words.

Like all of the other methods of incorporating source information into your paper, it is important to not plagiarize, either by forgetting to quote the original if you use the same words, or by not clearly introducing the information as having come from the source.

A Good Summary:

  1. contains only the most important information
  2. is concise; it should always be shorter than the original
  3. paraphrases any information taken from the source
  4. refers directly to the original source
  5. does not use exact wording (quotes) except for special word or words that cannot be expressed otherwise

Original Quotation: 

“Besides, step-families offer unique advantages as well. One example is the increase in available emotional support and, other resources from the larger, more extended family. Another is the opportunity the children have for learning how to cope with an ever changing and complicated world due to the social and emotional complexity of their own step family environment” (Pinto).

Unacceptable Summary: 

Step-families have advantages too. One is that there is more emotional support when there are more people. And there are other resources because there are more family members.  Also, children can cope better with life if they start dealing with problems when they’re young.

  • This summary contains more than just the most important information.
  • It is not concise
  • It does not refer back to the source

Improved Summary: Pinto believes that blended families can provide more emotional support and resources and help children learn to cope more effectively in a complex world.

Important Notes

Separation of Personal Feelings:

Sometimes, it is difficult to separate our personal feelings about the content of a source when we paraphrase or summarize.  It is critical to be able to objectively paraphrase and summarize.  Research is not about finding sources which support your position.  Research is about finding the variety of opinions on the issue, evaluating them, and then deciding what your position is.  You will be reading and using information you do not agree with.

Use of Summaries in Research Papers:

Since a summary contains sentences with information from a source, each sentence must cite the source if you use a summary in your research paper.  However, there are times when you have an assignment in a class which asks for a summary.  In that case, the instructor may not require that the source be cited in each sentence as long as it is given credit at the beginning or end and there is no question it is a summary of a source. If the assignment asks for an analysis of a particular source along with your opinion, then each sentence with information from the source must cite the source in order to distinguish it from your analysis.  This is not strictly a summary since summaries contain only key ideas from the source and not your opinion or analysis.

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