Chapter summaries are a helpful way to recall information from a reading passage, chapter or unit. While most textbooks include chapter summaries that give students a condensed version of the material they've just studied, learning to accurately summarize chapters is an important skill for students to have. By identifying key components of the material you want to summarize and compiling the components as concisely as possible, you can write chapter summaries that can make your study time as productive and effective as possible.
Identify the portion of your text you'll need to summarize. This may be in a textbook, an article or chapters in a novel. If you are preparing for a test, ask your teacher specifically what unit or concepts will be covered. For example, in a world history class, clarify which time period or geographic location you should be summarizing and whether you'll be tested on events, names, places or other information.
Scan the text to highlight, underline or otherwise identify portions of particular importance, making sure you can mark in your book before you proceed. Refrain from marking up the entire text; be selective in the sentences, words or phrases you choose. Textbooks often give clues to important concepts by putting them in bold print, or repeating them on the page. Look for items that stand out and write them on a piece of paper if you cannot write in your text.
Connect all of your items into a few short phrases. For example, if your focus is ancient Rome and the period of Julius Caesar's reign, you might have phrases such as, "Caesar's Army," and "Important Battles." These phrases will clue you in to key information that should be included in your summary.
Write a one-sentence introductory phrase that covers major terminology and vocabulary words from the chapter. For example, an introductory sentence for a summary on Caesar's reign in ancient Rome might be, "Julius Caesar was one of the most notable emperors of Rome, whose battles and conquests helped change Rome from a republic into an empire." This sentence contains the subject (Rome), sub-ideas (Julius Caesar) and vocabulary terms (republic and empire).
Continue down your list of notes or through your pages of marked items and include them in your paragraph. Remember to link each sentence to the topic or first sentence. If the item you include in a summary paragraph about Julius Caesar in ancient Rome has nothing to do with either Caesar or building the Roman Empire, then remove it.
Conclude your summary with a sentence or two that communicates the overarching importance of your topic. Address why someone should be interested in Rome and Julius Caesar's reign as emperor. For example, "Julius Caesar's reign has ended, but his influence continues to be felt in many ways, such as through the word 'July.' The Roman Empire and arguably the modern Western world owes many of its achievements to Julius Caesar." Mention key vocabulary terms and memorable words or phrases from the chapter you've studied.
Things You Will Need
- Pen, pencil or highlighter
- Do not copy direct quotes from the text unless you place them in quotation marks and include a citation. Using direct quotes without identifying their source is plagiarism.
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