How to Summarize a Reading Assignment

Sift through your reading assignment and pare it down to essential facts.

Occasionally, a teacher may ask you to write a summary of your reading assignment. But you don't have to wait to be assigned to write a summary. Making a habit of summarizing what you read is a useful tool to improve reader comprehension, and also a valuable critical-thinking exercise. Summarizing a reading assignment increases recall and condenses an author's ideas down to a few sentences.

State the author's most important idea. This is commonly referred to as the main idea and can be found in the author's thesis statement. Try to paraphrase the information to avoid plagiarism and increase understanding.

Use your own words. Imagine you are telling a friend about a great movie you saw or a great book that you read. Speak in your own language, but be sure to use standard English, not slang.

Go over each point the author uses to prove his thesis statement. Watch for topic sentences that back up his most important idea. These points form an outline that you can condense down into your summary.

Pay attention to detail. Examine if the author provides enough detail to support his thesis statement and supporting points. Tell what those details are while summarizing the reading assignment.

Present your ideas in order. You would not talk about the author's supporting points without first talking about what those points are referring to.

Substitute general words or phrases for long lists of items. For instance, if you see a list consisting of swimming, marathon running and beach volleyball, you might just write "summer sports."

Discard information from the reading assignment that seems redundant or trivial from your summary.

Polish your summary. Make it more readable by adding transitions and smoothing awkward sentence constructions.

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.