How to Write an Informative Summary

Use a summary to demonstrate how well you understand a text

Writing a summary is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of a text. A summary challenges you to use your own words to condense the main idea and most important details of the original piece. According to the Santa Monica College Reading Center, a summary “does not have to be long nor should it be long.” The five-finger summary is an effective method to write a summary that is informative and succinct.

Read the original work at least two times. After the first read, make an outline of important details as you read. Pay attention to topic sentences and concluding sentences; the first and last sentences of a paragraph, and the first and last sentences of a written work.

Read over your outline. Isolate the main idea and the three most important details.

Write a five-finger summary: in the first sentence, introduce the title, author and main idea of the text. Describe the three most important details in one sentence each. Write a concluding sentence that expounds upon and echoes the main idea sentence.

Check your work. Compare your summary to the original work. Ask yourself: Have I maintained meaning of the original work? Have I accurately restated the main idea and supporting details in my own words?

  • An informative summary is not a critique; it should be objective. Do not make value judgments about the original work.

Eileen Pfefferle covers art, literature, language, culture, nutrition and yoga. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of Wyoming. Pfefferle is a registered yoga instructor with a specialization in children's yoga.