Writing an Extended Summary
Writing an "extended summary" of a text allows you to capture a writer's main claim and key supporting ideas. For many of your classes, you may want to consider writing extended summaries on assigned readings as a way of helping you remember the major ideas and concepts from each of your readings. The information below provides a general overview of the typical goals and elements of successful extended summaries.
- Involve "reading with the grain" of the text, focusing on the author's point of view.
- Help you understand the essay's hierarchy of ideasthe overarching idea, the main ideas, and the supporting ideas.
- Can help you read with a particular, often assigned purpose or goal in mind.
A Well-Written Extended Summary...
- includes the title of the essay, in quotation marks, and the full name of the author.
- includes the name of the larger work from which the essay came.
- uses only the essayist's last name when later referring to him or her.
- initially presents the author's main purpose or thesis ("The overarching idea that the author is trying to get across to the reader is that ______________________________.").
- continues by presenting only the main and supporting ideas.
- does not include minor details, examples, explanations, quotations, or statistics.
- usually presents the main ideas and supporting ideas in the same order as they are presented in the essay.
- is written as concisely and precisely as possible, with no vague or wasted words.
- maintains emotional distance from the essay, avoiding your own opinions or responses about the topic.
- accurately represents the writer's ideas as correctly and precisely as possible.
- is written in the summary writer's own words, avoiding dependence on quoting the essay.
- uses attributive tags ("According to Smithson . . ." or "Smithson maintains . . .") to indicate reliance on the essayist's ideas. These attributive tags are also called signal phrases.
- is written in third person and present tense.
- may use from 100 words up to about 10% of the original text's word count.
Extended Summary Model
In "The Return of Patriarchy," an essay found in the anthology This Is Not An English Book, author Robert Longman examines the social concept of patriarchy. Longman discusses how no matter what, men and women will breed enough children to grow the population. Without this concept of patriarchy, Longman says that birthrates are falling below replacement levels. The concept of patriarchal society is to maximize the population and fertility and the investment parents put into the next generation. Falling birthrates not only change the national temperament but they are also responsible for the many financial and economic problems in today's society. The whole idea of patriarchy is to enforce higher fertility rates in societies that are under-populated. This idea helps societies from dying out. Patriarchy forces men to marry women of proper station and to have children, instead of having "bastards" and leaving unwed mothers. Patriarchy, according to Longman, has allowed societies to grow in strength and numbers, forcing out lower fertility societies. As long as this type of society is sustained, it allows power because of population.