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Writing a Summary

Guide for writing a summary.

Types of Summaries

A summary can be present in essays that also require you to provide your opinion or present an argument. You can find summaries in:

  • Abstracts
  • Introductions
  • Conclusions
  • Research essays
  • Argument essays
  • Response essays
  • Book reports

... and many other types of writing!

A summary exists to provide basic knowledge or information for readers who may otherwise be unfamiliar with a work or concept.

Defining Summary

A summary focuses on the main ideas within a resource. It requires critical reading and attention to detail but does not include any opinion. Writing a summary requires a "just the facts" approach. Summaries may be important components of other types of essays, such as critiques, where a reader must have an understanding of what is discussed in an unfamiliar work or concept before following along with an evaluation of that work or concept.

For quick reference, you can use the following chart in order to determine if your paper is a summary or a critique.

Critique vs. Summary
Critique Summary
Gives an overview of key concepts discussed in the work


Includes introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs Yes Sometimes
Names the author and title of the work to be discussed Yes Yes
Provides your opinion of the work Yes No
Identifies gaps in the resource and/or research that the author missed Yes No
Requires close reading of a text Yes No
Requires you to analyze the text Yes No
May use supporting evidence from the text, such as quotes, to support your interpretation Yes No