By Yerni Miss Endang Polly

What should a summary contain? How different is it from its original text? With the sample of summary in the previous post, here are some guidelines for writing a summary (Arnaudet and Barret, 1984:145).

Photo by Ann H on
  1. Read the original text carefully.
  2. Identify the controlling idea and the relationships among the major supporting ideas.
  3. Decide which examples are necessary for a clear understanding of the text.
  4. Make use of the paraphrasing techniques.
  5. Write a first sentence which includes the source of your summary and the controlling idea.
  6. Indicate whether the author is uncertain of the facts or is expressing a personal opinion.
  7. Avoid making comments about or adding information to the text.
  8. Make the summary approximately one-fourth to one-third the length of the original.

What is your experience in writing a summary or in teaching the students how to write a summary? Not difficult, right? But imagine our EFL context when we should teach this to students. Well, the structure of the summary is easier. We ask the students first to read the original text and fully understand the content to be able to summarize it. To identify the controlling idea is a lot easier, but is not as easy as to indicate the author’s attitude toward the subject matter (point number 6), whether he/she is uncertain of the facts, is only expressing a personal opinion, or is presenting alternate positions or approaches on a topic. This requires a very close attention on the content of the original text, something which the teacher has to teach the students to focus more on.  

Back again, when starting the first sentence of their summary, in which they have to mention the source, the teacher has to provide examples of opening sentences such as according to …, … explains/criticizes …, etc. So, the teacher teaches the language too. This applies throughout the summary. In my experience, the content is not as difficult as the language. You know, grammar has its own rules and we have to obey the rules, right? This is the most difficult part in teaching writing for foreign language learners of English, at least in my experience. Hope you have a better story and be willing to share the secrets of your successful execution.

How do you cope with students’ errors in writing, not only in summary but also in writing in general? I really want to learn, so please do it in comment. Thank you very much.


Arnaudet, M.L. and M.E. Barret. (1984). Approaches to Academic Reading and Writing. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

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