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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Paranoid about Plagiarism?


What is summary?

"Summarizing a source usually means condensing ideas or information. You are not expected to include every repetition and detail. Rather, you extract only those points that seem important -- the main ideas, which in the original text may have been interwoven with less important material. A summary of several pages can sometimes be as brief as one sentence." -- Brenda Spatt, Writing from Sources


Original passage -- 

"In a discussion [with] a class of teachers, I once said that I liked some of the kids in my class much more than others and that, without saying which ones I liked best, I had told them so. After all, this is something that children know, whatever we tell them; it is futile to lie about it. Naturally, these teachers were horrified. 'What a terrible thing to say!' one said. 'I love all the children in my class exactly the same.' Nonsense; a teacher who says this is lying, to herself or to others, and probably doesn't like any of the children very much. Not that there is anything wrong with that; plenty of adults don't like children, and there is no reason why they should. But the trouble is that they feel they should, which makes them feel guilty, which makes them feel resentful, which in turn makes them try to work off their guilt with indulgence and their resentment with subtle cruelties -- cruelties of a kind that can be seen in many classrooms. Above all, it makes them put on the phony, syrupy, sickening voice and manner, and the fake smiles and forced, bright laughter that children see so much of in school, and rightly resent and hate." -- John Holt, from How Children Fail 

Sample summary -- 

In John Holt's view, although it is only natural for teachers to prefer some students to others, many teachers cannot accept their failure to like all equally well and express their inadequacy and dissatisfaction in ways that are harmful to the children.

Tips to Remember:

  1. The summary must be comprehensive. Include all essential ideas from the original passage in your summary.
  2. The summary must be concise. Your summary should be considerably shorter than the original.
  3. The summary must be coherent. It should make sense as a paragraph in its own right. The reader should not have to rely on the original source to understand your summary.
  4. The summary must be independent. You are not being asked to imitate or identify yourself with the author whose work you are summarizing. Use your own words, but avoid introducing any comments or criticisms of your own. 

Adapted from Writing from Sources, 8th edition, by Brenda Spatt