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Summarising what you have read encourages you to focus and to remember key points. When writing an essay, you will often need to briefly summarise an author's argument in your own words to support your argument or provide a counter-argument.

  • A summary should be brief.
  • Use the author's conclusions and introductions. This is where they draw together their ideas.
  • Use your annotations and highlighted sections.
  • You may choose to think about how you would explain what you have learnt to somebody else. 
  • Ask yourself questions to guide your summary: What? Why? When? Where? How?

Think about how you would explain the text to someone else. In what order would you present the material?

Look at Note-making and Highlighting and annotating before starting this activity.


In this activity you will practise summarising a text so you can refer to it in your essay. Choose an essay title and summarise it using the suggested reading. See how concise you can be. If you are using the online text editor you can review your notes and add your summary online. If you prefer, you can write your summary by hand.

Essay title: Is capitalism the cause of or solution to environmental problems?
Suggested reading: Ecology and Society: An Introduction by Luke Martell pages 62-72.
Download [pdf 1.0 MB] to complete activity in hardcopy.

For help look at our example notes on Martell's text [pdf 63 KB].

View Martell pages 62-72

Essay title: What are the influences affecting children's acquisition of gender roles?
Suggested reading: Chapter 5 Gender Identity and the development of gender roles by Robin Banerjee.
Download [pdf 1.8 MB] to complete activity in hardcopy. (This text has been used with permission from the publisher. Please note: Copyright © The Open University 2005 All rights reserved).

For help look at our example notes on Banerjee's text [pdf 146KB].

View Banerjee Chapter 5

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