Summarizing and Paraphrasing Strategies 

Summarizing Strategies 

A summary condenses the ideas in a source to just the main points, leaving out the details.  It is typically used to relate large sections of a source (or the entire content of a source) concisely.
Draw a graphical overview of the source that you can convert into a summary, or create a sentence outline of the source that you can convert into a summary. 

Either way, read the entire piece you are trying to summarize before you begin, and break summarizing into smaller tasks: 

  • Annotate the text, labeling and underlining important material. 
  • Delete unimportant detail, examples, and redundancy. 
  • Compress words in the original into fewer words, and provide general terms to cover specific items. 
  • Locate and emphasize thesis and topic sentences. Invent thesis and topic sentences if none are found. 
  • Identify and imitate the organizational pattern of the source. 
  • Identify and incorporate rhetorical context and the author’s rhetorical purpose. 
  • Document the summary. 

Paraphrasing Strategies 

A paraphrase translates the ideas in a source into your own words, keeping all of the details in the original source.  It is typically used for relating short segments of a source’s ideas, as an alternative to quoting.

There are many more techniques you can use to create a paraphrase than just replacing a few words. Remember that to be clear, a paraphrase quite often ends up being longer than the original. 

  • Locate the individual statements or major idea units in the original. 
  • Change the order of ideas, maintaining the logical connections among them. 
  • Substitute synonyms for words in the original, making sure the language in your paraphrase is appropriate for your audience. 
  • Combine and divide sentences as necessary. 
  • Compare the paraphrase to the original to ensure that the rewording is sufficient and the meaning has been preserved. 
  • Weave the paraphrase into your essay in accordance with your rhetorical purpose. 
  • Document the paraphrase. 

Adapted and used with permission from Mary Lynch Kennedy, 2003.


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