Summarize Strategy

What is it?

A summary is a brief account of the main ideas. The Summarize Strategy involves pausing to look back over the text and create a summary of what you have read. Summarizing is an efficient way to capture what is most important.

Why should I do it?

The Summarize Strategy helps you identify and keep track of a text's main ideas. When you summarize, you're more likely to remember what is important—and remembering important ideas makes for a satisfying reading experience. Summarizing also gives you a great starting point for discussing what you've read.

How do I do it?

When you read, stop periodically and summarize what has happened so far in the text. If you're reading a story, focus on the important characters and events. If you're reading a nonfiction text, look for the main points the author makes. You might start by listing a lot of items and then pare it down to the most essential points. Traditional summaries use words, but you could also use pictures to capture key ideas. The end of a chapter is one good place to stop and summarize, but you can do it at any point in the text.

Self Check

Good summaries:


The following are excerpts from a 2005 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

"American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the internet... Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.

"Teens are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs than their adult counterparts. Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a major part of this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent internet users than non-bloggers and have more experience with almost every online activity in the survey."

Summary: In a 2005 survey, half of American teenagers said they had posted their own media projects on the Internet. Many of these "Content Creators" are teen bloggers, who tend to have more experience with the Internet's many features than non-bloggers do.

Summary Tip: Avoid the boring-retelling trap!

Have you ever asked someone to tell you about a movie they saw and found that they went on, and on, and on, with every little detail? That's what you want to avoid when you summarize. Think of a summary as an overview that highlights the big ideas and events, not a blow-by-blow description of all the details.