Summarizing

One way to integrate your source information is through summary. Summaries are generally used to restate the main ideas of a text in your own words. They are usually substantially shorter than the original text because they don’t include supporting material. Instead, they include overarching ideas of an article, a page, or a paragraph.

For example, in the first chapter of his 1854 book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau wrote the following:

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorancewhich his growth requireswho has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
What is the main idea in the passage above? The following is one way the passage might be summarized.
In his 1854 text, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau suggests that the human fixation on work and labor desensitizes man to the world around him, to the needs of his own intellectual growth, and to the complexity and frailty of his fellow humans.

NOTE: The summary accomplishes two goals:

  1. It contextualizes the information (who said it, when, and where).
  2. It lists the main ideas of the passage without using quotations or citing specific supporting points of the passage.

You should use summaries of your source materials when you need to capture main ideas to support a point you are making.

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