Students in the tutorial often have very weak reading skills, so you may find that you need to break down summary skills to have students practice just one or two skills in the first attempt and to add more skills in subsequent attempts. Students also tend to move quickly toward a précis or thumbnail summary and need to be pressed to write a detailed summary.
The goals of this assignment are:
To help students improve their reading skills,
To introduce the conventions of academic summary,
To help students understand the importance of objective and unbiased recording of main points in a piece of writing, and
To help students understand the importance of arranging and ordering ideas from a piece of writing.
Suggestions for responding to this assignment: As always, praise strengths as you move students toward careful reading and translations of key points into their summaries. You may find that two drafts of a single summary will exhaust what students can learn from working with that piece of writing, so be prepared to move to a new article whenever students need a change to be able to make more progress.
By now you've already practiced "summary" by reading other students' essays on the Web Forum and identifying the main idea. The process for an academic summary is similar - to read something by another writer and identify the important ideas in that piece. The only differences between what you've already done and your next assignment are that you'll now do this for a published writer, your summary will be longer, and your audience has changed.
The question you'll answer ("Purpose") is: What are the purpose and main points of this writer's essay?
You're answering this question for ("Audience") a group of people who have not read the essay you're summarizing. Therefore, you'll need to think about how to represent all of the main ideas of the piece (complete) fairly (objective). Keep in mind that your reader will want to know more than just what the essay is "about" - she or he will want to know what the author says about his or her topic and how each idea within the essay is connected to the rest of the author's points.
The goals are: (1) to read and understand the essay thoroughly enough to be able to represent it accurately to someone who has not read the original and (2) to practice using the conventions of academic summary (your tutor will discuss these with you).
If you're having trouble getting started, take a look at the "Summarizing" section in the back of your resource packet. You might also read the section on "Reading Strategies." Be sure to use your notes on the article itself and your two-column log (if your tutor has asked you to do one) for ideas. Before starting to write, take a look at the sample summaries in this packet and any notes you made on them when you discussed them with your tutor.