An academic summary is a concise representation of an academic text. The summary’s purpose is to enable the reader to determine, in a limited amount of time, if and why a paper, chapter or book is worth reading.
An academic summary is different from an abstract. An abstract is a brief representation of the main results and conclusions of the study. An academic summary characteristically shows the (argumentation) structure of the text; the skeleton of the argument skeleton.
The summary should be a flowing text, written in your own words. This means that copying exact phrases from the original text is not permitted. Moreover, the text should be written in well-formulated Dutch or English, and intelligible to an audience that is not acquainted with the original text.
Students are expected to be able to quickly penetrate the structure and core ideas of a text, and to reproduce them concisely in their own words. One way of doing this is writing a summary.
Summarising is pausing in order to get ahead. The purpose of the summary determines at which places to halt and what to see there. Students usually summarise texts to help them pass an exam. In such cases, a summary prepares the student for possible exam questions. However, a summary can have other functions as well: students may be asked to summarise a text in preparation of a critical discussion during a tutorial. Students could also summarise part of a text because they want to use certain data while writing an essay or thesis.
In short, a summary can serve three functions:
The purpose for which you are examining a text or the aim of a summary can be different for each course. So, make sure you take a thorough look at the assignment before you start reading or summarising.
Selecting information for the summary can be difficult, yet it is very important. Certain aspects play an important role here:
The format of an academic summary is nearly always the same. If you have a valid reason, you can deviate from the original order in which the information is presented by the author. A summary of a research report must contain the following information:
The various components of a summary must be clearly recognisable. These will be discussed below.
Research question/Problem statement
Your own opinion (optional)
Word choice, sentence structure, and style are of great importance when writing a summary of a scientific article. As a general rule, the text should be easy to read and understand. Moreover, your usage should match your scholarly/intended/involved readers. Naturally, you should not use inappropriate or vernacular language. It is also important to use proper academic style, which means that the summary must be objective. Formulations must be accurate, so vague terminology such as ‘all sorts’, ‘some’ and ‘a few’ are best avoided. Your text cannot contain any spelling errors, and the grammar must be adequate. Also, be consistent in the use of grammatical tense.