Summaries usually appear in the context of larger works such as research papers or book reviews. Depending on the purpose of the summary and its relationship to the larger work, it may consist of just a few sentences, it may run for a paragraph or several paragraphs, or it may be divided by sections of analysis or discussion. When a summary occurs in a larger work, it is either cited informally in the text or footnoted.
The finished product should give the reader the essential information found in the source, but not give so much detail that it destroys the shape of the assignment. The following questions may help the writer discover important information in the source:
The questions follow roughly the same order that most scholarly articles and reports follow. The information may be presented in the same order that it is given in the source, or it may be summarized in some other way. But the arrangement of the material should be logical and easy for the reader to follow.
A Note of Caution
Many students plagiarize, unintentionally, when they summarize. You should not summarize material until you command of it is such that you can write a summary without looking at the source. If you summarize sentence by sentence, you run the risk of copying the sentence structure and ultimately the exact phrasing of the original.
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