How to Write Summaries

  • Many students have trouble turning a choppy or disorganized first draft into a coherent, well-organized paper. Here are some things you can expect when you work with a tutor to help you organize your paper.

    Questions about the assignment and your writing process, such as…

    • How did you go about writing this paper? Did you create an outline or a graphic organizer to keep yourself on track?
    • Is this your first draft? Have any of your peers or your professor reviewed it with you?
    • Is the order of information intentional, or did you write the paper in the order in which ideas came to mind?
    • What’s your thesis statement or central idea, and how did you support it?
    • Can you identify places where your writing seems unorganized and repetitive or jumps around? 
    • Can you identify places where you used transitions to move between ideas? If not, can you identify places where a transition would help the reader move between ideas?

    Writing activities, such as…

    • Writing a fresh outline and checking the order against your paper.
    • Reverse outlining: summarizing the main point(s) of each paragraph and evaluating the order of your ideas.
    • Comparing your introduction to each paragraph throughout the paper to see whether each paragraph strengthens your main point and helps your paper.
    • Using scissors to cut your paper into chunks or paragraphs and then rearranging the pieces to experiment with the order.

    As a reminder, tutoring sessions typically…

    • last 30 to 45 minutes.
    • focus on one or two writing issues.
    • help to develop and focus ideas as you talk one-on-one with a tutor.
    • identify aspects of the paper you need to improve on your own.
    • conclude with a short evaluation form.
    • respect the confidentiality of your visit; a tutor will send a report form to your instructor only at your request.

    Written by Emily Weber