Economics: Summarizing a Text

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1. Read the Text Closely

  • Read the article carefully
  • Highlight key ideas
  • Take notes as you read

2. Understand the Text

  • Look up unfamiliar words/terms
  • Determine the central argument and purpose
  • Re-read the text for greater understanding

3. Pick the Main Points

  • Select only the most important points (probably the most difficult part!)
  • Try thinking about your summary this way: soccer or hockey game highlights only show the key moments (e.g. goals, near misses, and penalties, etc.), which is similar to what you are trying to do

4. Use Your Own Words

  • Explain the author’s (or authors’) main ideas in your own way, using your own words
  • Sometimes it helps to familiarize yourself with the text first (steps 1-3), then put the text aside to summarize, or summarize by using your notes

5. Keep the Same Order, Reduce the Length

  • Present the author’s (or authors’) points in the same order as the original text
  • Make sure your summary is shorter than the original text (follow your professor’s word count guidelines)

6. Self Edit

  • Revisit the original text, then read over your summary, ensuring that you used your own words and captured all of the key points
  • Try reading your work out loud, both watching— and listening—for spelling and grammar mistakes

Future Applications

Summarizing is a skill that can help you with: future academic assignments (e.g. research papers), briefing notes, report and memo writing, project abstracts, or describing books/movies

Adapted from: Ahmadi, B. & Hume, S.E. (Eds.). (2017). Writing for Economics. Victoria: Open Leaf Press, 167-173. See full text for more info.

*This handout was created by the CAC, not the ECON department; if in doubt, follow your professor’s instructions rather than this handout.*