Summarizing Information: How to Write a Summary

A summary must be concise and follow a logical order so that all the salient information of the original can be communicated to the reader.

A summary is a concise version of some original communication material. The summary can be a condensed version of either verbal or written communication. Some students hire a writer for an essay to do well. Summarizing techniques is a skill that will prove useful to most individuals when studying at college or the workplace. Summarizing techniques are often used for the following tasks:

  • Report writing
  • Fact sheets
  • Press releases
  • Letter writing
  • Preparing minutes for a meeting

Types of Summary


The scope of a précis is that it remains a faithful reproduction of the original material by retaining all the major concepts presented in the original communication.


When taking notes during a lecture the verbal or visual communication transmitted is being summarized. However, notes do not aim to follow a logical order, and many times they are not easy to understand for someone else.


The purpose of a summary is the selection of specific points from the original to meet outlined requirements or terms of reference.

Executive Summary

The executive summary differs from a summary in that its scope is to present the main points of a long report to present to the reader the salient points of a business report without the need to read the whole document. An executive summary usually includes the scope of the report and any recommendations or conclusions reached in the document.


An abstract is similar to an executive summary in that it summarizes a long essay or a dissertation. The abstract is used for academic writing whereas the executive summary is used when writing business reports.


Minutes are taken down during a meeting and they aim to record the main points discussed and any resolutions taken during a meeting.

How to Write a Good Summary of Written Material

  1. Ensure that the terms of reference provided are clear and fully understood.
  2. Read through the material at least twice. The first reading can be done quickly so that a general idea of the document is gained while the second reading should take into account the main points and divisions of the documents.
  3. Make notes of the main concepts. Select those points which are relevant to the outlined requirements and create a list of the main points of the document.
  4. Write the first draft. From the notes created write the first draft. At this stage ensure that all the salient points are included even if this exceeds the word limit. The number of words can be reduced in the final copy.
  5. Check the number of words. If the word limit is exceeded attempt to reduce the word count by re-wording your sentences.
  6. Prepare a final copy. Re-read the revised draft and type the final copy of the summary.

An effective summary delivers and includes the main points of the original document concisely and clearly.