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Tips on Summarizing

In academic writing, there are a few things to keep in mind when summarizing outside sources:

  • Use your own words
  • Include the main points of the original and keep it brief—you're just going for the original's essence
  • Do not include your interpretation/analysis within the summary—make a clear distinction between your thoughts and someone else's
  • Vary how you introduce or attribute your sources, like "according to…," or "so-and-so concludes that..." so your readers don't get bored
  • Always include a citation

Here's an example of what a summary would look like in your paper if you were using MLA:

Original Summary in a Paper Using MLA
Buffy, a small, delicate-looking blonde of superhuman strength, relies on Giles not only for adult support and coaching, but also for the research necessary to do that for which the Vampire Slayer has been chosen. In the third season, Giles was officially relieved from his Watcher duties, but he ignores that and continues as Buffy's trainer, confidant, and father-figure. To help her fulfill her Slayer duties, Buffy can always turn to Giles (DeCandido 44).

And this complete citation would go in your "Works Cited" list.

DeCandido, Graceanne A. "Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer." American Libraries, Sept. 1999, pp. 44-47..

Need more? See Resources for UCLA Students.