Summarizing and Paraphrasing as Writing Strategies


Read the following abstract and underline the keywords that do not appropriately describe it.

Guide Questions:

  1. Why is it important to learn how to summarize?
  2. When writing a summary, how important are keywords in describing its content?
  3. How does one decide which ideas should be included in a summary?


Read the short paragraph below and examine the phrased versions. Tick the box of your preferred version.

Guide Questions:

  1. What are the features of an acceptable paraphrase?
  2. Should the paraphrased version resemble the structure of the original article?


Refer to the short article below and note how it was summarized.

The following summary deviates from the author’s own words but retains the gist of the article.

You may also write your summary in a way that uses the author’s own words and reflects much of what the author wants to say. 

In the sample summaries, note that only the key ideas were included: 

Although a summary may be regarded as a stand-alone text, it must be considered as an important element of the longer version. It owes its existence to the longer text and must be seen in relation to its unabridged version. 

Summary Defined

Summaries are shortened versions of long and complicated texts. They are useful for several reasons: they help you focus on the main idea, enabling you to identify key points and glossing over less important ones. When you summarize, you are able to combine the key points that support the main idea. It is important to understand that summarizing is not equivalent to writing down everything verbatim. Nor does it mean coming up with a version that is similar in length to or longer than the original text. Your reason for writing a summary should determine the kind of summary you will write. 

The summary makes it easy for the readers to determine at first glance the content and merit of a piece of writing; often this is the first thing discriminating readers read to assess the merit of the academic paper. In the case of the abstract, it is the first thing readers examine to determine the suitability of the academic paper to their needs and preferences.

Kinds of Summary

There are different kinds of summary. All of them have the same objective—to highlight key ideas. All summaries have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each type emphasizes a different part depending on its objective. Regardless of the type, however, all summaries must be given proper citation even if the exact words of the author have been replaced.

Descriptive Summary

This summary is basically a list of topics without details and can serve as a quick reference to the subject matter discussed in the literature. Imagine subject catalogs you might see in some libraries but written in complete sentences. Descriptive summaries can also be found in annotated bibliographies.

Informative Summary

Compared to a descriptive summary, an informative summary is longer as it gives context to the realization of the study. It provides the background of the problem and the methods used to address the problem. As its name suggests, this kind of summary may also give a glimpse of the document’s merits and limits. A page is enough to write an informative summary. 


The summary you write for your research paper, thesis, or any college paper is called an abstract. It is found at the beginning of the entire paper and gives a brief but comprehensive description of your work.

Parts of an Abstract

The most important aspects of your academic text are reflected in the following parts of an abstract: 

Guidelines on Writing an Abstract

  1. Prepare the abstract even while you’re writing your academic paper. While still in the writing phase of the writing process, list important ideas in your paper that you can use in your abstract. This way, you don’t have to wait until you have finished writing your paper before you write the abstract. 
  2. Re-read your academic paper with the intention to edit it later. Highlight important sections and ideas in your paper that you can include in your abstract. 
  3. Conciseness is the name of the game, so avoid jargon, clichés and vague expressions such as “a number of “relatively few,” “certain groups,” “sometime this year.” Use exact phrases and keywords that describe your work. 
  4. Be mindful of the word count and make sure your abstract conforms to the standards. 
  5. Check to make sure the keywords accurately describe the abstract. 
  6. Your abstract should include information about the following: What was the study about? What did you find out? What are the implications of your study? Reread you your finished abstract to make sure all these essential parts have been included.


Refer to the short paragraph below and compare it with the paraphrased versions.

In the plagiarized version, note that the words have been replaced with synonyms, while the sentence structure remains the same. In the good paraphrase version, the meaning has been retained, but the words and structure no longer resemble the original.

Paraphrase Defined

Paraphrasing is the method of rewriting a passage from an academic text in the paraphraser’s manner and style and no longer that of the author. When you paraphrase, you adopt the author’s ideas and translate them into your own words to make the ideas suit your style of writing. Your goal is to make the article clearer and shorter, or about the same length as the original. You should neither distort the ideas nor merely mimic the words and the sentence structure of the original article. In a way, you are bringing in your own perspective combined with that of the writer when you paraphrase.

Paraphrasing is used extensively in research for the following purposes: to cite important facts and information, to situate a topic in context, and to support an argument. 

Because paraphrasing makes use of the ideas in the original academic text, you should be careful to cite your source to make sure credit is given to the original author. You can make use of the introductory tag “According to…” (known as the author heading format) at the start of the paraphrase; however, in case an article does not have an author, cite the title of the article instead.

How to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is a necessary skill that you should master. When you know how to paraphrase, you can shorten long passages without deviating from the original text. Paraphrasing reflects your understanding of the text. When you’re able to paraphrase well, that is an indication that you understood the text. In that way, paraphrasing also becomes a reading strategy.

Here are some guidelines for paraphrasing a text:

  • After reading the text, take time to understand it. Keep notes and write marginal notes on the text to help you understand the author’s intended meaning. Re-read the text if necessary. 
  • As you read, interact with the text by asking relevant questions pertaining to it. Be sure the questions will lead you to a better understanding of the text you are examining. 
  • In your own words, answer the questions that you raised. Doing so would allow you to determine how well you drafted the questions in relation to the text.
  • Take another look at your ideas and put them all together. Find what is common among them and organize them into a coherent paragraph. Be sure that you have included all the necessary information. 
  • Acknowledge your source by citing the author’s name, year of publication, and, when necessary, the page number.