Summarizing and Paraphrasing as Writing Strategies

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

There have been numerous studies on portfolio development as an instructional practice. As a form of interrogation with such studies, this study explores portfolios’ benefits to students, teachers, and the curriculum. The use of portfolio as an instructional strategy has implications for pedagogical practice and curriculum design in the context of current learning theories advocating active student engagement in learning and assessment to improve the student’s ability to construct meaning. This study suggests that portfolios support curriculum and teaching initiatives, allowing teachers to go beyond quantitative tests and provide opportunities for cognitive and self-reflection skills.
portfolio, portfolio assessment, instructional strategy, reflection paper, self-reflection skills, curriculum design, art design, intervention program, student-teacher interaction

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.

Much can be done within the field of psychology to advance the human rights and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, families, and communities. The Philippine case is no exception, what with the country’s long history of colonization under the Spanish and US regimes. The Philippines is a developing, predominantly conservative Roman Catholic nation in Asia where same-sex marriage, gender identity recognition, sex work, abortion, and even heterosexual divorce remain illegal, so it appears to be an unlikely environment for fostering inclusion, affirmation, and activism for gender and sexual minorities within psychology (Manalastas & Torre, 2016).
In psychology, a lot can be done to promote the human rights and welfare of the LGBT sector. The scenario is prevalent even in the Philippines. Having been under the Spanish and US colonial masters and being the only Roman Catholic nation in Asia, the Philippines still has laws against same-sex marriage and divorce, and is least likely to promote inclusion for those not in the mainstream of the gender and sexual sectors (Manalastas & Torre, 2016).
According to Manalastas & Torre (2016) “much can be done within the field of psychology to advance the human rights and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, families, and communities. The Philippine case is no exception, what with the country’s long history of colonization under the Spanish and US regimes. The Philippines is a developing, predominantly conservative Roman Catholic nation in Asia where same-sex marriage, gender identity recognition, sex work, abortion, and even heterosexual divorce remain illegal, so it appears to be an unlikely environment for fostering inclusion, affirmation, and activism for gender and sexual minorities within psychology.”
Psychology is faced with the challenge of promoting the wellbeing of the LGBT sector through inclusion, affirmation and activism for the gender and sexual minorities, and the same challenge faces the Philippines, which, because of its being a predominantly Roman Catholic country with a history of Spanish and American colonization, has not done much in recent years to treat this marginalized sector fairly (Manalastas & Torre, 2016).

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.

READ: Is your smartphone making you unhappy? by David Trilling

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

Responding to the widespread notion that smartphones make a person unhappy, researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia conducted two experiments about people’s use of smartphones in different situations. The study’s aim was to take the scientific approach in proving that face-to-face interactions, which have always been known to make people happy, are hampered as a result of people’s frequent use of their smartphones. The study cited that the participants who used their phones while interacting with others, found their interest level and enjoyment in face-to-face interactions to be lower, and they felt more distracted and bored. The participants also admitted that this slightly affected their well-being. The survey, which included a second experiment among university students, also pointed out that the use of smartphones suggests that the current generation, though very skillful with modern technology, is actually missing out on the benefits of face-to-face interactions.

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. 

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia claim that there is science behind the speculation that the use of smartphones may be making us less happy. According to a new paper by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, two experiments that were conducted have shown similar findings of lowered interest and enjoyment in face-to-face interactions among the participants who used their sm-artphones while interacting with others. They also felt more distracted and more bored, with participants in the first experiment acknowledging a “small negative effect on well-being.” The study also pointed out that the negative effects of smartphones among university students, who were the subjects of the second survey, are more notable because while their generation is generally adept at multitasking, findings suggest that even moderate levels of phone use have deprived them of the emotional rewards of social interaction.

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

The use of smartphones affects face-to-face interactions, leading to feelings of disinterest, boredom and distraction that bring about a negative effect on one’s well-being as a result of missing out on the emotional rewards of social interaction.

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.

This manual aims to assist first-time users of the PIXMa Printer. It presents state-of-the-art technology that may be applied in diverse situations and focuses on solutions to practical problems in printing and troubleshooting. The information in this manual is presented in both matrix and text form. The matrices explain the process. The text provides answers to commonly asked questions.

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. 

Another related study considers the impact of oral examination on communication skills. Burke-Smalley’s study (2014) titled ‘Using Oral Exams to Assess Communication Skills in Business Courses’ considers the fact that standardized testing is still utilized for assessment in the business field. The study argues that the oral examination is an effective means to assess the overall communication skills of business graduates. Burke-Smalley’s study has similarities with the current study in that both studies aim to generate information about the graduating students’ use of language using empirical means—survey and face-to-face dialogue. In the case of Burke-Smalley’s study, the assessment was also done to improve the graduating students’ language proficiency, both in the written and spoken discourses to enable them to succeed in their future careers.
Burke-Smalley’s study probes the importance of the oral exam as a tool for enhancing and assessing the professional communication and oral dialogue skills needed and utilized by business graduates. Similar studies from the past were consulted.


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: 

Innovations in mobile technology have recently made available to online users digitized texts which are important reading adjuncts in the learning context.
This study investigates the impact of using the electronic reading format on selected 21st century Literature students of UST SHS. The purpose of this study is to examine if there is a relationship between the preferred reading mode of students and their level of reading proficiency.
This correlational research study examined selected 21″ century Literature students, who participated in a survey that included the Reading Level Questionnaire. A standard multiple regression analysis was used to determine if the factors of reading mode choice predict the level of reading proficiency.
The findings point to convenience as the reason for their preference. The students interviewed credited e-books as having contributed to their positive perception about the course. In terms of changes in reading behavior, no significant change occurred as a result of e-book use. The results indicate that there is no significant positive relationship between reading mode choice and level of reading proficiency, which suggests that students with a high appreciation of reading will read books in whatever format.
The results provide insight into the selection of reading materials by educators in the academic context. Practical implications are provided for integrating innovative and meaningful reading resources into the secondary curriculum. This paper makes a unique contribution to the existing literature on the reading phenomenon by identifying which factors of reading resources best predict reading preferences among 21st century learners.

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.

The disillusionment with traditional forms of assessment is due to the inability of traditional assessment—i.e. quantitative tests—to reflect a full range of learning outcomes attained. Quantitative tests rely on norm-based systems which evaluate a student in relation to the performance of other students doing the same examination. In a norm-based scenario, a large number of students will fare below-average; thus, educators must see the need to shift to a criterion-referenced evaluation scheme, or a more qualitative evaluation scheme such as portfolios, where individual performance is evaluated regardless of the performance of other students in the same class (Billanes, 2015).
The growing discontent with usual forms of assessment is because of the failure on the part of traditional assessment such as quantitative tests to attain a complete set of learning outcomes. Quantitative tests use norm-based systems which assess a student based on other students’ performance in the same examination. In this kind of setting, many students will perform poorly. Therefore, those in the academe must choose the qualitative assessment system or the criterion-based method of assessment, where the performance of an individual is assessed without being compared with that of his/her classmates (Billanes, 2015).
The trend towards an attainment of learning outcomes augurs well for the qualitative or criterion-based assessment which evaluates students based on their individual merit. This mode of assessment assures the student of an above-average rating not guaranteed in the usual forms of assessment such as the norm-based quantitative tests where students’ performance is assessed in relation to that of their peers. Educators would do well to shift to this non-traditional assessment mode (Billanes, 2015).

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.