At the end of this unit, students should be able to:
explain the concept of summary;
discuss the dos and don’ts of summary writing;
If you are given an account of an event or a passage to sum up briefly and write the sentences clearly, what you are doing is called a summary.
The Concept of Summary Writing
Summary writing is said to be selecting or abstracting of the most important ideas and relevant details from a passage. Summarising a passage is a brief exercise. A clarity of expressions is presupposed that the passage is well comprehended and summarised.
Dos and Don’ts of Summary
There are particular qualities to consider in writing good answers when summarising a passage. The qualities are discussed below.
Brevity, Conciseness and Succinctness: A student should write his/her answers for summary in a brief, concise and succinct manner. Make sure you write your sentences in a few words and in clear expressions.
Originality of Passages: First, you should ensure that you read the original passage firmly and efficiently, and you should also let your answers contain important points and main ideas of the original passage. Also, ensure that your answers carry fewer words that contain substance of the original passage adequately. Do not write your answers outside the passages.
Deletion of Illustrations, Repetitions and Examples: Do not write unnecessary details such as illustrations, repetitions and examples with your main ideas. There is no room for them in summary. An illustration is employed to make a point or the idea that has been stated earlier clear. Repetitions are used for the purpose of emphasis. Some words, phrases, clauses, sentences, ideas or points may be deliberately repeated to emphasise answer. Examples are employed only to serve as a device for buttressing the points being made earlier. Therefore, if you have the expressions like: to illustrate, to explain further, for example, to buttress my point, in the light of my point, etc. Do not write the sentences that include those expressions. They are not main ideas.
Avoidance of Redundant and Superfluous Sentences: The only language used for answering summary is how to write good independent sentences. If the student does not know how to write good and correct sentences, he will definitely have problems in writing a good summary. The unnecessary materials attached to the main ideas in the passage read should be detected. Doing this makes a sentence clear and sensible. Consider the example below.
Question: How does she feel?
Model Answer: She feels happy.
It can be seen that the answer above comprises the necessary information relevant to the question. You should avoid saying, ‘she feels happy because she is….’ and some other irrelevances like that. However, you should be careful so that the deletion of irrelevant materials will not affect the meaning of the main ideas cleverly attached to them.
Analogy: The student should be sensitive of the two situations and processes, details, etc. that seem similar or identical in a passage. The student should be able to compare and contrast the elements so that he or she will not write analogy as main ideas. Analogy is just employed to make the points expressed or stated clear. The following expression in some cases will help you locate the place of main ideas in a passage. Some of them include in fact, first of the points, in the first place, another point of…, apart from this…, the fact remains that…,in another sense, etc.
Not Mindless Lifting but Originality of Answers: It is a mark of intellectual immaturity to lift the points as they are written in a passage and write them that way. Your answers should be original; that is, you should select the main ideas and relevant details from the passage, express them in new sentences and also translate them in your own words into general statements. Do not write verbatim; do not write your answers word for word or copy words or sentences as written exactly in the passage.
The Use of Flowery and Ambiguous Sentences: The variables above have no room in summary. The flowery language means figure of speech that may be used as the main ideas in the passage and ambiguity is a word or a sentence that has more than one meaning and interpretation. For example, if the main idea is written as Tunde is as audacious as a lion. The expression above is a figurative expression which allows for confusion; so you must rewrite it as Tunde is audacious. Ambiguous and illustrative comparisons and contrasts should, therefore, be avoided.
The Use of Linking Words: Certain words are deliberately used to link one paragraph with another. They should not be, even if they are added to the main ideas, written with the main points. You have to remove them from the facts/main ideas and make your sentences independently clear. Some of linking words are in fact, furthermore, however, as a matter of fact, in fact, in addition, on the other hand, beside, similarly, etc. For example, if the main idea includes linking words as: In addition, parental neglect causes students’ mass failure in school.You have to remove the linking words: In additionand write your answer as simple asParental neglect causes students’ mass failure in school.
Numbering of Answers: To help the markers identify your answer easily, follow the pattern given to you in questions to number your answer. It is risky to write (1), (2), (3) when (a), (b), (c) is the pattern you are expected to follow. For example, if you are expected to write three sentences under question (a), then Roman figure may be used to indicate each sentence. Consider the format:
i. Man has learnt to eat good food.
ii. Man does regular physical exercises.
iii. Man maintains a healthy environment.
(a) i. Man has learnt to eat good food.
ii. Man does regular physical exercises.
iii. Man maintains a healthy environment.
Key Words in a Sentence: Remember that there are important words that cannot be changed in the main ideas if they are not mentioned in a passage. For example, if the point of a paragraph is ‘penury’, do not change it to ‘poverty’ if it not mentioned in the passage because the word ‘poverty’ cannot be found in the marking scheme. The marker cannot mark what is not in the marking scheme right. You can only re-structure the sentence where the word ‘penury’ appears.
Synthesis of Parts: Synthesis involves assembling different parts of items or materials to produce or build up new words. In some cases, you may not see direct points in the passage. The examiner may cleverly explain the parts of a particular thing and you will be expected to find a word that can be used for such parts of items. For example, if the examiner is talking about cutlasses, hoes, planters, baskets, axes, bulldozes, etc., the summarising words you can use for them are farm implements/tools. Furthermore, if you have onions, tomatoes, locust beans, peppers, meat, fish, etc. in a paragraph, you can wrap them with the words soup ingredients.
Two in One Question: In some cases, the candidates may be asked to do two things in one question. What this means is that a summary question can contain two elements to do. You are not allowed to separate such elements in different sentences since you are asked to summarise the elements in a sentence. For example, state the steps to take and the reasons for the steps. There are two elements in the example above: the steps and the reasons. As earlier stated, you should not separate the answer in different sentences. What you need to do is to use any of the following words: to, in order to, so that, so as, in order that, etc., to join them together in a sentence. Take WAEC MAY/JUNE, 2000 as an example.
Question (b): In five sentences, one for each, summarise the five steps for making a good speech and the reasons for each step.
i.The speaker should get sufficient information so that he may speak confidently.
ii. The speaker should not rush into a speech in order to be more composed.
The speaker should introduce humour into the speech so as to calm his audience’s tension.
The speaker should concentrate on friendly faces to feel at ease.
The speaker should write out and rehearse his speech in order that he may be familiar with it.
Note now that certain linking words are used to join two elements together in a sentence.
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The Present-Day English for Schools and Colleges