Why is a summary difficult to understand

Writing a summary during your studies

Summaries are an aid that should not be underestimated when studying. Of course you already learned how to write such a text in your school days. However, reproducing a scientific article or similar in your own words is a completely different challenge.

  • Note: The following tips will not only help you to work on scientific, but also other texts; For the sake of simplicity, a less complex example is used.

When do you need a summary?

With a summary you give the most important content of a text in your own words. Thus, the Summary in the course of study on the comprehension and understanding of (scientific) texts.

Exam Preparation Summary - Understanding the Information in Detail

Summaries are especially helpful when you are looking at Written exams or oral exams want to prepare. By summarizing, your knowledge will be deepened or the facts will be anchored in your long-term memory and thus remain securely available; Since you have understood the background, short versions of the relevant texts are sufficient for you to be fit for the exam.

Understand a topic better by summarizing it

Scientific texts can be difficult to understand despite their specialist knowledge. Summaries can help you understand the text!

After reading a text several times, you think you have understood the content. You will only know whether this is actually the case if you can reproduce the statements in your own words. With a summary you can check exactly that! You have two ways of doing this:

  1. While reading, write down what you think you have understood.
  2. Note down key points that you will later combine into your own text.

You can also use mind maps etc. to clarify the statements. Always end your text work with a formulated summary. If an author uses very long sentences that make it difficult to understand, read the sentences individually; rewrite them in shorter sentences until they are easier to understand.

Writing a summary: important steps

In the case of particularly difficult or long texts, the above options for summarizing may not be sufficient. Instead, the following procedure is recommended in order toTable of contents“To write. Proceed step by step to read the content "to get right to the point“.

Step 1: read and understand the text

Read the respective text several times and mark important points with a marker or another colored pen. You also mark terms that you are not familiar with (in a different color!) And then look them up in an encyclopedia.

Step 2: dividing the text into sections

Before you can write a summary, you have to divide the text into thematically related sections. Using the example of an article about the disaster of the RMS Titanic, this structure would make sense:

  1. General information (what happened when, etc.)
  2. Reactions to the sinking (many people jumped overboard, hypothermia led to quick death, etc.)
  3. Safety at sea (how did the accident come about?).

Step 3: important questions for a better overview

Next, read the individual parts of the text again and make notes on the so-called W-questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

W questionPart 1Section 2Section 3
Who?RMS Titanic
When?April 1912
Where?North Atlantic
Why?Accumulated on an iceberg

Step 4: write the summary (tips on writing style)

When writing your summary, you need to adhere to these rules:

♦ Use the present tense.
♦ Use factual language and refrain from evaluations and / or opinions (exception is the final part).
♦ The text must be divided into meaningful sections.
♦ No quotations and no direct speech are used.
♦ Write short, understandable sentences.
  • Notice: The most important tense for a summary is the present tense; if events in a novel or the like take place simultaneously or one after the other, they are summarized in the present tense.

Step 4: write the summary (structure)

The summary can be divided into an introduction, the main part and the conclusion. In the following sections you will read how to write these individual components.

The introduction
The introduction includes this information:
  • Title of the text
  • Text type
  • Subject of the text
  • author
  • Place and date of publication.
Present this information in the introduction in a few sentences.

The main part
In the main part - this represents the most extensive section of the summary - the most important contents of the original text are summarized. For this section you should use your answers to the W questions. With regard to the example with the Titanic, the main part of your summary could look like this.

The passenger ship named Titanic ran aground in April 1912 and then sank in the North Atlantic. As the ship sank, the people on board jump into the sea. As a result, many drown or freeze to death due to hypothermia in the water.

The end
In the last section of the summary, you reflect on the content of the text based on your own opinion. Limit yourself to a few sentences.

The sinking of the RMS Titanic could have been avoided if there had been sufficient security measures at that time.

An example of a complete summary

The article The Sinking of the Titanic by Maxine Musterfrau was published in the Schiffswissen newspaper on August 11, 2020. The text is about the sinking of what was once the largest passenger ship in the world.

The RMS Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic in April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg. Since there are insufficient safety regulations, the staff does not take the sighting of the iceberg by radio seriously at first. As the ship sinks, both passengers and crew jump overboard to save themselves. However, many drown or freeze to death in the freezing cold water.

The sinking of the RMS Titanic could have been avoided if internationally valid safety standards had already existed at that time.

Write a summary - checklist

Reading and understanding the text.
Break the text into small sections.
Keyword-like answers to the W-questions.
Writing the introduction, main part and conclusion.

  • Important: Note the rules for writing a summary (time = present tense, no direct speech, ...).