What Is a Summary In Writing? (Explained + 40 Examples)

In my 20+ years of writing essays, research articles, short stories, blog posts, and books, I’ve summarized thousands of times.

Here is my summary answer about “What is a summary in writing?”

A summary in writing is the craft of distilling vast oceans of text into droplets of essence, a skill as crucial as it is challenging. At the core, summary writing is the distillation of essential points from a larger text, preserving the original message and intent. It balances brevity and clarity.

As contradictory as it might sound, there is a lot more to say about summary in writing.

The Essence of Summarization

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Dense forest clearing into a path, symbolizing summary writing's clarity -- What Is a Summary in Writing?
I made this image — What Is a Summary in Writing?

Over the years, I’ve learned that a successful summary does two things well—it provides clarity to the reader and respects the original work’s integrity.

Brevity and clarity are the twin pillars of a good summary.

My mantra, “As short as possible and as long as necessary,” and a favorite quote I align with—attributed to Einstein—”Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler,” encapsulate my approach to summaries.

Achieving this balance is more an art than a science, a dance between being concise and being clear.

My guideline—keeping things as short as necessary but as long as needed—is a testament to this balancing act.

It’s about not just shrinking text size but ensuring every word counts, every sentence conveys meaning, and the essence of the text is untouched.

Types of Summaries

Below are some common types of summaries you need to know:

  1. Descriptive Summaries: These provide an overview of the main points of a text, without offering analysis or interpretation. Descriptive summaries focus on summarizing the content in a clear and concise manner, making them useful for providing an overview or introduction to a topic.
  2. Analytical Summaries: Analytical summaries go beyond simply recounting the main points of a text; they also analyze and evaluate the content. These summaries often delve into the author’s arguments, evidence, and conclusions, offering insights into the text’s significance and implications.
  3. Informative Summaries: Informative summaries aim to convey the most important information from a text, often condensing complex ideas into simpler language. These summaries are commonly used in academic writing, where the goal is to provide readers with a clear understanding of the text’s main points.
  4. Critical Summaries: Critical summaries involve not only summarizing the content of a text but also critiquing it. Writers may highlight strengths and weaknesses, identify biases or gaps in the argument, and offer their own perspective on the text’s merits or limitations.
  5. Abstracts: Abstracts are concise summaries of longer documents, such as research papers or articles. They typically include a brief overview of the purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions of the study, allowing readers to quickly grasp the key findings and significance of the research.

Crafting the Perfect Summary

Summarizing is not a random act but a structured process.

It starts with a thorough reading, understanding the text’s main arguments, themes, and nuances.

Then, identifying the core elements that are indispensable to the message.

The challenge is to weave these elements into a cohesive, shorter narrative that stands on its own while reflecting the original text’s spirit.

Personal Insights and Techniques

Through trial and error, I’ve honed specific techniques that aid in summarization:

  • Highlighting Key Points: As I read, I highlight or note down crucial information and standout ideas.
  • Structuring the Summary: I create a rough outline, deciding the order of points based on their relevance and the original work’s flow.
  • Rewriting with Precision: This step involves rewriting the highlighted points in my own words, ensuring clarity and conciseness without diluting the message.

Template for Writing a Summary

Crafting a summary can be simplified by following a structured template.

While each summary may vary in complexity and content, this general template provides a framework to guide your summarization process:

  1. Introduction: Begin by introducing the text and its author, providing necessary context for the summary. Identify the main topic or thesis of the text and briefly outline its purpose and significance.
  2. Main Points: Summarize the main points or arguments presented in the text, focusing on the most essential information. Use concise language and avoid unnecessary details or tangents.
  3. Supporting Details: Provide supporting evidence or examples to reinforce the main points of the text. Select key quotations, statistics, or anecdotes that best illustrate the author’s ideas.
  4. Analysis: Analyze the text’s content, identifying any underlying themes, patterns, or implications. Consider the author’s purpose, audience, and rhetorical strategies, and evaluate the effectiveness of their argument or message.
  5. Conclusion: Conclude the summary by summarizing the overall message or takeaway of the text. Reflect on the significance of the text’s content and its relevance to the broader context or field of study.

Here is a great video on how to summarize in writing:

YouTube Video by Smrt English – What is a Summary in Writing?

The Role of Experience in Writing Summaries

Experience plays a critical role in mastering summarization.

In my life, I’ve learned that every word in a summary must earn its place. This discernment comes from practice and familiarity with a wide range of texts.

It comes down to what words and ideas to leave in and what to leave out.

Experience has taught me when to cut deeper and when to allow a bit more space for explanation or narrative, always guided by the principle of making things as simple as possible but no simpler.

Original Research and Testing

My curiosity led me to conduct a series of experiments comparing different summarization techniques across various text types.

I assessed the outcomes based on reader comprehension, retention, and feedback.

The Impact of Testing Different Techniques

My research involved comparing various summarization strategies to identify the most effective approaches for different text types.

This hands-on testing revealed that the audience’s needs significantly influence the summary’s structure and content.

For instance, summaries intended for academic audiences prioritized accuracy and conciseness, while those for a general audience often leaned towards engaging narratives and essential takeaways.

Findings and Insights

One key insight from this research was the importance of adaptability.

A one-size-fits-all approach to summarization doesn’t work.

Tailoring the summary to the text type and intended audience increases effectiveness and satisfaction. Additionally, iterative testing highlighted the value of feedback in refining summaries.

Incorporating reader feedback into the summarization process can significantly enhance clarity and relevance.

40 Examples of Summaries

In the spirit of showing rather than telling, let’s dissect examples of summaries from various genres.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll categorize these examples and provide insights into what makes each effective.

Research Articles/Essays

  1. The Impact of Climate Change on Coastal Ecosystems: Summarizes key findings on the degradation of coastal ecosystems due to rising temperatures, including potential long-term effects and mitigation strategies.
  2. Technological Advancements in Renewable Energy: Details the latest advancements in solar and wind energy technologies, highlighting efficiency improvements and the path toward sustainable energy solutions.
  3. Behavioral Economics and Consumer Decision Making: Explores how psychological factors influence economic decisions, offering insights into improving marketing strategies and consumer education.
  4. The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Discusses the integration of AI in diagnostics and patient care, emphasizing potential benefits and ethical considerations.
  5. Educational Reforms and Student Outcomes: Analyzes the impact of recent educational reforms on student performance and equity, suggesting further research directions and policy implications.
  6. Microplastics in Marine Environments: Examines the sources, distribution, and ecological impacts of microplastics, proposing methods for reduction and cleanup.
  7. Mental Health in the Workplace: Investigates the correlation between workplace environment and employee mental health, recommending strategies for creating supportive work cultures.
  8. Sustainable Agriculture Practices: Reviews sustainable farming techniques and their effectiveness in promoting biodiversity, soil health, and food security.
  9. The Influence of Social Media on Political Discourse: Evaluates how social media platforms have transformed political communication, voter behavior, and public opinion formation.
  10. Advances in Alzheimer’s Research: Presents recent breakthroughs in understanding the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, with a focus on potential therapeutic targets and preventive measures.

Work Reports

  1. Annual Marketing Strategy Review: Summarizes the performance of last year’s marketing campaigns, key metrics achieved, lessons learned, and strategies for the upcoming year.
  2. Quarterly Sales Report: Details sales performance by region and product line, comparing results against targets, analyzing trends, and suggesting actionable insights for improvement.
  3. Customer Satisfaction Survey Analysis: Compiles findings from recent customer surveys, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for service enhancement.
  4. IT Infrastructure Upgrade Project Summary: Outlines the objectives, progress, challenges, and next steps in the company’s IT infrastructure overhaul, including budget and timeline updates.
  5. Employee Training Program Evaluation: Reviews the outcomes of the latest employee training initiatives, assessing effectiveness in skill development and impact on performance.
  6. Competitor Analysis Report: Provides an overview of key competitors’ strategies, market positioning, product offerings, and potential threats or opportunities.
  7. Supply Chain Optimization Study: Summarizes findings from a study on supply chain efficiencies, identifying bottlenecks and recommending solutions for cost reduction and speed.
  8. Risk Management Assessment: Evaluates the company’s exposure to various risks, including financial, operational, and reputational risks, proposing mitigation strategies.
  9. Sustainability Initiatives Progress Report: Tracks the progress of corporate sustainability efforts, including environmental impact reductions, community engagement, and sustainability goals.
  10. New Product Development Update: Offers a snapshot of the development stages, challenges encountered, market research findings, and estimated launch timeline for a new product.


  1. The Echo of the Ocean: A novel about a marine biologist uncovering a groundbreaking discovery about sea life communication, while navigating personal challenges and ethical dilemmas.
  2. Futures Past: A science fiction saga exploring the consequences of time travel on human history, ethics, and personal identity through intertwined narratives.
  3. Mind Over Matter: A non-fiction exploration of the power of the human mind to overcome physical limitations, featuring real-life stories of resilience and scientific insights.
  4. The Last Emperor’s Secret – Historical fiction set in ancient China, revolving around a palace conspiracy, hidden treasures, and the quest for truth.
  5. Green Horizons: An environmental science book discussing innovative solutions to climate change, from renewable energy to conservation strategies, aimed at a general audience.
  6. Heartstrings: A collection of short stories delving into the complexities of human relationships, love, loss, and redemption, across diverse cultures and situations.
  7. Digital Frontiers: Examines the digital revolution’s impact on society, economy, and individual lives, offering insights into future trends and ethical considerations.
  8. Culinary Journeys: A travelogue that takes readers on a gastronomical tour around the world, exploring the history and stories behind iconic dishes and ingredients.
  9. The Art of Innovation: A guide to fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace, with case studies from leading companies and practical tips for teams.
  10. Voices of the Forest: A fantasy novel featuring a young hero’s adventure in a mystical forest, battling dark forces to save their homeland with the help of enchanted creatures.

Short Stories

  1. The Last Light: A poignant tale about a lighthouse keeper’s final night before the automation of his lighthouse, reflecting on the changes and constants in life.
  2. Crossroads: Explores the moment a young man stands at a crossroad, literal and metaphorical, contemplating the diverging paths of his future.
  3. Echoes of War: Follows a veteran’s struggle with returning to civilian life, haunted by memories of the battlefield, and his journey towards healing.
  4. A Stitch in Time: A whimsical story about a seamstress who discovers her sewing machine can repair more than just clothes, mending broken hearts and dreams.
  5. The Glass Forest: Details an explorer’s discovery of a mysterious forest where trees are made of glass, symbolizing beauty and fragility.
  6. Shadows on the Moon: A science fiction piece about a colony on the moon dealing with the psychological effects of living in perpetual darkness and light.
  7. Invisible Ties: Explores the unseen connections between strangers on a crowded subway, each carrying their own stories and struggles.
  8. The Color of Autumn: Captures a painter’s attempt to paint the perfect autumn scene, reflecting on the impermanence of life and the enduring beauty of nature.
  9. Whispers in the Wind: Tells the story of a small village where the wind carries voices from the past, and a young girl learns the history of her ancestors.
  10. Ripples: A narrative about the impact of a single act of kindness, following its ripple effects through the lives of various people in a community.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Summarizing

Summarizing is an art, but like any craft, it’s prone to pitfalls.

Here are the five most common mistakes writers make when summarizing, along with tips on how to avoid them.

Summarizing may seem straightforward, but it’s deceptively complex.

One of the biggest mistakes writers make is oversimplifying or overcomplicating the summary, leading to confusion or loss of crucial information.

Another common error is failing to capture the essence of the original text, resulting in a summary that misses the mark.

Additionally, inadequate understanding of the audience can lead to summaries that are either too technical or too simplistic for the intended readership. Lastly, neglecting to cite sources or provide proper attribution in summaries can result in accusations of plagiarism or intellectual dishonesty.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes

  1. Oversimplifying or Overcomplicating: Striking the right balance between brevity and clarity is key.
  2. Missing the Essence: Ensure the summary captures the core message and key points of the original text.
  3. Audience Misalignment: Tailor the summary to the audience’s knowledge level and interests.
  4. Lack of Attribution: Always cite sources and provide proper credit for ideas and information.
  5. Ignoring Structure and Flow: A well-structured summary enhances readability and comprehension.

Final Thoughts: What Is a Summary In Writing?

Summarization is more than a writing skill—it’s a critical thinking exercise that challenges you to understand deeply, analyze critically, and communicate effectively.

In my two decades of writing, I’ve seen firsthand how a well-crafted summary can open doors to understanding, make knowledge more accessible, and bridge the gap between complex ideas and a broader audience.

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