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Writing an Abstract, Précis or Summary?

What is an Abstract, Précis or Summary?

Texts are classified as either abstract, précis, or summary and sometimes as synopsis, are
all the same. Whatever they may be called, these texts aim to precisely condense a larger work
to present only the key ideas. They tell the audience the gist of what has been read, listened to or

Note that the way we write an abstract, précis, or summary depends on the expectations
of a particular discipline or field. For example, publishing companies, libraries and movie catalogs
do not give away the actual content of the material when they write summaries of materials. Their
purpose is simply to pique the interest of the target audience. These kinds of abstracts are called
descriptive abstracts. Research papers on the other hand readily present the key ideas and major
findings of the study. This kind of abstract is known as summative abstract. Between these two
types of abstracts, a summative abstract is more preferred in an academic setting.

Since an abstract, précis, or summary aim to present the key ideas of the text, the
general rule is to condense the information into around 15 percent of the original length of the
text. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. In most cases, a 6,000-word research article for an
academic journal may require only 200 to 250 words for its abstract.

Structure of an Abstract, Précis, or Summary

The structure of abstract, précis, or summary depends on how it will be used. For
instance, the abstract of a research paper usually contains 150-300 words. It does not use any
citation, does not include specific result statistics and is last to be written.

In terms of structure, a research abstract generally follows the given allocation of words:

 Rationale
 Research Problems (around 10%)
 Methodology (around 20%)
 Major findings (around 40%)
 Conclusion and Implications (around 10%)

Guidelines in Writing an Abstract, Précis, or Summary

1. Read the text at least twice until you fully understand its content.
2. Highlight the key ideas and phrases.
3. Annotate the text.
4. State the author’s name, the title of the passage and the main idea at the beginning
5. Use words or phrases indicating that you are presenting an abstract, précis, or summary.
Reporting verbs are the most useful for this purpose.
6. Write the main idea of each paragraph using your own words. In some cases, you can write
one main idea for multiple paragraphs particularly of a research paper.
7. Never copy in verbatim a single sentence from the original text.
8. Combine the main ideas to form one paragraph. Use appropriate transitional devices to
improve cohesion.
9. Refrain from adding comments about the text. Stick to the ideas presented in the text.
10. Compare your output with the original text to ensure accuracy.

Guided Practice

Original Text
Summarized Text

According to Barrot (2013), reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding written

symbols. It is complex because it involves interactive and problem-solving processes. Reading can
be developed through constant practice. It is a two-way communication between readers and
texts. It involves the transmission of messages using optic nerves. It has purpose. It is the foundation
of good writing and speaking. You learn vocabulary through reading. Reading also includes
reading fluency. Fluency means the number of words that you can read in a certain period of
time. The average reading speech is 200 words per minute. However, there are people who can
read higher that 280 words per minute.

Rubric for an Abstract, Précis, or Summary

5 4 3 2 1
Paper accurately reflects the content of the original text
while incorporating only the key ideas.
Key ideas from the original text are reworded without
compromising accuracy or content.
Proper incorporates the name of the author and title of
the text at the start of the summary.
Specific examples are excluded in the abstract, précis, or
This paper is free from personal comments or opinions.
Proper uses appropriate length.
Paper employs an organizational pattern and structure
appropriate for the genre.
Cohesive devices are effectively used.
Ideas are correctly placed which improves the paper’s
Flow of ideas is smooth and easy to read.
STYLE (20%)
Paper showcases the writer’s voice
Proper uses a variety of sentence structures
Paper eliminates sexist language
Paper uses language appropriate to context
Paper eliminates wordiness.
Grammar is accurate.
Spelling, capitalization, and punctuations are correctly
Word Choice is appropriate.
Sentences are well-structured.

Legend: VGE – To a very great extent

GE – To a great extent
LE – To a little extent
N- Not at all

Activity: Independent Practice

Write an abstract, précis, or summary. Assume the persona of a professor who is writing
an abstract for a recently completed research paper.

A. Find a partner. Complete the given information to come up with a writing situation for your
abstract, précis, or summary.

Title of text: ________________________________________________________________

Author of the text: _________________________________________________________
Purpose: __________________________________________________________________
Target Outputs: ___________________________________________________________
Audience: ________________________________________________________________
Writer’s Persona: __________________________________________________________
Tone/Formality: ___________________________________________________________

B. Within 15 minutes, read the following text before writing your own abstract, précis, or summary.
Keep the following questions in mind while reading.

1. What is the purpose of the given text?

2. Who is the target reader?
3. Has the writer achieved his/her purpose?

Write E if the statement shows an effective strategy in writing an abstract, précis, or

summary and N if not.

__________ 1. Kip adds his own explanations to some of the key ideas he writes in his summary.
__________ 2. Joey copies in verbatim some of the sentences from the original text.
__________ 3. Rachel highlights the key ideas in the original text while reading it.
__________ 4. Monica includes the specific examples that the original text while reading it.
__________ 5. Janice presents her summary in bullet form.
__________ 6. Mona reads her summary and compares it to the original text.
__________ 7. Emily reads the original text several times until she fully understands it.
__________ 8. Gunther writes a research abstract without any major findings in it.
__________ 9. Ross writes in his summary how he feels after reading the text to be summarized.
__________ 10. Candace write the name of the author, year of publication, and title of the text at
the beginning of the summary.