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GSWS100 Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies

First, you have to summarize the article or chapter to determine what the author is arguing. Here is one plan for reading/writing summaries:


1) Read the essay from beginning to end, not stopping even if you don’t fully comprehend the piece. Force yourself to read it in one sitting!


2) Next, read the essay in sections, especially if the essay you’re summarizing is a long one, in order to summarize subsections rather than the whole piece at once.


3) Determine what sub-points the author uses to illustrate her main argument, and decide which are the most important. One way to do this is make an outline of the author’s text. Remember: although most authors are encouraged to make their argument in the first paragraph, an essay’s origins are in its endings, so look at the conclusion or last paragraph of the essay where the argument is re-stated.


4) When you have finished your linear reading, look back over the words and phrases that you have highlighted, and re-read the comments you wrote in the margin. Then close the book or turn over the article handout, and attempt to write down everything you can remember. If you can recall only isolated words and fragmented ideas, write them down anyhow, even if they are not coherent. Don’t cheat yourself on this part! Try as hard as you can to remember what you just read. Trust yourself and use your intuition.


5) Look back at the text for important ideas that you may have misunderstood or omitted. Check everything to make sure it is accurate. Close the book or text again, and revise your summary, making it more and more accurate each time, ensuring it is written in your own words.


6) Check your version again against the source text, to make sure that you are not merely duplicating the language of the source. If you find yourself having to quote often from the text, it usually means that you still don’t sufficiently understand what you are reading.


7) Once you think you know what the thesis of the article is, write the first draft of the summary. In the first sentence or two, you ought to write:


The author’s name

The article’s or chapter’s title

The author’s thesis

And even a few of the main points that back up the argument.


Next, write in your own words your summary sentences for each paragraph or section: remember, in longer articles you will not be able to include all the author’s sub points, so make critical decisions regarding their importance to the author’s argument as you understand it. Put the sentences in the same order that the author uses them in her/his essay, elaborating on their meaning. You should make every effort to put the author’s words into your own, to avoid plagiarism. However, you may want to quote a point directly, if it is in controversial or polemical language, for exa

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