Argument Summary

WR2 | Workshops

Argument Summary

In a summary you present the ideas of another writer in condensed form. The length of a summary is dictated by your rhetorical needs, but they are always shorter than the original text. For example, the summary of a large book could be 20 pages, one paragraph, or one sentence. Although a summary sacrifices specificity and detail in the interest of brevity, it must always remain a faithful representation of the original text’s meaning.

We will practice summary by writing one of Nicholson Baker’s argument in “Changes of Mind." Your summary should not exceed 250 words. Include all of Baker’s argumentative claims or assertions. Leave nothing out. Put nothing extra in. Remain objective: don’t tell the audience your opinions or how you feel about Baker’s writing or argument. Just give us the facts.

  • Don’t forget to provide MLA-formatted citations indicating the page number(s) of the points you summarize. Use the Open Handbook for help crafting appropriate signal phrases.

  • One of the main skills required here is the ability to distinguish assertions & claims from examples & metaphors. Given the word limit in this assignment, you should focus on presenting the former pair and not the latter pair. Just present the argument to your reader as you understand it.

  • Your previous work in the argument analysis workshop should be very helpful to you. Although you may worked with partners to decide what to include in the summary, you must write your own.

Common questions

Can I use a quotation in a summary?

  • Sure, why not? Of course, you need to strike a balance. If you overdo it, the thing you write ceases to be a summary and becomes more like a tissue of quotations. But the judicious use of quotations happens in summary and paraphrase all the time.

Can I use no quotations in a summary?

  • Sure, why not? You may choose to use your own words to explain the ideas of another writer. It is occasionally quite valuable to offer the exact words of another writer. But that is not necessarily the case here. The important thing is that you accurately communicate the thinking of another writer under the assigned word count.

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