Explainer Video

Tutor: Kat


Summarising a text

​​In a nutshell

Summarising is the technique of giving the key points and ideas of a particular text or content. In order to summarise successfully, many skills can be applied such as retrieving, skimming, scanning and highlighting. In this summary, you will learn to apply the right skills to summarise a text.

How to summarise a text

A summary is basically a shorter version of a particular text or discussion. Before exploring the different techniques to summarise a text, it is important to understand the following:

  • Prioritise the key information. When summarising a text, the goal is to keep it brief but without missing the central idea of the text.
  • Make a list of the key points. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to include in a summary, so making a list of the most key aspects can help you maintain the necessary information.
  • Apply your reading skills to avoid including the wrong information in a summary. Make sure you understand the text you will summarise.

Retrieving information

Identifying and retrieving specific information from a text are two essential reading skills for summarising a text. Sometimes certain information will not be stated directly, so 'reading between the lines' is very helpful when looking for key points or facts. You also need to be careful and know the difference between relevant and irrelevant information for the summary.


The phrases in bold in the following text represent the relevant information while the rest can be interpreted as not so relevant.

'Many students are demanding better school conditions. Children attend school almost every day, so the school has become like a second home for them. It was not until a few weeks ago that a group of children decided they deserved better installations and food. As a consequence, students gathered to make a sit-in protest in the centre of the campus demanding better equipment, books and food.'


To skim a text, read it quickly to get a general idea of it. Generally, the first line of a text contains the principal idea of the text so you should always read it completely.

'In front of the Shibuya train station in Tokyo, there is a life-size statue of a dog named Hachiko. The statue is difficult to find since it is surrounded by big neon flashing signs of Japan, however, this statue holds a beautiful story of unconditional love from a dog to its owner. Hachiko would always wait at the train station for its owner, even on rainy days.'
The text is about the story of a dog named Hachiko.


To scan a text, read it looking for key words and phrases. Question words can help you scan information. Try to look for the answer to questions like 'who?', 'when?' or 'how?'.

'It is said you should never visit the mysterious Green Mountain alone or something will happen to you. One time, a woman named Brenda climbed the Green Mountain by herself on a Saturday afternoon. The sun was bright, birds were singing and the trees were moving as she climbed the mountain everything was slowly changing...'
  • Who? Brenda
  • Where? Green Mountain.
  • How? Climbing the mountain alone.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

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