Academic Summary for English 120

Please read the Academic Summary PDF/Academic Summary Directions and Worksheet for instruction on how to write Academic Summary. Please read through the examples and use to the worksheet I’ve given you to prepare your academic summaries. Remember out of your three outside sources, one must be peer reviewed (Academic) and one must be a popular source. Then, write an academic summary (1-2 paragraphs) for each of your outside sources. (You must submit at least three outside sources.

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An academic summary answers the three following questions about a text:
1. What is the author’s main idea or argument?
2. How does the author support that main idea or argument?
3. Why did the author write the text?
Your summary should be detailed enough so that a person who has not read the text can tell
specifically what kind of text it is and what it is about.
1. Introduce the text to your reader. Note the title, author, type of text, and what the text is
about. Remember that your reader may not be familiar with the text, so be as specific as
possible. (1-3 sentences)
2. Describe the author’s main idea or argument. Refer to the author by his/her name. Do
not use a direct quote: instead, articulate in your own words what you think the point of
the text is. (1-3 sentences)
3. Explain how the author supports the main idea or argument. Keep an eye out for how the
author organizes and/or divides up the text (are there sub-headings?). Pay attention to
the author’s use of evidence, quotes from experts, examples from history, etc. The author
might also use certain language or literary devices to support an argument. (1-3
4. Interpret why you think the author wrote the text. What is the context, or background,
for this topic? Who is the audience? What does the author intend for the audience to take
away from the text?
Review your answers above and draft a 1-2 paragraph academic summary.
Summary Tips:
Remember that the goal of your summary is to give a concise, specific overview of a text
for someone who has not read that text.
Use author-focused language; refer to the author’s full name first, and then his/her last
name thereafter.
Explain the what/how/why of the text in your own words (minimal use of quotes).
Incorporate the key concepts that the author uses or refers to in your summary. For
example, if a text is about “code-switching,” use that term in your summary.
Be specific as possible. If your summary can work for any other text, it is too broad.
Avoid the blow-by-blow, chronological account of everything that happens in a text. You
do not have to move through your points in the same order that they are presented in the
Sample Academic Summary of Jeff Gammage’s “Wonder in the Air”
Jeff Gammage’s short essay titled “Wonder in the Air” is about his experiences raising
his adopted daughter, and how he has had to change his ideas about parenting along the way.
Gammage argues that sometimes preserving a child’s innocence is more important than always
being truthful with a child. He supports this argument by explaining the shift he made as a
father: when he first adopted his daughter, he and his wife swore they would tell her no lies. But
as he was raising her, the myth of Santa Claus during the holidays became a conundrum. He
realized that telling his daughter the truth about Santa Claus (that he doesn’t exist) would be
more hurtful to her than keeping up with the widespread cultural lie. Gammage uses his
experience to reflect on how truth is not always the best policy with a child, and how a child’s
sense of wonder about the world is a special thing in itself. Gammage wrote this essay to share a
personal experience that illuminates his insights about parenting, children, and the complexities
in the world in which we live.
Sample Academic Summary of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”
“Girl,” a prose poem written by Jamaica Kincaid in 1983, explores the expectations and
responsibilities faced by young women in Antigua. The poem is written as series of commands
that an unnamed mother issues an anonymous adolescent girl; the directives that make up the
poem instruct the girl in how to properly cook food, clean a house, care for a man, and generally
be a respectable woman in that society. Kincaid uses repetition with phrases like “this is how to,”
and diction that refers to culturally specific norms, like meals, songs, and common superstitions.
Kincaid uses these devices to make her point that women’s roles in this society are
circumscribed and heavily dependent on other people’s expectations and judgements, especially
those of men. Kincaid both critiques and celebrates the mother’s role in preparing the girl for
these expectations. While Kincaid presents the mother as unrelentingly authoritarian, she also
implies that this mother is invested helping the girl carve out an independent and happy life.
Through the poem, Kincaid suggests that the passing down of gender roles is a complex cultural
inheritance in Antigua, one of survival and love.
Sample Academic Summary of Sherman Alexie’s “Indian Education”
Sherman Alexie’s short story, “Indian Education,” tells the story of Victor Polatkin
(Junior), a Native American kid growing up in poverty on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Through the fictional story, Alexie argues that while schools are supposed to be places of
opportunity and growth, they often subject poor, minority students to harsh situations of racism
and inequality. Alexie writes of teachers who judge and punish Victor: the teacher who
demanded he cut his braids, the teacher who forced him to eat paper after he aced a test, the
teacher who accused him of being drunk when he was actually suffering from the effects of
diabetes. In one key scene, Victor imagines becoming a doctor and saving people in an
emergency room, which a sad reminder of how he’s unable to help himself or his struggling
parents in his day-to-day life on the reservation. Ultimately, Alexie wrote this story to critique
the how the institutions of education betray students and are complicit in maintaining racism
and inequality.
Summary Support Worksheet
Use this worksheet to help with writing a summary for almost any text!
An academic summary answers the three following questions about a text:
1. What is the author’s argument or main point?
2. How does the author support that argument or main point?
3. Why did the author write the text?
Your summary should be detailed enough so that a person who has not read the text can tell
specifically what it is about and what kind of text it is.
Here are some sentence starters to help you:
__________________________ (title of text), by ____________________________ (author’s
full name) is about ___________________________________________________.
(Fill in some context or an overview of what the text is about. Be sure to note what kind of text it
In this story/article, __________________________ (author’s last name) argues that
______(fill in author’s main point (or the what) in the text, in your own words. If the author
makes a lot of points, focus on the point that seems most important overall).
_____________________ (author’s last name) supports this point by
________________________________________________________ (discuss how the author
supports his or her main points–this could include how the author tells the story, expert opinions
or facts the author includes, or any sub-points that the author makes).
_______________________________ (author’s last name) wrote this text to
____________________ (include why you think the author wrote the text).

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