An ultimate Guide to Writing a Summary for a Book

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Writing a summary for short content is usually a simple and easy task, but it can get a bit tricky if a whole book is involved.

A good summary covers all the main points and topics discussed in the actual content (be it a book, article etc.). Finding and elaborating on these types of points from a book can be time-taking and arduous.

But don’t worry. In this post, we’ll talk about a couple of different methods that you can employ for writing a summary for a book. We’ll talk about them in detail so that you can understand the benefits of drawbacks of both methods.

Let’s start.

Understanding Abstractive and Extractive Summarization

Lady writing in a note book.

Before we get to discussing the methods, we should clear up what abstractiveand extractive summarization is.

Abstractive summarization is the process of summarizing a piece of content by first understanding it, and then condensing it using different words than the ones it originally contains. In this technique, the crux of the content is described using one’s own words.

Moving on, extractivesummarization is the process of summarizing a piece of content using a selection of the exact same sentences that it contains. For example, if a piece of content consisting of 100 sentences was to be summarized using this technique, around 10 – 12 of the same sentences would be selected and joined together.

Now that we’re clear about these two techniques, let’s move on to discussing the actual methods of writing a summary for a book.

How to Write a Summary for a Book: The Two Methods

1. Manual Summarization

Girl in a denim jacket readong a book. | Guide to Writing a Summary for a Book

The first method that you can adopt for summarizing a book is to do it manually. This basically means that you will have to go through the entire book, understand the main idea, note down the key points and then elaborate on them in your own words.

If you employ this method, you will be using the abstractive technique that we discussed earlier.

This process will, of course, take time. However, the benefit of spending so much time on it is that the results will be high-quality and thorough.

Let’s break down the steps that you will have to follow in this method and give them each a brief explanation.

a. Read the Book

It’s safe to assume that you’ve already read the book you want to summarize at least once from cover to cover. However, if you haven’t (which would be the case if you’ve been tasked with the work as an assignment or something), then that is the first thing you will have to do.

Boring as it may be, you can’t really think about summarizing a book manually if you haven’t read it once.

b. Note Down the Main Points

After you’re done reading the book, the next thing you’ll have to do is note down the main points and ideas that you’ve gleaned from it.

If the book happens to be fiction, then the “main points” would consist of the major turns and twists of the plot as well as the story-deciding occurrences. On the other hand, if the book is educative, then the main points would simply comprise the key topics and concepts discussed in it.

c. Elaborate the Main Points in Your Own Words

Once you have extracted the main points, you have to elaborate on them in your own words. This ‘elaboration’ merely entails explaining a key point in a few sentences.

For example, suppose you’re summarizing a book about different types of plants. If, when going through the book, you find a large section dedicated to hydroponics, you can simply note it down as ‘hydroponics’.

Then, during the elaboration phase, you can briefly explain what exactly the author explains about hydroponics and how it fits in with the rest of the book.

The key point that you’ll note down will be only a couple of words. The elaboration, on the other hand, will be around a couple of sentences.

d. Read and Revise

Once you’re done writing the summary, you have to read and re-read it a couple of times. The purpose of reading it again is to check and remove any unnecessary detail that you may have mentioned. In summary writing, brevity is key.

You have to maintain it as much as you can without compromising on the main points of the content (which is, in our case, a book).

2. Automated Summarization

A girl in spects looking at the phone.

The other method that you can use for summarizing a book is to use a dedicated online summarizing tool. Summarizing tools are made to scan the given text and then extract meaningful sentences from it to convey the core idea/concept.

While the method above entails the abstractive technique, this method involves the extractive one.

Although we’re going to mention the steps for this method now, we have to be fair about what sorts of results you can get.

Since summarizing tools use the extractive method for creating the summary, the output can look quite clunky and abrupt.

You won’t have to spend as much time on this method as the last one, but the results are far from perfect.

a. Find a Summarizing Tool

So, the first thing that you have to do in this method is to find a summarizing tool online. There are quite a few of them available, so be sure to pick one that works accurately. (You can determine this by running a couple of tests with some sample content.)

b. Enter the Book Text

Then, once you have your tool open, copy and paste the book into the provided input box. Most summarizing tools don’t have any sort of input limit, so you should be fine regardless of the length of the book.

c. Start the Summarizing Process

After that, you just have to click on the given button to start the summarizing process. The tool will extract meaningful sentences from the text and join them together to provide the summary.

d. Check and Proofread

Although you don’t have to spend much time in the other steps of this method, you’re going to have to be a little meticulous in the proofreading phase.

Since the output is provided by a tool, there are bound to be errors in it. You have to proofread the output thoroughly and remove all of them.

Conclusion

And that’s about it.

Summarizing a book is relatively easy if you properly know all the ideas and concepts that are discussed in it. In this sort of case, using the abstractive technique i.e., the manual method can be suitable.

On the other hand, if the book in question contains stuff that you’re completely unaware of, you can take the help of an online tool to make things easier.

Also checkout the links mentioned below:

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