When is a good literary summary used in academic writing?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An adequate literary summary demonstrates the reader's understanding of a work and will include the main points of the author.  That is, the main ideas of passages that pertain to the development of the elements of literature such as character, theme, plot, point of view, and setting will all be covered in such a summary.  If there is a particularly salient element, the writer of a summary may wish to cite a passage that is relevant to this element.

Summaries, or more often partial summaries, are often used by students in their analysis of any of those essential elements of narrative such as character and theme since it is often necessary to establish the context in which the character acts as she/he does or the theme is played out.  In addition, summaries are used for reviews of literary works which contain analyses of essential elements and techniques used by authors.  A summary-based literature review combines a summary and sythesis, which is either a new interpretation or the combination of a new with an old interpretation of a literary work.

ms-einstein eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An excellent literary summary includes all the elements of the narrative: plot, setting, conflict, characters, protagonist, antagonist, climax, theme, and major symbols. In essence, you must wrap up the story briefly, covering all the major points. Summarization can be a difficult task for some, but it is easily learned through practice. If you answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how, you are on the way to writing a proficient summary. Refer to characters by name to reduce confusion.

A summary should be included in most kinds of academic writing. As a writer, you must presume your reader knows nothing about your subject. It is your job to fill in all the details about the narrative. A summary actually will make it easier for you to write your paper because you already have given the reader an outline of the key events and people. You can draw from the summary to make arguments in your paper.