Writing a Summary-Response

Learning Objectives:

  • Summarize a reading in one complete, concise summary paragraph.
  • Respond to a reading with a complete, concise response paragraph using a thesis statement.

In this lesson, you will learn to write a summary-responseA writing that combines a summary of a reading with personal thoughts and opinions about the reading., which combines both a summaryA brief restatement of an author’s main idea and major supporting details. Summaries are factual and should be written in the third-person with an objective point of view. of a readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage). with your personal thoughts and opinionsPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true. about the reading. It is not a formal paperAn academic essay that usually includes research and citations. or essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. in the sense that it will not have an introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis., bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed., or conclusionThe end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement.. Instead, it consists of two distinct parts: a summary of the reading followed by your responseA written analysis of a reading that shows understanding and fosters deep thinking about a work. to the reading. Each part is usually a paragraphA selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation. and the length of each paragraph depends on the length of the reading being addressed. For instance, if a reading is only a few paragraphs long, the summary-response would be two paragraphs, each with approximately four to five sentences.

It is important to keep in mind that the two paragraphs are distinct. The summary paragraph is a brief restatement of the author's main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. and supporting detailsStatements within a reading that tie directly to major details that support the main idea. These can be provided in examples, statistics, anecdotes, definitions, descriptions, or comparisons within the work. . It does not include your opinion. Your opinion goes in the response paragraph where you state your thoughts about the authorA person who wrote a text.'s main idea and use supporting details from your own experience to explain your thoughts.

Summary-Response Process

Use a four-step process to write a summary-response of a reading.

Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading. For the summary paragraph, create a topic sentenceA sentence that contains the controlling idea for an entire paragraph and is typically the first sentence of the paragraph. that identifies the main idea of the reading. Then, for the response paragraph, create a separate thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? that states your opinion about the author's main idea.

Step 2: Identify the supporting details for the summary and for the response. The next step is to identify the supporting details of the reading. In the summary paragraph, it is important to maintain the order of these supporting details. Once you note these points, consider how they relate to the author's main idea. Then, develop the supporting details for the response paragraph, showing how your own personal experience supports the thesis statement created in Step 1.

Step 3: Identify the author's purposeThe reason the writer is writing about a topic. It is what the writer wants the reader to know, feel, or do after reading the work. for writing. As part of the summary paragraph, ask yourself, "Why did the author write this? What did the author want me to know, think, or do after reading this?" As part of the response paragraph, address whether or not the author was successful achieving his or her purpose.

Step 4: Write a summary-response of the reading. Bring Steps 1, 2, and 3 together to write the summary and the response paragraphs. The following is one way you could do this:             

Summary Paragraph

Sentence 1: Introduce the reading, stating the title and the author's name. You should also state the author's main idea. This may be as simple as adding the title and author to your topic sentence from Step 1.

Sentence 2: Write supporting sentences (or sentence) describing the supporting details of the reading you noted in Step 2 in order.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence that brings this information together and states the author's reason for writing that you noted in Step 3.

Response Paragraph

Sentence 1: Clearly state your opinion or thoughts about the author's main idea. Use the thesis statement you created in Step 1. Ask yourself, "How does my own thought/opinion about the reading relate to the author's main idea?"

Sentence 2: Write supporting sentences (or a sentence) describing how your personal experience supports your opinion or thought about the author's main idea.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence that brings this information together and states how your opinion or thought relates to the author's main idea.