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In its simplest form, a summary is a re-telling of an information source, usually in a highly condensed form. The level of detail in a summary will vary dramatically based on the length of the source material and the finished product; a lengthy source and a short summary will yield little detail and depth while a short source and a longer summary will allow the author to use more description and provide more details when writing their synopsis. Ultimately, the summary should follow the same outline and format as the source material; the order in which the author of the source addresses various topics should be the order in which the author of the summary addresses those same points.

A summary is designed to only be made up of information found in the source material; individuals should never, ever incorporate their opinion into a summary. The original information should not be interpreted; it should not be rewritten as what the author meant to say, but instead what they actually did say. The author of a summary should not read between the lines or comment on ways the source material can be improved. Their only focus is explaining what was said in the source material in their own way. To this end, it is also important that a summary be written using entirely new phrasing and sentence structures. If the author of a summary uses the same words and phrases as found in the source material, they are no longer writing their own unique summary and are instead quoting the original source material. By ensuring that everything is one’s own writing, one is able to demonstrate mastery of the concepts within the source material.

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