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Summarising helps the reader to see how information or events are related and to understand the content and structure of a text. The reader identifies the important information or events in a text or part of a text and remembers, retells, or records them in a shortened form, which enables the reader to make connections within the text. A summary brings together the essential content of a text succinctly as a clear overview or outline. For example, a written or oral summary may describe the beginning, middle, and end of a narrative or the main facts from an information text or a specific paragraph.
In order to summarise a text effectively, the reader needs to have a clear idea of its structure and to be able to differentiate between important points and supporting details. To do this, the reader identifies key words, facts, events, or ideas and notes which parts of the text contain the details that go with each of them. When summarising, the reader puts the important points into their own words, using language as economically as possible and avoiding repetition. A summary may support in-depth work with the text.
With certain texts, summarising may not be a useful strategy to support students’ understanding. Some poems or sets of instructions, for example, do not include key points with supporting detail.