Tips for Reading Nonfiction

Need help reading the websites, speeches, and articles featured on this site?
Use these core strategies to tackle even the most complex informational texts.

Summarize Informational Text

When you summarize a text, you briefly describe that text in your own words. An effective summary identifies the topic or subject of the text, briefly tells only the most important ideas and details, and is objective (unbiased).

To summarize an informational text in writing or discussion, use these strategies:

  • Read the entire text. It will be difficult to accurately summarize the text if you are trying to do so as you read it through a first time.
  • Identify the title, author, and text type. Your readers or listeners will need this critical information in order to understand your summary.
  • Describe the central ideas. Remember that central ideas are the most important ideas that a writer wants readers to understand. Depending on the length and complexity of the text, the number of central ideas you include in your summary will vary.
  • Identify key supporting details. For each central idea the writer provides, he or she will include details to support that point. Look for subheadings or topic sentences (the first sentence of each paragraph) to find clues about which supporting details are important.
  • Avoid opinions and unimportant details. The purpose of a summary is to briefly recount what a text is about, not to share your opinions about it or bog down your audience with every minor detail. Ask yourself: Is my language neutral? Are the details I include important enough for my readers or listeners to know about?