How to Write a Summary in Classic English Literature? Back to the Writing Purpose

Writing guide
Posted on April 2, 2021

One can be a student of high school, college or university, it does not much matter in terms of assignments. All educational establishments may assign one to write a summary. If comparing it to other types of papers, it may seem a piece of cake. And, it is not a lie but regarding students who know inside out of the basic requirements only. However, everything always starts with a goal or purpose. What purpose does a summary hide?

Commonly, professors tend to assign a summary to solidify knowledge of one subject, class, or work. For instance, by selecting the topic, a student will have to sum up its main ideas, trace the connection to the studied class or a degree, and provide enough evidence and observations about a work. Before you start saying that it is just a waste of time, try to remember all your papers. Probably, you may not remember the whole idea and researches about one topic but a summary or conclusion is the only piece of information your mind is stuck with. However, it concerns only those students who spent a prolific time writing this part of a paper. And, let’s not take into consideration students who paid to the writing services to get their work done.

Another purpose may lay in the personal desire of a student to fix certain information in mind. For instance, literature classes involve reading loads of books weekly. And, do not debate that writing a summary of one book won’t help you memorize important details or author’s quotes. It is quite hard for ALL students to bear in mind key details about a piece of work just by reading it. So, those who highlight sentences, phrases or key points and then transfer them to a paper are more knowledgeable and able to retell them back to a professor.

Finally, a summary is a good way to prepare yourself before the interview. This paper is assigned not only to books, and articles but also movies, magazines, news or even lectures. By using a summary you can write down your strengths, accumulate your skills, and tell an employer briefly about your working experience.

All in all, do not consider this task as a waste of time or burden. With the help of the below-mentioned considerations and tips, you will manage it in the shortest period. Especially, you will find it useful for essays that obligatorily contain a summary or else called conclusion in the end.

How to Write a Summary in Classic English Literature? Hints on Topic

The selection of a topic often takes much time if there are no other choices offered by professors or syllabus. Students who have informational materials from educational establishments may rest assured knowing that any topic presented there is a golden ticket. However, even they can ask a professor to come up with a theme at their sole discretion.

Classic English Literature has nothing to do with complexity. Probably, anyone during the studentship has one book that impressed them in full. If it suits the Classic English Literature subject, why don’t you go for it?

In fact, this subject may encompass many works including lit-crit reviews, or lectures. The main rule is to address your preferred author’s book or article to a curator. One should approve it in order to avoid any unforeseen rejections when accepting it. So, try to gather at least 5 ideas and bring them to a curator and persuade they are worth a summary.

If you have no clue what to write about, check the following examples that might be of interest to you:

  • Any Works of Gothic Authors Such as Howard Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe;
  • Works of Romantic Period Representatives;
  • Victorian Age Literature;
  • Shakespeare’s Plays;
  • Imagist Movement;
  • Sherlock’s Legacy;
  • American Poetry;
  • Non-Fiction Classics;
  • Classic Women’s Literature.

In fact, you can take any piece of work that is related to Classic English Literature and find articles or reviews on it. Try to focus your attention on poorly-researched topics that might draw the attention of a professor. Remember, they yearly read hundreds of works about Shakespeare, so you won’t surprise them as well.

If you do not want to follow the old-fashioned way, try to base your summary on online lectures from lit-crits or authors. One of the main platforms serving the best to students is TED. There are always some hosts who speak about the role of literature and discussions about prominent authors in history. Nevertheless, again approve this choice with a professor. Unfortunately, not all of them are ready to accept such students’ intentions.

Prewriting Stage for Summary in Classic English Literature

A summary is a type of paper that gives a reader at least ⅓ of information from the selected piece of work. It should not deal with revealing all the details of the book but only their summarization. Thus, it is highly recommended to get to know the word count requirements. Usually, if a book is lengthy, a summary will be comprised of 5 pages. If it is a brief article, a summary won’t be larger than 250-500 words. Make sure to find out it with a professor.

Then, you have to define your strategy. Some students tend to choose only paraphrasing. It is quite resultative but does not always yield the fruits in terms of plagiarism. Modern online checkers can spot even the slightest such students’ intentions. That’s why try to do your best paraphrasing to the fullest.

Another category of students likes to go for outlining. It works the same as with the essay. You read one book, and accumulate the main ideas, phrases, and quotes of the author. After the reading, one can structure everything in order and then transfer it to the summary.

And, finally, a simple note-taking method. It does not differ much from the outline but the main idea is to directly write down important phrases and then cite them to a paper.

However, at all times, you should bear in mind that the actual reading should be more than one to two times only. Professors suggest reading a text at least five times and each time for a different purpose. The first times dedicate to understanding the author’s intentions. The last time will help you to come up with the final thoughts regarding your summary.

Now, take your time to read work, and apply one of the above-mentioned strategies.

Writing of Summary in Classic English Literature

When you have gathered key information you will transfer into a summary, start writing it. First off, everything begins with the introduction of the topic, article or book name and its author. It can look like the next:

  • If you have an article – ‘In the article, Mr. Marvel argues/states/reports that the Classic English literature list should be extended with the poorly-popular representatives of the Victorian age.’ You have to mention the last name of the author, then attach the main idea.
  • If you have a book – ‘In her book Kill the Mockinbird, Harper Lee (1960) speaks of the racism and injustice during the Depression-era.’
  • If you base your summary on interview, lecture, video – ‘In an interview, Mark Peter stated that Edgar Allan Poe is one of the main representatives of gothic literature in the world until now.’

So, the main idea of the summary will be allocated in the beginning. Then, start with a summarization of the author’s key points by supporting them with facts or evidence. If there are many paragraphs, dedicate them one to two sentences only.

Finalize everything with one sentence as well. Again, keep in mind, there is no need to write your personal vision or opinion about the whole work. The same, there is no place for criticism. If you want to attach a brief personal observation, make sure you support it with facts and evidence. Otherwise, a professor will mark the whole summary as a biased one.

Now you approached one important part of your summary, you should check whether you can answer the questions. They are what the author tried to deliver, whether all main ideas are addressed, and what is the final main point. Do not try to skip one, a summary does not differ much from other types of papers, thus there should be a logical and smooth introduction, main body, and conclusion.

All in all, it is always worth writing a paper in advance, and never postpone it for later. Those who managed to start writing early always have time to redo some parts or paraphrase the sentences in the way they meet the professor’s expectations.

During your writing, do not forget to decorate a summary with transitional words and stylistic phrases.

  • One says;
  • One further mentions;
  • One also argues or states;
  • One also believes.

Finally, do not forget about citations that will save you from plagiarism. Even if you paraphrase the sentence but leave there main ideas, use online cite services that can make it look professional. If needed, attach a bibliography or try to practice how to deliver this work if you need to declare it to the public. There should be no more hustle and bustle if you did all right and if you proceed with the final stage-proofreading. Check it out.

Post Writing Stage of Summary in Classic English Literature

When you are done, it is always worth spending some qualitative time on proofreading and editing. Surprisingly, the majority of students still forget about this stage because they are too confident in the error-free text. As a result, students face a lower grade or even a complete failure. If you do not want to be among such representatives, the Internet provides you with hundreds of tips on how to submit a stellar paper. Here is a list of common hints about proofreading:

  • Concentrate. You won’t find many mistakes when sitting in a noisy company or with a loud television. The only exception but very rare is related to classic music. However, the top results are achieved when you are in silent mode with no distractions around. Switch off your mobile phone and reread a summary a few times;
  • Beware of homonyms. Accept and except – are students’ worst enemies. Besides, check your sentences for repetitions. Each sentence should bring new value without roaming around one idea;
  • Read the text backward. Some students note that reading backward helps them spot new mistakes;
  • Ask someone to proofread for you. Your friends can become your helpers. Especially, in terms of logic-sense evaluation. Ask them to check a text for mistakes and general value. If they do not find it interesting, there might be some problems;
  • Read aloud. If the backward reading does not work, some also state loud version may yield fruits;
  • Give it some time. Come back to editing after some time if there is no deadline. At least your brain will be refreshed and new mistakes may appear to your eyes. Usually, one to two days are more than enough. But, if your deadline approaches you, still try to find at least a few hours;
  • Check plagiarism. Many online services can grant you access to such checkers. Check what is your uniqueness rate. If it is below 90%, there is no need to redo the whole paper. But, if you want to, only extend the sentences or paraphrase the key phrases or words. If your rate is very poor, check whether you cited all borrowings.

Also, if you did your proofreading, do not neglect the opportunity to write down your common mistakes. Further on, with new assignments, you may check them first on presence, and it will save you time and nerves. Otherwise, write down useful phrases that might be perfectly attached for your regular writings.

Finally, when you submit a work, spend time on other activities rather than thinking about the grade. Usually, a summary is a short assignment and professors won’t spend much effort to check them fast. So, enjoy this moment and concentrate on other things.


  1. Brown, L., 2014. How To Write Anything: A Complete Guide.
  2. 2020. Research Guides: How To Write Article Summaries, Reviews & Critiques: Writing An Article SUMMARY. [online] Available at:
  3. [Accessed 22 March 2020].
    Smith, P., 2010. How To Write An Assignment. 8th ed.
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