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VARIOUS TEXTS: What does SUMMARIZING mean, anyway?

Paraphrasing and summarizing are very closely connected with each other, as both skills request you to use your own words . But in contrast to a paraphrase, a summary must be much shorter, i.e. you'll have to concentrate on the main ideas only and leave out all details or examples. So if the original text consists of 1000 words, its summary would be only 200-500 words at the most. The characteristics of a summary are its brevity and conciseness. If you are requested to summarize a text, first delete all the details and examples. And what's more, you'll have to maintain the author's point of view.

Practice activity I:
Find and delete all the example sentences in the following passage. After you have finished this, paraphrase the remaining main ideas in your own words.

Original text:
Although speech is the most advanced form of communication, there are many ways of communicating without using speech. Signals, signs, and symbols may be found in every known culture. The basic function of a signal is to impinge upon the environment in such a way that it attracts attention. For example, the flashing lights at an intersection are designed to direct the driver's attention to the road. Smoke from a distant fire can also send a message, as does the more detailed version in the dots and dashes of a telegraph. Unlike signals, which, in general, are coded to refer to speech, signs contain meaning in and of themselves. A barber pole or a picture of a loaf of bread can convey meaning quickly and conveniently when placed in front of a shop. A stop sign means stop even though the words may not be written out on the red octagon. Finally, gestures are actions, which are more difficult to describe because of their relationship with cultural perceptions. For instance, in some cultures, applauding in a theater provides performers with an auditory symbol of approval. In other cultures, applauding can mean that the performance was not weil received.


Step 1: Examples deleted
Although speech is the most advanced form of communication, there are many ways of communication without using speech. Signals, signs, and symbols may be found in every known culture. The basic function of a signal is to impinge upon the environment in such a way that it attracts attention. Unlike signals, which are coded to refer to speech, signs contain meaning in and of themselves. Finally, gestures are actions, which are more difficult to describe because of their relationship with cultural perceptions.

Step 2: Final version = paraphrased summary
Found in every culture, signals, signs, and symbols are examples of alternatives to speech commnication. A signal, which is referenced to speech, intrudes upon the environment so that it is noticed. In contrast, a sign does not refer to speech because it displays a general message. Last, gestures, which are culturally defined, consist of actions.






To abbreviate and shorten longer ideas can be achieved by combining sentences. This can be done by the use of connecting words like:

and - moreover - but - however - although - even though - because - since - when - because of+noun - whereas - on the contrary - in spite of+noun - despitewhile - before - after - during - therefore - thus - by using relative pronouns like which, who, that - by using participle structures '-ing' and '-ed'.

Practice activity II:
Use suitable connecting words (above) to combine the following sentences:

a. Penguins may live for more than 20 years.
b. Penguins have many obstacles to their survival. (however)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. Both parents have blue eyes.
b. Their children may be born with brown eyes. (even though)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. Many Native American tribes waged battles against white settlers.
b. The Shawnees tried to establish a confederacy to unify resistance against white settlers. (whereas)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. Magnesium is the lightest of the structural metals.
b. Magnesium is important in engineering industries.(relative pronoun)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. The Romans invaded England.
b. The Celts were living in England. (during)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. The amount of land cannot be increased.
b. The amount of water cannot be increased.
c. Efficient agricultural methods must be employed. (thus)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
a. Lindbergh designed his own plane, The Spirit of St.Louis.
b. Lindbergh flew from Roosevelt Field in New York to Le Bourget outside Paris. (participle) Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________







Practice activity III
Try to combine the following sentences. The first sentence is completed to give you an example.

EYAMPLE
An attitude is a positive or negative evaluation.
A positive or negative attitude may affect behavior.
An attitude may play an important role in perception.
(which)

Solution:
An attitude, which is a positive or negative evaluation, may affect behavior and play an important role in perception.


Now it's your turn:
1 . Charlie Chaplin was a comedian.
Charlie Chaplin was best known for his work in silent movies.
(who)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. Water is heated to 212 degrees F.
Water becomes steam.
(when)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. Quasars are relatively small objects.
Quasars emit an enormous amount of energy.
(which)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
4. The Earth moves into the shadow of the Moon.
A total eclipse occurs.
(during)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. The Jamestown colony was founded by John Smith.
Jamestown became the first successful English colony in America.
(-ed participle)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
6. Many of the names of cities in California are adapted from the Spanish language.
Early missionaries and settlers from Spain had extended their influence in the area.
(since/because/because of)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
7. The oceans cover two thirds of the Earth's surface.
The oceans are the object of study for oceanographers.
(which)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
8. A chameleon is a tree lizard.
The chameleon can change colors to conceal itself in vegetation.
(that)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
9. First cultural nationalism arose among people with similar languages and traditions.
Then political nationalism threatened the existing order.
(before/after)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
10. Empowerment increases the autonomy of employees in organizations.
Empowerment improves communication between workers and management. (and/moreover)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
11. Monogamy means being married to one spouse.
Serial monogamy involves marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
(whereas)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
12. Humor is associated with fun.
Humor is also used as a coping strategy to relieve stress.
(but/however)
Paraphrase:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Source: Barron's TOEFL iBT, 2006, pp. 119/120






Practice activity IV
Identifying the minor points
You do not include unimportant or minor points in a summary. So eliminate them first and then paraphrase the rest in your own words.

Read part of a lecture in an engineering class, then eliminate all the minor point until you're sure that only the main points remain.
At last paraphrase these in your own words.

Text:
The question has often been posed: Why were the Wright brothers able to succeed in an effort at which so many others had failed? Well, many explanations have been mentioned, but, uh, three reasons are most often cited, and I tend to agree with them. First, the Wright brothers were a team. Both men worked congenially and cooperatively, read the same books, located and shared information, talked incessantly about the possibility of manned flight, and, uh.... and served as consistent sources of inspiration and, uh, and encouragement to each other. So, to put it quite simply, two geniuses are better than one genius.
Second, both the brothers were glider pilots. So, unlike some other engineers who experimented with the theories of flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright experienced the practical aspects of aerodynamics by building and flying gliders, and this may surprise you, they even flew in kites. Now, each craft they built was slightly superior to the last because they incorporated the knowledge that they had gained from previous failures to adjust the next design. They had realized fairly early on from their experiments that the most serious challenge in manned flight would be stabilizing and maneuvering the aircraft once it was airborne. So, um, while others concentrated their efforts on the problem of achieving lift for takeoff, the Wright brothers were focusing on developing a three-axis control for guiding their aircraft. By the time that the brothers started to build an airplane, they were already among the world's best glider pilots and they knew about the problems of riding the air firsthand.
In addition, the Wright brothers had designed more effective wings for their airplane than anyone else had been able to engineer. Using a wind tunnel, they tested more than two hundred different wing designs, recording the effects of slight variations in shape on the pressure of air on the wings. The data from these experiments allowed the Wright brothers to construct a superior wing for their aircraft.
But, you know, in spite of these advantages, the Wright brothers still might not have succeeded if they hadn't been born at precisely the right time in history. Attempts to achieve manned flight in the early nineteenth century were doomed because the steam engines that powered the aircrafts were just too heavy in proportion to the power that they produced. But by the end of the nineteenth century, when the brothers were experimenting with engineering options, a relatively light internal combustion engine had already been invented, and they were able to bring the ratio of weight to power within acceptable limits for flight.


SUMMARY:
The Wright brothers were successful in achieving the first manned flight because they worked collaboratively; they were both glider pilots who recognized the importance of stabilization and control in an aircraft; they were able to design, test and engineer the best wings for the plane; and they were able to take advantage of the relatively light internal combustion engine.





Activity V:
Read for meaning!!
Read for meaning. When you have finished reading, review the content. Ask yourself some basic questions. Include the questions that reporters use in their writing who, what, when, where, why, how? The content may not include answers to all of the questions, but, with practice, you will be able to identify the questions that are important to the content you have read or heard.

Read the following text and answer the questions. Then, copy the answers to the questions in paragraph form to make a summary.


Text:
According to the controversial sunspot theory, great storms on the surface of the Sun hurl streams of solar particles into space and eventually into the atmosphere of our planet, causing shifts in the weather on the Earth and interference with radio and television communications.
A typical sunspot consists of a dark central umbra, a word derived from the Latin word for shadow, which is surrounded by a lighter penumbra of light and dark threads extending out from the center like the spokes of a wheel. Actually, the sunspots are cooler than the rest of the photosphere, which may account for their apparently darker color. Typically, the temperature in a sunspot umbra is about 4000 K, whereas the temperature in a penumbra registers 5500 K, and the granules outside the spot are 6000 K.
Sunspots range in size from tiny grains to complex structures with areas stretching for billons of square miles. About 5 percent of all sunspots are large enough so that they can be seen from Earth without instruments; consequently, observations of sunspots have been recorded for thousands of years. They have been observed in arrangements of one to more than one hundred spots, but they tend to occur in pairs. There is also a marked tendency for the two spots of a pair to have opposite magnetic polarities. Furthermore, the strength of the magnetic field associated with any given sunspot is closely related to the spot's size.
Sunspots have also been observed to occur in cycles, over a period of eleven years. At the beginning of a cycle, the storms occur between 20 and 40 degrees north and south of the equator on the Sun. As the cycle continues, some of the storms move closer to the equator. As the cycle diminishes, the number of sunspots decreases to a minimum, and they cluster between 5 and 15 degrees north and south latitude.
Although there is no theory that completely explains the nature and function of sunspots, several models show scientists' attempts to relate the phenomenon to magnetic field lines along the lines of longitude from the north and south poles of the Sun.


1 . What is the author's main purpose in the passage?

A. To describe the nature of sunspots
B. To propose a model for cycles in the solar year
C. To compare the umbra and the penumbra in sunspots
D. To argue for the existence of magnetic fields in sunspots

2. Why are solar particles hurled into space?

A. Undetermined causes on Earth
B. Disturbances of wind on the Sun
C. Small rivers on the surface of the Sun
D. Changes in the Earth's atmosphere

3. How can we describe the effect of matter from the Sun that enters the Earth's atmosphere?

A. It causes volcanic eruptions on the surface of the Earth.
B. It affects changes in the weather patterns on Earth.
C. It results in shadows across the Earth's surface.
D. It produces higher temperatures on the Earth.

4. How would you describe most sunspots?

A. A shadow encircled by bright and dark lines extending out like spokes in a wheel
B. A bright wheel with a dark shadow that covers part of the spokes that extend out
C. A wheel with alternating spokes of dark shadows and bright spaces in between
D. A spoke of a wheel with a bright trail partially covered by a dark shadow

5. What does the author mean by the statement "Actually, the sunspots are cooler than the rest of the photosphere, which may account for their apparently darker color"?

A. Neither sunspots nor the photosphere is hot.
B. Sunspots in the photosphere do not have any color.
C. The color of sunspots could be affected by their temperature.
D. The size of a sunspot affects its temperature.

6. In which configuration do sunspots usually occur?

A. In one spot of varying size
B. In a configuration of two spots
C. In arrangements of one hundred or more spots
D. In groups of several thousand spots

7. How are sunspots explained?

A. Sunspots appear to be related to the pull of highly magnetic fields on the Earth.
B. Sunspots may be related to magnetic fields that follow longitudinal lines on the Sun.
C. Sunspots are explained by large storms that occur on the surface of the Earth.
D. Sunspots have no theory or model to explain their occurrence or reappearance.

8. The sunspot theory is

A. not very important
B. widely accepted
C. subject to debate
D. relatively new


SOLUTION:



Final summary:
The author's main purpose in the passage is to describe the nature of sunspots. Sunspots are solar particles that are hurled into space by disturbances of wind on the Sun. Matter from the Sun that enters the Earth's atmosphere affects changes in the weather patterns on Earth. Most sunspots appear as a shadow encircled by bright and dark lines extending out like spokes in a wheel. Sunspots usually occur in a configuration of two spots. The color of sunspots could be affected by their temperature. Sunspots may be related to magnetic fields that follow longitudinal lines on the Sun. The sunspot theory is subject to debate, however.






Practice activity V:

A summary has to fulfil the following requrements:
  1. be brief
  2. use the same organization as the original
  3. include the major points
  4. report the content accurately (no direct speech)
  5. retain the original emphasis
  6. paraphrase using your own words
  7. maintain an objective point of view

In view of above requirements, read the following text and the subsequent 5 summaries, criticize each one and finally decide which the the best.


Original text:
Very few people in the modern world obtain their food supply by hunting and gathering the natural environment surrounding their homes. This method of harvesting from nature's vision, however, is not only the oldest known subsistence strategy but also the one that been practiced continuously in some parts of the world for at least the last two million years. It was, indeed, the only way to obtain food until rudimentary farming and very crude methods for the the domestication of animals were introduced about 10,000 years ago.
Because hunter-gatherers have fared poorly in comparison with their agricultural cousins, their numbers have dwindled, and they have been forced to live in the marginal wastelands. In an higher latitudes, the shorter growing season has restricted the availability of plant life. Such conditions have caused a greater dependence on hunting and, along the coasts and waterways, on fishing. The abundance of vegetation in the lower latitudes of the tropics, on the hand, has provided a greater opportunity for gathering a variety of plants. In short, the environmental differences have restricted the diet and have limited possibilities for the development of subsistence societies.
Contemporary hunter-gatherers may help us understand our prehistoric ancestors. We know from observation of modern hunter-gatherers in both Africa and Alaska that a society based on hunting and gathering must be very mobile. Following the food supply can be a way of life. lf a particular kind of wild herding animal is the basis of the food for a group of people, those people must move to stay within reach of those animals. For many of the native people of the great central plains of North America, following the buffalo, who were in turn following the growth of grazing foods, determined their way of life.
For gathering societies, seasonal changes mean a great deal. While the entire community camps in a central location, a smaller party harvests the food within a reasonable distance from the camp. When the food in the area is exhausted, the community moves on to exploit another site. We also notice a seasonal migration pattern evolving for most hunter-gatherers, along with a strict division of labor between the sexes. These patterns of behavior may be similar to those practiced by humankind during the Paleolithic Period.

Summary 1

By studying hunter-gatherers in today's world, we can better understand the people from prehistoric times. In a hunter-gatherer society, the surrounding vegetation limits the dietary' options. In addition, the length of the growing season restricts the amount of gathering that can be done and requires more hunting and fishing for groups to survive. We note that groups must follow the herds and travel to new sites where edible plants are in season. Although few people are now dependent upon hunting and gathering, it is the most ancient lifestyle, and perhaps the only way to subsist before agricultural communities arose during the past 10,000 years. Furthermore, men and women have specialized tasks. Competition with agricultural societies has crowded hunter-gatherers into harsh terrains.

Summary 2

Although few people are now dependent upon hunting and gathering, it is the most ancient lifestyle, and perhaps the only way to subsist before agricultural communities arose during the past 10,000 years. Competition with agricultural societies has crowded hunter-gatherers into harsh terrains. In a hunter-gatherer society, the surrounding vegetation limits the dietary options. In addition, the length of the growing season restricts the amount of gathering that can be done and requires more hunting and fishing for groups to survive. By studying hunter gatherers in today's world, we can better understand the people from prehistoric times. We note that groups must follow the herds and travel to new sites where edible plants are in season. Furthermore, men and women have specialized tasks.

Summary 3

Few people are now dependent upon hunting and gathering; however, it is the most ancient lifestyle, and perhaps the only way to subsist before agricultural communities arose during the past 10,000 years. Competition with agricultural societies has crowded hunter-gatherers into harsh terrains. In my opinion, we should help these groups to learn how to grow their own crops so that they will not have to have limited diets and will not have to move to new sites where edible plants are in season. By studying hunter-gatherers in today's world, we can better understand the people from prehistoric times, and that is good, but we should help them, too.

Summary 4

Although very few people in the modern world obtain their food supply by hunting and gathering, this method is the oldest known subsistence strategy. Because hunter-gatherers have fared poorly, they have been forced to live in harsh environments with limited possibilities for their diet. By observation of modern hunter-gatherers, we know that people must move to stay within reach of the herds they hunt. When the food in the area is exhausted, the community moves on to exploit another site.

Summary 5

Few people are now dependent upon hunting and gathering, but it is the most ancient lifestyle, and perhaps the only way to subsist before agricultural communities arose during the past 10,000 years. lt has been part of human cultures beginning two million years ago and continues to the present in some parts of the world. Modern hunter-gatherers provide us with information about prehistoric people. They probably moved to stay close to the herds they hunted and moved to take advantage of seasonal plants.


SOLUTION:



Source: Barron's TOEFL iBT, 2006, pp. 134/135/529





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