- Monday 8/27: Summing Up Part 1: The View from Nowhere: draft of your objective summary of Robin Henig’s “What Is It About 20-somethings.” Hard copy in class.
- Wednesday 8/29: Summing Up Part 2: The View from Here: draft of your argumentative or engaged summary. Hard copy in class
- Monday 9/3: Final Draft of Summing-Up Parts 1 and 2 as a single Word Document–strive for two pages (due in Oaks dropbox)
Summing Up—sounds easy enough! We do it all the time: What did you do today? What did Cassy call about? What happened in the bio lecture—I couldn’t get out of bed? A summary ensues. Summaries are also a crucial part of all kinds of writing: journalists constantly summarize the views and arguments of others in succinct and engaging ways; academic articles often begin with an “abstract” that boils the argument down to its essence. Summarizing can also be a learning tool. After you write a paper, you might try to summarize it or have a friend summarize it for you. If the summary is boring and doesn’t seem to have a point, chances are your paper might need some work.
Okay, tell me more:
This assignment, one hopes, will provide you with a richer and more complex sense of what “summary” entails than you had before. We will address the difference between objective and engaged summary, and even explore forms of sarcastic summary. By writing an objective summary first (the “view from nowhere”) and then revising it to reflect your more engaged personal opinion (the “view from here”) you will learn crucial rhetorical skills that will enable you to contest or concur with an argument through intentional rhetorical strategies involving tone, diction, and organization rather than explicit counter-argument. This skill will become an important aspect of every subsequent assignment from the Rhetorical Analysis through the Research-Based Argument.
Insofar as summary is everywhere, it also involves subtle choices that we might not often think about. Summaries can strive to be strictly objective—an unbiased or clear window that lets us see a piece of writing for what it is. But summaries are rarely perfectly objective: there’s always something in the tone of voice or the inflection of a word that gives away a point of view, that colors or smudges that clear window. Indeed, summaries can be downright sarcastic, turning a straightforward summary into a critical onslaught.
One Thing at a Time:
In this first part of the assignment—SummingUp Part 1: The View from Nowhere—you are asked to summarize an article at first as objectively as possible–think about that clear window. In the second part of the assignment, you are asked to overwrite or rewrite (re-conceive, really) this objective sumary with the subtle (or not-so-subtle) shading of your own argument and opinion. We’ll practice our group summary skills with a brief piece by Newt Gingrich on adolescence, but in the official assignment we will all be summarizing Robin Henig’s “What’s Up with 20-Somethings?” which is linked on the course syllabus.
HOW TO PROCEED–Part I:
First, read the article carefully. Now, re-read it more closely, dividing the argument into important argument / theme clusters as we did in class with Gingrich. Write in the margins of your hard copy, underline the most important parts. Distil the author’s main point into a single thesis, and then consider how the author supports that thesis. What kinds of evidence do they employ? What illustrations do they provide? Pay attention to statistics, anecdotes, and opinions of credible experts shared by the author as well as their use of personal experience.
The point is not to replicate the author’s organization and argument point by point. Indeed, you have to reproduce the argument in about 10% of the article’s original space. Therefore, you will need to to distill their argument into a more condensed and strategically organized space. You will have to cluster their ideas effectively and clearly, using your paragraphs as strategic containers for related ideas.
Before you draft your summary, read the assigned section on summary from They Say / I Say. This reading will help you think more critically about your objective summary and also about how to turn your objective summary into a more engaged or opinionated one.
HOW TO PROCEED: Part II
In the second part of the assignment, you are asked to write another summary–this time an engaged one: the view from here. Think of how your own opinion about Henig’s argument will shape the details you include or exclude. Consider, as well, the rhetorical tone you want to strike: this can range from a more subtle reflection of your own point of view, to a more sarcastic or exuberant response.
Though we will be working through a number of student examples in class, this is the only assignment that will not receive comments from me during the drafting stage. I am doing this to emphasize the degree to which you are responsible for anticipating and correcting problems in your own writing. I encourage you to go to the Writing Lab for help (I handed out the relevant info in class, and you can also get to it via the “resources” tab on the course website) and to seek the help of your peers in and out of this class. And, of course, if you do want some feedback, feel free to visit me during my office hours and we can talk about your work in more detail.
Your objective summary and engaged summaries should each be a page–1.5 pages max–double-spaced. Do not go over 3 pages total for the combined summaries. The goal is to be as succinct and concise with your language as possible, which still giving a complete and effective and accurate summary. The more concise the better, so strive for 2 pages total.
Do not include any lengthy quotes in the objective summary. You should paraphrase the author’s argument, only including quotes for very specific and meaningful phrases (2-4 words). Make sure your summary includes varied sentence structures, clear transitions between ideas and paragraphs, and is free of grammatical errors. In other words: try your best to write as well as you can.
As for titles: because this is a two-part assignment, please identify your summary in the title–e.g. “Objective Summary” and “Engaged Summary,” respectively. You might also come up with a catchier title for the engaged summary, as it is meant to be convince the reading of your opinion without directly stating it. Why not start “tugging” the reading in one direction or another (agreement or disagreement) already in the title?