How to summarise a text

Before you can begin to analyse the language or techniques being used by a writer, the effects these create and the methods used, it is important to be able to find the key information that you will analyse.

There are a number of techniques to use when finding information from a text, two of which are skimming and scanning.


Skimming is letting your eyes and mind ‘skim’ over the text to get a quick but very general idea of it. You can’t read the text closely when skimming it, but instead you aim to pick out key words and sentences and get the general feel and meaning of the text.

A topic sentence is often the first sentence in a paragraph. You should always read it fully even when skimming as this will give you a summary of that paragraph’s subject and help you to gain a general idea of the content.


Scanning is the method of looking for key words or phrases to find out specific information.

When summarising a text:
  • look for the key information
  • look at each paragraph, locate the topic sentence (often the first one) and decide what the main point is
  • list the key points
  • only include the main ideas of the text