Why summarise the main ideas in a conclusion?
This is the first of two lessons about the Summary of Main Ideas. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Remind the reader of the key elements of a conclusion
– Discuss the importance of the summary of main ideas and where to place it in a concluding paragraph
– Review authentic examples to see the summary in context
Like all sections of an essay, there are a number of key elements that can be used to build successful conclusions. Whether it’s the thesis restatement, the summary of main ideas, the research gaps or the recommendations, each element is important in creating a coherent and cohesive essay. To get the language structures and content of each element just right however requires the study of numerous examples, meaning that practice and instruction is key. In this short course on summarising main ideas, we focus in Lesson 1 on what this element is and why writer’s include one before turning in Lesson 2 to the eight tips that make for effective writing.
What is a summary of main ideas?
After restating the essay’s thesis at the beginning of a conclusion, the next step a writer commonly takes is to summarise the main ideas of each paragraph of their body section. These summaries are normally clear and concise and include the body-section arguments in the same order as originally presented:
In the previous example (taken from an essay about the effects of air pollution on the global population), we can observe a summary of the following main ideas:
- body paragraph 1: vehicle pollution affects respiratory health
- body paragraph 2: factories have a negative impact on the health of the community
- body paragraph 3: commercial paints contain VOCs which affect people in their home
Why summarise the body section arguments?
The main reason a writer would summarise the main ideas of each of their body paragraphs is to remind the reader of the argument structure of their essay. For an academic assignment to be coherent and cohesive, there should be numerous reminders of this structure throughout, from the introductory thesis statement to the topic sentences, summary sentences, thesis restatement and finally to the summary of ideas. Reminding the reader this many times reinforces the overall argument. It reiterates how clear and focussed the key claims are and how they link to the overall thesis.
Should supporting details be included?
When constructing your summary, remember to also include a couple of supporting details from the body section in addition to your main ideas. While it wouldn’t be concise of you to include every detail, reminding the reader of one or two of the most salient findings will strengthen the summary of your overall argument:
In our second example, we can see the following main ideas and supporting details:
Main Idea 1: Firstly, the increase of a language learner’s vocabulary was explored, finding that online learning was more conducive to autonomous learning.
Supporting Detail: This autonomy has a direct tendency to encourage vocabulary growth.
Main Idea 2: Next, a student’s ‘willingness to communicate’ was discussed,
Supporting Detail: and was found to be much the same in European contexts whether a student participated in online or offline classes.
Main Idea 3: Finally, speaker confidence, an important aspect of language learning, was shown to improve in some cases, much to the surprise of researchers in the field.
Where should the summary be placed?
The summary of main ideas is commonly placed as the second element of a concluding paragraph, directly after the thesis restatement. As the following diagram shows, this summary is often the largest element of the conclusion, taking up approximately 40% of the word count.
Good job on completing the first lesson in this short course about summarising your claims in the concluding paragraph. Continue studying with Lesson 2 to find out about the eight tips we’ve selected that make for effective summary writing.
There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.
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