Essay #5 Tip Sheet

Essay #5: Summary and Critique

Begin by reading:

Special Notice:

To fulfill this assignment, you will be submitting TWO pieces of writing: a summary and a critique. (Don’t switch from Ehrenreich to Easterbrook or vice versa). Note also that you may not submit the summary after Friday, November 25, 2022.

Summary assignment:

Choose one of the articles above and write a brief summary (150–200 words).

Critique assignment:

Using the same article you summarized, write a four-page objective critique.

Critique writing schedule:

When I overlaid the schedule we’ve been using on our Thanksgiving week schedule, things got awkward. Steps #1 and #2 land square on the holiday, so I suggest you begin thinking and planning your essay while you are doing the summary.

  1.  Think  Monday, November 21 through Wednesday, November 23
  2.  Gather  Thursday, November 24 through Tuesday, November 29
  3.  Draft  Thursday, December 1 through Tuesday, December 6
  4.  Peer Edit  Wednesday, December 7
  5.  Revise  Thursday, December 8 and Friday, December 9

Hints for success:

The summary/critique is often assigned as a single piece of writing. Here is why we are going to split this into two submissions:


In your future courses, you will probably need to write APA papers which begin with abstracts. This summary assignment will follow many of the abstract rules. An abstract is a brief summary (150–200 words) of an article. It is normally a single paragraph which contains the topic, a brief discussion of the major points, and the overall point the article made. You do not have much space, so do not include wordy fillers such as “In my opinion, I think the author was trying to say…” You are not passing judgment, giving your opinion, or urging the reader to read the larger piece; you are simply taking something big and making it small.

You are not a character in the summary at all. If you feel that the author said something, don’t waste space telling us that in your humble opinion, as far as you can see (but others may see it differently, and you are just a college freshman) the author said this. Just report that the author said this.

You do not have to include any direct quotations at all, and, considering the space limitations, you would need a really good reason to throw in a quotation of more than four or five words.

A summary is not an opinion piece, an appreciation or a review. It is simply a distillation—work to get the longer article into less space. Don’t waste space with wordiness, endless reminders that you’re writing this paper, or any of the other classic student fillers.

Most of the work you do in college depends on careful reading, yet many students have never done much. Twitter, Facebook, and phone text all work against the idea of careful reading; many of your high school teachers would simply tell you what the text said after assigning it.

You cannot do a good job of summarizing a text unless you understand the main point it’s making and the structure of its argument. A line-by-line (or word-by-word) translation is a poor summary, and obviously students who do not take the trouble to figure out the text will never produce a good summary.


The central question of a critique is not whether you like or agree with a piece. Aim at a more objective critique: What is it about the piece that would look strong or weak, well-said or foolish to someone else? (Even if you personally love what the author said, was there anything that could have been done differently and better? Even if you personally hate the author’s central claim, was there something valuable in the article? Was it well-structured? Appropriate to its time?)

Very early, identify the piece you are writing about, using both the title of the piece and the author’s name. The titles of pieces like this go in quotation marks (just as you see them above). Do not use italics, boldface, or any other device to show they are titles.

The first time you refer to an author, use first and last name. After that, refer to the author by LAST NAME. Do not pretend that you and Barbara Ehrenreich are close enough buddies that you can call her by her first name. She is 80 years old and lives in Butte, Montana. You never had lunch with her.

You will probably need to quote from the articles, but do not pad out your article with line after line of quotation. If you are making the point that Ehrenreich’s language is very highfalutin, giving us half a page of her stuff is very weak because you are not helping us to focus on the language you are discussing. We won’t figure out what you mean. Point out the words and phrases that make your point.

A quotation by itself cannot make your point. You need to tell us what point you are making and how the quotation supports it.

You should probably have an extremely good reason to quote more than two lines! If you quote four lines or more, follow the MLA formatting standard and indent them as a separate paragraph.

Some other pitfalls to avoid:

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 7/28/22 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: