How to Write a Critical Summary

Critical assessment is all about engaging generously with previous work, ideas and arguments to increase the reader's understanding of it. 

Using a laptop and paper to learn how to write a critical summary

The ability to summarise this critical assessment can be mastered with practice. You’ll need to consider both the work’s structure and content.

If this sounds daunting, don't fear. Here's everything you need to know on how to write a critical summary effectively for the public sector.

Evaluate and Assess

A critical summary starts with evaluating the strengths and/or weaknesses of the piece. Consider elements such as content, arguments, organisation, scholarship and style. Then, take a stance and argue for or against the argument of the article.

You should aim to provide information, interpretation and evaluation. All this provided information will help your reader understand the nature of the work, making it more accessible for all. 

Discover how you can present complex information with simplicity.

Focus on Your Subject

A key element of a summary is always remaining focused and centered on your subject matter. It’s essential to cut out introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion," as the focus should be on the subject of your analysis, not yourself. 

Other questions to consider when writing your summary include: 

  1. Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
  2. What about the subject matter, is it of current interest?
  3. What’s the overall value of the passage?
  4. What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Remember, the purpose of a critical analysis isn’t to just inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility and validity of something. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence. 

Be Concise

As a public sector writer, you’ll know the importance of being succinct and brief. The fewer words you have, the more challenging summarising can be. Be concise, but make sure you don’t inadvertently remove something crucial to the text or change the meaning of the original piece. You can achieve it with a technique which involves isolating the key points; the subject, predicate phrases and eliminating irrelevant words.

Copywriting skills are great for this - here's our 5 quick-fire ways on how you can improve.

Paraphrase 

Paraphrasing is often used when engaging with content to place your argument in the context of other work on the subject. This also helps writers avoid overusing quotations, which can make your piece look busy and cluttered. 

When paraphrasing, you’re putting someone else’s ideas into your own language, while still crediting them with the original idea. However, if you’re paraphrasing a specific point the author has made, make sure to cite a page number - even if you aren’t quoting directly.

Create More Succinct Written Content in the Public Sector

Effective critical summaries, succinct briefs and minute taking; there’s a lot of writing forms to master. That’s why we’ve assembled all of this useful information into one accessible guide.

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Writing Skills Guide