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Writing a Precis

One of the critical stages that students need to overcome before advancing towards higher stages of academic writing is summarization. Summarizing teaches students how to be concise, brief but comprehensive, how to eliminate their own authorial presence and how to focus on topics, ideas and motives of the original authors. And the precis examples the pinnacle of all forms of summary.

Definition

What is a precis? A precis, or précis, is a form of a summary which sums up not only the key points of the original text, but also the tone and the mood set by the original author.

What are the key features of a precis?

A perfect example of a precise should always possess the following key features:

How to write a precise?

Although the precis writer should follow a strict writing pattern, i.e. it has a very rigid structure, writing a precis is not an easy task.

Structure

The following structure adheres to the one of a typical précis example, i.e. it contains the must-have elements of a precis.

  1. Introduction

Typically, the introduction is a short paragraph of approximately 100-150 words which introduces the author, the title of the piece, its genre and the main topic. Sometimes the precise writer needs to interpret the topic of the piece despite the original author not giving one. The most common verbs to convey the original author's main topic are "assert," "argue," "disprove," "explain", etc.

  1. First body paragraph

Introduces the main points the original author makes towards the topic of the original text. The precise writer should not go into details in the first body paragraph. In general, the first body paragraph outlines the structure if the original text and, in turn, the precis.

  1. Idea/Motive/Motive

This is usually the conclusion/last paragraph of the precis. Based on the main topic and the argumentation of the original writer, the precis writer summarizes the idea of the original text using few sentences. This serves as an explanation of the idea/purpose of the original text.

Steps for writing a precis

Although the writing process is unique for each and every person, the following example precis steps might help writers in the process.

Analyze the original piece

Start with simple skimming of the original text in order to familiarize yourself with the general idea. Research any unfamiliar term before you proceed with the process. Then, read the text thoroughly while taking notes on important points. Reread the text as many times as you need while improving and correcting your initial notes.

Summarize

Make up the logical structure of the original text using your notes. Based on that structure, write a short one- or two-sentence summary of every section of the text. You could follow the simple formula of "key point plus evidence" to summarize every section. Try to refrain from going into detail in the process - this step should help you construct the skeleton of your precis based on the original text, not write the whole precis. Tip: try using your notes exclusively. Not only will it help you paraphrase later, but it encourages the habit of taking good notes and summarizing accordingly in the future.

Consult the technical requirements

Every new task brings new requirements. Hence, it is vital for you to analyze the word count, the pointers provided by the task, general requirements, etc. They intrinsically dictate the next step in the process.

Structure

Every step so far leads to this point - the structure. The precis, as a specific text format, must have a specific structure. Based on the specific type of precis you are supposed to write, you will have to adhere to certain rules. Those rules combined with the work you’ve done thus far, i.e. previous steps, will help you create the structure for the precis. And once you’ve defined the specific structure that you plan to make use of, the rest of the process is simpler.

Write the first draft

Using your notes and summarized key points, start filling in the structure of your precis while following the requirements of the task. Do not pay close attention to details - all you need for the first draft is a body of text to work with.

Review and revise

Once you have a first draft, it is easier to focus on the details. At the end, go through the text step by step and analyze what could be done better - better choice of words, shorter and more concise expressions, unneeded details, lack of details, etc. This step is vital, since it is the breaking point between a rookie first draft and professional writing.

Professional Tips and Tricks

There are a few tips and tricks of the trade that will set apart you from any other precis:

Have you ever struggled with this textual format? Have you ever tried to follow other tips to no avail? Fear not - this article will help you write a precis that no one will be able to forget.

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