Basic Terms and Terminology Relating to Summarizing a Complex Text

  • Summarizing: The paraphrasing of the main ideas in a complex text after reading it and comprehending it in its totality.
  • The topic of a text: The noun or noun phrases that best describes the totality of the text, its subject, its main idea, or controlling idea, and its key ideas. There is only one topic for a text.
  • Purpose of a text: The aim of the author; what the text intends to accomplish
  • The controlling idea of the text: The main idea of the text. The controlling idea is synonymous with the main idea of the text. There is only one controlling idea for a text.
  • The main idea of the text: The primary idea of the text. The main idea is synonymous with the controlling idea of the text. There is only one main idea for a text.
  • The key points or key ideas of a text: The key points of a text are the points or ideas that support, uphold and further explain the main or controlling idea of the text. There are typically more than one key points or key ideas for a text, particularly when the text is complex and/or lenghy.
  • Narrative text: A narrative text tells a story and this story can be about the author themselves or about another person, place or thing. When the narrative is a personal story about the author themselves, the text is autobiographical and it is written in the first person because it is the author who is telling story.
  • Descriptive texts: Descriptive texts describe people, places and things with vivid detail; these texts give the reader of the descriptive text an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation of the topic that is being discussed.
  • Expository texts: The expository text, as the name suggests, exposes and relates facts and facts alone in order to provide the readers of the text with the opportunity to get an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it.
  • Analytical texts: An alternative term for the expository text.
  • Persuasive texts: The purpose of a persuasive text is to persuade and convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and their point of view.
  • Argumentative texts: Argumentative texts are highly similar to persuasive texts but they are a little bit stronger and more assertive than a persuasive text in terms of its tone and its tenor. Argumentative texts focus more on a comparison of the author's arguments with details about the pros and the cons of the argument so that the author can bolster their argument and refute the cons against the author's argument, respectively.
  • Compare and contrast texts: Compare and contrast texts explore the similarities and differences between and among different things, respectively.
  • Informational texts: Informational texts provide education and information to the readers of the text.
  • Entertainment and humor texts: Some reading passages intend to simply provide the reader with entertainment, including humor. Examples of these writings can include fictional romance novels and humorous poems.
  • Quotations: Quotations, simply stated, are words directly from the author of the reading material. Quotations are verbatim, word by word, from the reading material and, for this reason, these words are put into quotation marks and the source of this quotation is cited according to the writing style that is used. More information about writing styles, including some like APA and MLA, are discussed in the 4th section of this TEAS review book with other information about English and Language Usage.
  • Paraphrasing: In contrast to quotations, paraphrasing is the use of one's own words, rather than the author's words, to describe something like a summary of a reading passage. Paraphrasing typically shortens and condenses the ideas in a reading passage.
  • Summarizing: Summarizing a reading passage is defined as a paraphrasing of a reading passage in a highly shorted and condensed form.

Basics of Reading Compehension

The basics of reading comprehension entail your ability to identify and to understand, or comprehend, the:

Topic of the Reading Passage or Written Text

The primary methods that are used to insure and measure your ability to understand and comprehend a reading passage or written text are to ask that you to:

  • Identify the topic of the text
  • Identify the main topic or controlling topic of the text
  • Summarize the purpose of the text
  • Accurately identify the key or supportive ideas of the text
  • Summarize the reading passage or written text
  • Paraphrase or reword the entire reading passage or written text or a part of it, like the introduction of the text, for example

The Topic or Controlling Idea of the Reading Passage or Written Text

The topic of a text is the noun or noun phrases that best describes the totality of the text, its subject, its main idea, or controlling idea and its key ideas. There is only one topic for a text.

The main topic of a reading passage or written text must be identified and understood in order for one to comprehend the entire passage and its key ideas. The main topic is often referred to as the controlling idea and the key ideas are often referred to as supporting ideas for the main topic.

The main topic of a reading passage or written text can be determined by reading the text and then asking a question such as:

  • What is the author presenting or talking about in this text?
  • What did I just read about in this text or reading passage?
  • If this reading passage or text was a book, what would be a good short title for it?

When answering these questions about the reading passage or text, the answers to these questions should be as brief as possible, and, whenever, possible it should consist of one word.

The main topic of a text or reading passage is a noun which can be either a common noun or a proper noun; the main topic names a person, place or thing such as Abraham Lincoln, children, a national monument like the Lincoln Memorial or mathematical equations.

The Purpose of a Text

The purpose of the text is the goal of the author for the text. What does the author intend to accomplish with the text?

For example, the purpose of a text can be classified as:

Narrative Texts

A narrative text tells a story and, often, this story can be a personal story about the author themselves. These types of texts are written in the first person because it is the author who is telling story.

Some examples of narrative texts can include things like the author's first memory as a child, a recollection of one's last summer vacation or one's personal goals and how the author intends to meet these life goals. Narrative texts can include things like autobiographies and diaries or journals as well as biographies and fictional novels or texts.

The purpose of a narrative text is to share information and stories with the readers of the narrative text.

Descriptive Texts

As the name implies, descriptive texts describe people, places and things with vivid detail that gives the reader of the descriptive text an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation of the topic that is being discussed. This understanding and appreciation occurs as the result of the author's planned use of vivid and colorful words as well as the author's intention to tap into the senses of the reader with sights and sounds, for example. These types of texts also give the reader the opportunity to react emotionally to the topic that is described in the text.

Some examples of descriptive texts can include the current refugee crisis, art in France during the Renaissance time, and about a botanical garden.

The purpose of a descriptive text is to describe things and people with details so that the readers of the text will gain an appreciation and understanding of the thing or people that is covered in the text.

Expository Texts

The expository text, as the name suggests, exposes and relates facts and facts alone in order to provide the readers of the text with the opportunity to get an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it. For this reason, expository texts are often referred to as analytical texts.

Personal opinions, beliefs and values are NOT injected into an expository text. Again, this type of text presents only objective facts that logically and rationally support and defend the author's position and not the author's subjective feelings or emotions. For this reason, the use of the first person is not used in an expository text. Additionally, the text is kept in the present tense because the author of the expository or analytical text is expressing their current thoughts relating to something even though the events, for example, may have occurred in the past.

This type of text is often used by the author to examine a particular topic or subject, to analyze it and then interpret the analysis of something such as a piece of literature, a piece of art, an event and a trend.

Expository texts address the intended audience with an explanation, rather than an opinion, about a theme, an issue and even a work of literature. Expository texts can include facts, including statistics and other objective data and information, about, for example, the rise or fall of the stock market, the composition of the Democratic or Republican political parties, the history of standardized testing in elementary schools and a critique of a literary work such as a poem, a short story or a novel.

The purpose of an expository text is to provide the readers of the text with an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it.

Persuasive Texts

The purpose of a persuasive text is to persuade and convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and/or their point of view. The way that this purpose is achieved is by the author's proving that their point of view and opinions are correct and logical.

The author's beliefs and opinions are communicated to the readers of the text with sound reasoning and strong solid and accurate evidence based on a number of arguments. These arguments are presented in a smooth and logical manner from one point to the next. Some of these opinions are those of known experts and their sound logical reasoning for their beliefs and opinions so that the readers of the text can be convinced and persuaded to agree with the author's stance because it is the correct position to take. A strong but not overly passionate conclusion should also be a part of this type of text.

Examples of persuasive texts can include the reasons for and rationale for supporting one political candidate over another, the reasons for and rationale for supporting public education, and why the refugee crisis must be addressed and corrected. These passages can include things like biased and unbiased points of view about current events such as the legality of abortion and euthanasia, social issues such as mass incarceration of minority youth for minor legal infractions, religious issues such as monogamy and polygamy, and political issues such as the merits of liberalism when compared and contrasted to conservatism.

Again, the purpose of a persuasive text is to persuade and convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and/or their point of view.

Argumentative Texts

Argumentative texts are highly similar to persuasive texts but they are a little bit stronger and more assertive in terms of its tone and its tenor. Argumentative texts focus more on a comparison of the author's arguments with details about the pros and the cons of the argument so that the author can bolster their arguments and refute the cons against the author's argument, respectively. The arguments against the author's stand should be given so that the author can argue against them. An example of an argumentative text is an editorial article in a newspaper that includes the author's argument for or against a certain issue.

The purpose of an argumentative text is to convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position.

Compare and Contrast Texts

Compare and contrast texts are quite popular among teachers and professors in the academic setting, but they are also popular in the business and civic environment.

These texts, simply stated, explore the similarities and differences between and among different things. For example, a compare and contrast text can be used to compare and contrast:

  • Aristotle, Plato and Socrates
  • At least the different kinds of sentences or texts
  • Arithmetic, geometry and statistics
  • Globalism and nationalism
  • The Republican Party, the Democratic Party and the Independent Party

The purpose of a compare and contrast text is to provide the readers of the text with a deeper understanding of two or more concepts or things.

Informational Texts

Informational texts inform the readers by providing information and/or education. These passages can include things like chapters in a text book, facts that the reader may not be familiar with and new, novel things that have not yet be known about by the general public.

These passages can include things like directions on how to perform some task like defragmenting a computer and making crème Brule, as well as directions on how to assemble a toy or operate a piece of equipment or machinery.

These reading passages and texts can include things like a personal diary that expresses the thoughts and feelings of the author, an ethical text about an ethical principle or an ethical dilemma, a moral text that speaks about a moral such as forgiveness and mercy, and expressing the beliefs of an individual, a religion or a culture.

Entertainment and Humor Texts

Some reading passages intend to simply provide the reader with entertainment, including humor. Examples of these writings can include fictional romance novels and humorous poems.

Now, read the reading passage below and determine the purpose of the article:
Syria Is Now Mr. Trump's War by New York Times, Editorial Board (Jan 19, 2018)

Now that you have read the above reading passage, determine the purpose of this reading passage. The author of this reading passage wants the readers to:

  1. Narrate the history of Iran in recent years
  2. Describe Iran and its recent past
  3. Be persuaded about Trump's management of Iran
  4. Compare and contrast Iran pre and post Trump

The correct response is C. The author of this reading of action in terms of Iran. The narration of the history of Iran in recent years, the description of Iran and its recent past, and the comparison and contrasting Iran pre and post Trump are supportive and key ideas in this reading passage.

Now, read the fictional reading passage below and determine the author's purpose:
The Quality of Mercy (Shakespeare Quote)

Now, select the author's purpose of this writing:

  1. To entertain
  2. To inform
  3. To persuade
  4. To narrate

The correct response is A. The author, William Shakespeare, wrote this passage as part of the Merchant of Venice which is a fictional play that was written to entertain.

Here are some of the questions relating to the purpose of the reading passage from this fictional character's speech above and some possible answers to these questions relating to the above reading passage and its purpose, according to this fictional character:

  • Why did the fictional character give this speech?
    To plead for mercy.
  • What goal did the fictional character want to achieve?
    To be granted mercy and to persuade others to change their attitude and grant mercy.

The speech above was given by Portia to Shylock in William Shakespeare's play entitled "The Merchant of Venice".

In her speech, Portia implores Shylock to grant her free and selfless mercy so that she is not convicted, knowing that she cannot force Shylock to do so.

As the plot of this play continues, Shylock does not grant her mercy despite her pleas for mercy.

Now, read the following reading passages and determine Anne Frank's purpose for writing it:

"I've reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can't do anything to change events anyway. I'll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end." - February 3, 1944

"...but the minute I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth..." - April 5, 1944

The author's purpose for writing the above passages is to:

  1. Narrate a personal story.
  2. Inform and educate others.
  3. Analyze WW II atrocities.
  4. Persuade to reject atrocities.

The author's purpose for writing the above passages is to narrate a personal story. Although you may have suspected that these passages are from Anne Frank's diary, there is no indication in these passages, other than the dates below each excerpt, that WW II and its atrocities was being written about.

A narrative text tells a story and, often, this story can be a personal story about the author themselves. These types of texts are written in the first person because it is the author who is telling story. Other narrative texts about a person, place or thing, other than the author, are authored in the third person.

Again, the purpose of a narrative text is to share personal information and stories with the readers of the narrative text.

Next, read this reading passage to determine its purpose:

Cells consist of a:

  • Cell wall
  • Cell membrane
  • Cytoplasm
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Organelles

The cell's cell wall protects the cell membrane and the cell from threats in its external environment; the external environment of the cell is referred to as extracellular. In contrast, the intracellular environment is the internal environment of the cell.

Cell membranes envelope cells and these membranes are somewhat like the gate keepers of the cell. The cell membrane performs this gate keeping function with its level of permeability.

Permeability, simply defined, is the ability of the cell to let particles into the cells and to get particles out of the cell, as based on the concentration of these substances inside and outside of the cell.

Cytoplasm makes up the bulk of a living cell. The major components of the cytoplasm are things like calcium, for example, the organelles which are described immediately bellow and the cytosol which makes up the bulk of a living cell. Organelles are found in the cytoplasm of the cell.

The cytoskeleton, similar to the skeletal system of the body, is made of protein and it maintains the shape and form of the cell so that it does not collapse as parts of the cell move about and the cell itself moves about.

The nucleus of the cell, as found in eurkaryotic cells, is the informational depository of the cell. The nucleus is the place that contains chromosomes and the place where both DNA and RNA are synthesized and replicated.

Organelles, which the word connotes, are "mini organs" that perform a specific role in the cell. Organelles include cellular structures like the Golgi apparatus and the mitochondria, among other things, which are in the cytosol of the cell.

Quite simplified, the mitochondria are the energy power plants of the cell.

In addition to the mitochondria, other organelles are the:

  • Lysosomes
  • Endoplasmic reticulum
  • Golgi apparatus
  • Ribosomes

The lysosomes, simply stated, break down and dispose of cellular wastes. Quite simplified, the lysosomes are garbage recyclers and garbage disposal systems for the cells.

Endoplasmic reticulum connects the nucleus of the cell to the cell's cytoplasm. These smooth and rough tubes and the ribosomes within play a role in the synthesis or manufacture of protein and lipids. Quite simplified, the endoplasmic reticulum can be looked at as the manufacturing plants of the cells.

The Golgi apparatus connects to the endoplasmic reticulum and it gets lipids and proteins from it. The Golgi apparatus processes these products and readies them for transport to other areas of the cell, as needed. Quite simplified, the Golgi apparatus can be viewed as the storage room for processed products.

The type of text that is presented above is a:

  1. Persuasive text
  2. Expository text
  3. Argumentative text
  4. Expository Texts

The text above is an expository or analytical text.

The expository text, as the name suggests, exposes and relates facts and facts alone in order to provide the readers of the text with the opportunity to get an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it. For this reason, expository texts are often referred to as analytical texts. Additionally, this text can also be classified as an informative text because it teaches the reader about cells.

Key Points in a Text

One of the critical components of reading comprehension, similar to the identification and understanding of the main topic and the purpose of the reading passage, is to identify, understand and comprehend the key points included in reading passage or written text.

Simply defined, the key ideas of a reading passage are the supporting elements of the reading passage that support, amplify, emphasize and otherwise describe the main topic of the reading passage.

The main idea of the reading passage is often referred to as the controlling idea. The key points included in the topic sentence of the reading passage or text are sometimes referred to as supporting ideas, in contrast to the topic of the text which is also referred to as the controlling idea. All of these key ideas and key components must logically and systematically support the main topic and the purpose of the writing.

The key points in a text can be identified by considering:

  • The key point in each paragraph of the reading passage or text
  • The bold font of topics or the presence of other headings in a reading passage or text
  • The introduction or preface of the reading passage or text
  • The summary of the reading passage or text

Now, read this passage and again identify the key ideas contained within it:
Capital Punishment and Nurses' Participation in Capital Punishment

List the key points for the reading passage above.

Key points included in reading passage or written text are those ideas and thoughts that support the main idea, or controlling idea, of the reading passage.

The key points and supporting ideas in the reading passage above include:

  • The American Nurses Association's formal position statement against capital punishment and the prohibition of a nurse's direct or indirect participation in capital punishment
  • The recommendations of the American Nurses Association and the underlying rationales for these recommendations including things such as human rights and human dignity
  • The background of the American Nurses Association's stated position in reference to capital punishment and the prohibition for nurses to directly or indirectly participate in capital punishment
  • The historical underpinnings of the American Nurses Association's position on capital punishment and the participation of nurses in capital punishment
  • The supporting rationales that uphold, rationalize and justify the American Nurses Association's position on capital punishment and the participation of nurses in capital punishment including the official positions and position statements of other national and international organizations against capital punishment
  • The American Nurses Association's rationales for their position on opposing capital punishment and prohibiting the participation of nurses in capital punishment including things like its biases and discrimination against certain populations of people such as the poor and minorities and the taking of innocent lives when the innocent are executed in error

Now, try to answer these questions:

What is the main idea or topic of the above reading passage? What is the purpose of the above reading passage?

The main idea or topic of a text is the noun or noun phrases that best describes the totality of the text, its subject, its main idea, or controlling idea and its key ideas. There is only one topic for a text. The main topic is often referred to as the controlling idea of the text.

The main topic of the above reading passage is?

The American Nurses Association's position relating to capital punishment.

The purpose of the above reading passage is?

"Twofold. First, to address the role of nurses in capital punishment. Second, to express the American Nurses Association's (ANA) overall views on capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty."

Summarizing a Complex Text

In order to successfully answer your TEAS examination questions in reading and also to successfully comprehend the reading material that you will be studying in your future studies in nursing school, you will have to be able to summarize complex reading materials and texts.

In order to summarize a complex text, you must be able to:

  • Identify and comprehend the topic or main idea of the reading material
  • Identify and comprehend the purpose of the reading material
  • Identify and comprehend the key ideas, or supporting ideas, of the reading material
  • Paraphrase a summary of the reading material

Quotations, simply stated, are words directly from the author of the reading material. Quotations are verbatim, word by word, from the reading material and, for this reason, these words are put into quotation marks and the source of this quotation is cited according to the writing style that is used. More information about writing styles, including some like APA and MLA, are discussed in the 4th section of this TEAS review book with other information about English and Language Usage.

In contrast to quotations, paraphrasing is the use of one's own words, rather than the author's words, to describe something like a summary of a reading passage. Paraphrasing typically shortens and condenses the ideas in a reading passage.

Summarizing a reading passage is defined as a paraphrasing of a reading passage in a highly shorted and condensed form that encapsulates and captures the main ideas and essential information found in the original reading material.

The Method Used to Summarize a Reading Passage

There are occasions when you are asked to summarize a reading passage. This reading passage can consists of short or long paragraph, an essay, a chapter in a book, a lengthy research paper and even an entire book. Regardless of the length and type of reading passage that you are asked to summarize, the method and techniques to summarize a reading passage are essentially identical and highly similar, if not identical.

The steps to summarize a reading passage are:

The steps to summarize a reading passage are:

  1. Read the entire reading passage, that is, read the entire paragraph, the entire essay, the entire chapter in a book, the entire research paper and the entire book.
  2. Ask yourself some probing questions such as:
  • What is this story, essay, book chapter, etc. trying to tell me or teach me?
    The topic of the reading passage is an excellent clue in terms of beginning to answer this question about a complex reading passage.
  • What is the author of the reading material saying?
    Before answering this question, you must know the topic of the reading passage.
  • What are the supporting ideas in the reading passage and how do these key or supporting ideas support the thesis or main idea of the reading passage?
    In this reflective questioning, you should give some examples of these key ideas in a highly brief and condensed manner. A summary of a reading passage is not a restatement of the entire reading material, but instead, it is a brief and concise synopsis of it.
  1. Write the summary of the reading material while avoiding all unnecessary and nonessential information.

Read the below reading material and then summarize it:
Aristotle - De Anima - Perceptions and the Soul

Now, answer these questions:

What is the topic of this reading passage?

Answer: The soul

What is this reading passage trying to tell the readers or teach the readers?

Answer: This reading passage is trying to tell the readers about the concept of soul according to Aristotle.

What is the author of the reading material saying?

Answer: The author of the reading material is presenting Aristotle's view of the soul.

What are the supporting ideas in the reading passage and how do these key or supporting ideas support the thesis or main idea of the reading passage?

The supporting or key ideas in this reading passage include the three types of soul, according to Aristotle, which are the vegetative soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. Humans have a rational soul.

Write a summary of the above reading passage.

Answer:

This reading passage presents Aristotle's description of the three types of souls and each of their functions.

OR

Aristotle's describes three types of souls which are the vegetative soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. Humans have a rational soul.

Now, read the below reading material and then summarize it:

Now, answer these questions:

What is the topic of this reading passage?

Answer: Sleep

What is this reading passage trying to tell the readers or teach the readers?

Answer: This reading passage is trying to tell the readers about the concept of sleep according to Aristotle.

What is the author of the reading material saying?

Answer: The author of the reading material is presenting Aristotle's view about sleep and the nature of sleep.

What are the supporting ideas in the reading passage and how do these key or supporting ideas support the thesis or main idea of the reading passage?

Answer: The supporting or key ideas in this reading passage include:

  • The purposes of sleep
  • The functioning of the senses during sleep

Write a summary of the above reading passage.

Answer:

This reading passage presents Aristotle's description of sleep, the purpose of sleep and the role of the senses during sleep, as contrasted to the role of the senses during wakefulness

OR

This reading passage presents Aristotle's description of sleep as a function of the fatigue of the senses and also how the senses function during sleep to restore their level of function.

Now, read this final brief reading passage and then summarize it:
Aristotle - On Sleep and Wakefulness - Dreams

Now, answer these questions:

What is the topic of this reading passage?

Answer: The nature of dreams

What is this reading passage trying to tell the readers or teach the readers?

Answer: This reading passage is trying to tell the readers about the concept of dreams according to Aristotle.

What is the author of the reading material saying?

Answer: The author of the reading material is presenting Aristotle's view about dreams and the nature of dreams.

What are the supporting ideas in the reading passage and how do these key or supporting ideas support the thesis or main idea of the reading passage?

Answer:

The supporting or key ideas in this reading passage include:

  • The presence of sensory impressions rather than sensory stimulation during dreams
  • The alterations of the state of mind during dreams
  • The lack of judgment during dreams secondary to the impaired use of the senses

Write a summary of the above reading passage.

Answer:

This reading passage presents Aristotle's description of dreams, the alterations of a person's state of mind during dreams and how the person's lack of judgement occurs during dreams as the result of altered sensory functioning.

OR

Aristotle describes dreams and the alterations of the state of mind, the alterations of sensory functioning and the lack of judgment that occurs during dreams.

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