Informative and Descriptive Summaries

Having selected the material to include in your summary, you must then decide whether your summary will be informative or descriptive Informative summaries adopt the tone of the original full text, simply presenting the information it contains in shorter form.  Descriptive summaries adopt a more distant perspective, describing the original text rather than directly presenting the information it contains.

An informative summary of the Declaration of Independence might begin as follows:

A descriptive summary of the same passage might begin as follows:

Note that the informative summary does not mention the author or title of the piece but rather gets right down to the content.  Thus it can present more information more compactly and more precisely.  To convey the content of a source, informative summaries are preferable to descriptive summaries.  In addition, when research material is simply reported for its factual content, as in a synthesis paper, the informative summary is used.

On the other hand, descriptive summaries give a more nearly complete picture of the structure of the original.  They also establish a certain distance between the writer of the summary and the writer of the original piece.  This sense of objectivity is useful whenever the summarized material is to be analyzed, evaluated, or otherwise discussed.  For critical or evaluative purposes, descriptive summaries are preferable.  Hence descriptive summaries should be used in book reviews, in essays of analysis, and in other essays discussing a text.

Copyright _____ by Charles Bazerman / All Rights Reserved

Source: Charles Bazerman, The Informed Writer, ADD INFO