Summarising For Understanding (and without plagiarising)
When using a textbook or scientific journal article as sources of information for a written report it can be difficult to use the information without simply copying and thus committing plagiarism. Apart from the copyright issue this is bad because it is unlikely that you will learn much as you will not be actively engaging with the material, that is, you won’t be thinking much about it. However, the aim of using scientific literature is to understand the subject material. Learning is a lifelong process, which is certainly not restricted to university, so knowing how to appropriately use reference material is a useful skill.
A suggested means for using reference material to enhance your understanding of the information.
- Read the section of interest in the source material. If this is very long, then it may have to be divided into subsections.
- Note the items of information that are relevant to your purpose.
- List these as you read them.
- Write the fewest words that will allow you to understand the meaning of the individual points.
- Key words only would be best.
- Use symbols wherever possible.
- DO NOT WRITE COMPLETE SENTENCES.
- When you have finished gathering information, number the points that you have listed in the sequence in which you wish to use them in your written summary.
- You may decide at this point that you will not use all the listed points, or that some points require additional information from another source.
- When you are satisfied that you have all the required information, and that you understand it, close the reference book(s) and journal articles.
- In your own words, and only from your own notes, write out the information as you wish: a summary, part of a larger report etc.
- DO NOT REOPEN THE SOURCE REFERENCES WHILE WRITING.
- If at some point you feel that you need more information, then go back to step 1 and add information to your summary notes.
- Reference the information in an appropriate way: as a cited reference within the text of your summary, or as a bibliography of relevant material at the end.
See also the UTas website:
http://www.utas.edu.au/student-learning/for-students and follow the links.