How to Write a Precis in Descriptive Paper?

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Dear Sehpaathians,

We are here with one of the most important topic for Descriptive paper in various competitive exams i.e. precis writing.

A well-written precis should be a serviceable substitute for the original work. The goal is to preserve the .core essence of the work in a manner that is both clear and concise. At a minimum, the precis should include the topic or main thesis, the purpose of the research, what was studied, what methods were used, what results (or insight) were gained, and a conclusion.

The main aspects that differ a critical précis from essays in order to understand the essence of this academic paper better:

  • It is a critical summary of some writing abstract.
  • It is not a reduction.
  • It should not be written with the words of the original, though some quotes may still be used if they are distinctively important.
  • It is represented in your own words.
  • It summarizes the content of the original abstract.
  • It should indicate the sense and importance of the original abstract.
  • It should not be a simple interpretation of the original text.

Goals of the Précis:

  • Compress and clarify a lengthy passage, article, or book, while retaining important concepts, key words, and important data.
  • Remove what is superfluous and retain the core essence of the work.
  • Give a brief description of key terms
  • Give a brief description of methods – an idea of the general approach used by the researchers.
  • State the purpose of the research or piece of writing (why was it important to conduct this research or write on this topic?)

How to write a précis?

Writing a good précis shows that you clearly understand a text and can communicate its importance to your readers. A précis can be tricky to write at first: it’s tempting to include too much or too little information. But if you consider the step-by-step method below, you can readily learn how to summarize a chapter or article into précis form in short order.

1) Divide and conquer. First off, skim the text you are going to summarize; divide it into sections. Pay special attention to headings and subheadings, or places where the author moves into a new area of discussion. Also look at any important terms and make sure you understand them before you read.

2) (Re)read. Now that you’ve prepared, go ahead and re-skim the selection. You should already have taken good notes on the chapter as part of your earlier reading.  Use them.  Be sure to get a feel for the author’s tone, style, and main idea. Also label areas that should be avoided because the details—while perhaps interesting—are too specific. Also, identify areas that you do not understand and try to clarify those points.

3) A sentence at a time. You should now have a firm grasp on the text you will be summarizing. In steps 1 and 2, you divided the piece into sections and located the author’s main ideas and points. Now, write down the main idea of each section in one well-developed sentence. Make sure that what you include in your sentences are key points and evidence, not minor details.

4) Craft a thesis statement. This is the key to any well-written summary. Review the sentences you wrote in step 3. From them, you should be able to create an overall thesis statement that clearly communicates what the entire text was trying to achieve. If you find that you are not able to do this step, then you should go back and make sure your sentences actually addressed key points.

5) You are ready to write. At this point, your outline-draft is virtually done. You can use the thesis statement as the introductory sentence of your summary, and your other sentences, with adjustment, can make up the body. Make sure that they are in order. Consider the use of transition words (then, however, also, moreover) that help with the overall structure and flow of the summary. And once you are actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!), remember these tips:

  • Write in the present tense when discussing the author’s stance (“Breisach argues,”etc.) , but use past tense when relating evidence sustaining the author’s argument (“Ranke’s works exhibited both a new ‘scientific’ approach, and a metaphysical perspective.)
  • Make sure to include the author and title of the work.
  • Be concise: a précis is radically shortens the original text.  If you are typing your précis, it should come to about two-single-spaced pages.
  • Do not quote the author unless you are using a specialized term that warrants quoting.  You should be putting material into your own words.
  • Don’t put your own opinions, ideas, or interpretations into the summary. The purpose of writing a précis is to accurately represent what the author claims, including the key evidence and structure of her or his argument. The purpose of a précis is not to provide a critique of the text.

6) Check for precision. Reread your summary and make certain that you have accurately represented the author’s ideas and key points. If you did quote something, make sure that you have correctly cited it. Also check to make sure that your text does not contain your own commentary on the piece.

Do’s in a précis: 

  • Start your précis by highlighting the main idea of the passage and you should create a contextual environment where you can place the necessary points. Once the main idea is established in the précis, you can present the methods, points, facts etc. used by the author of the passage.
  • Compress and clarify a lengthy passage, article, or book, while retaining important concepts, key words, and important data.
  • Remove what is superfluous and retain the core essence of the work.
  • Always remember that mentions about history/writing about history should be advisably done in the past tense.
  • State the purpose of the research or piece of writing (why was it important to conduct this research or write on this topic?)

Dont’s in a précis:

  • Do not express your own opinion, wish, remark or criticism.
  • Do not insert any question in your précis. Its significance, if essential, may be expressed by a statement.
  • Do not use abbreviations or contractions.
  • Do not be jerky. This suggests that most probably, you have not understood the sense of the passage properly.