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Five practical tips on making a summary

Anne-Miek shares five practical tips for making a summary using the Topic Comment method.
You’ve just seen the basics of making a summary using the Topic-Comment method or TC method. So what things should you keep in mind? 1. Read first, write later– if you start writing too soon, you don’t yet know the main topics, and you don’t know how the bits of information in the text are interrelated. So if you start writing too soon, what do you think will happen to your summary? Well, you will probably write down too much. So before you start your TC summary, take the time to read a complete section. A complete section could be one or more paragraphs, a part of a chapter, or even an entire chapter.
And, of course, it’s OK to jot down some words while you are reading but make sure you have a good overview before starting on your actual Topic-Comment summary. 2. Find your own logical structure– it’s important to allow yourself the freedom to let go of the structure of the original text. What is logical for you? For example, the chapter you are reading is about archaeological findings in southern Europe. The chapter describes what was found in France and then what was found in Portugal. You might find it more useful to structure your TC not by country but by time period.
Here’s a second example. Imagine you are reading about epistemology, the study of knowledge. The chapter describes two theories, rationalism and empiricism. It can give you more insight to use a table to depict this, even though the original book does not use a table. In addition to tables, you can also use flow charts, graphs, diagrams, pie charts, or timelines. For more information on how to use each of these, check out the document attached to this video step. 3. Make use of visual cues. As your brain deals better with pictures than with texts, the more you can visualise, the better. If you can replace a word with a simple symbol, just do it. Look at the following example.
[Advantage: cheap vs + cheap] Do you notice that you can see the part on the right side at a glance? It’s easier for your brain to recognise a symbol than it is to read a word. The right is also a little quicker to write. Visuals make a Topic-Comment summary more appealing, then therefore easier to remember. You can shorten the text further. Make sure that the symbols and icons you are using are quick to make and easy to recognise. Please beware– don’t overdo this. Do not make this a final paper for the Art Academy. That would be really time-consuming and defeat the purpose. 4. Watch out with bullet points. Take a look at the following example.
Do you have trouble understanding the logic of this– probably you do. This is an example of a bullet trap– enumeration without coherence. So beware of bullets. Ask yourself, what is the connection between the points? Can I present the points in another way– one that does not involve a list– or can I distribute them in several groups? In that case, just do it.
keep your Topic-Comment summary clean and organised. Use the whole page, do not cram, make it as attractive, and clear as possible. You can omit things such as things you already know or examples. Avoid copying texts literally unless you need to be able to reproduce it literally, for example, a definition. But even then, you can refer to the book. These were five tips about how you can make a better topic-common summary. Which one do you like best?

This video shares five tips for making a summary using the Topic Comment method. The most important goal of the method is to make sure that you are actively processing the materials you are reading.

The tips that were explained in the video:

  1. Read first, write later
  2. Find your own logical structure
  3. Make use of visual cues
  4. Watch out with bullet points
  5. Keep your Topic Comment clean and organised

Please share with other learners:

  • Which tip is of most use to you?
  • What symbols and abbreviations do you use in your summaries?
  • Do you prefer typing or writing a summary?
  • And do you prefer the use of colours in your summaries?
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