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How To Write A Precis Efficiently

17 Apr 2018

College life can be fun until that bubble of happiness bursts due to the workload modern students have to cope with. Some students possess strict dedication towards learning process, others would like to have more free time and fun. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your college life! However, you cannot miss the submission date because you may not get your degree.

When it comes to submission, precis writing is the most difficult task that a student has to come across. You may not be aware of this and that is exactly why we have gathered valuable information on it for you. Here is a guide on how to write a precis step by step, which explains term “précis”, a way you need to write it, and some basics tips that you need to know.

What is a Precis: Definition

When having finished another voluminous academic paper, the question “What is a precis?” pops up in a student’s mind.

It is a summary, which gets its name from the French language. It literally means, ‘cut brief’ or ‘precise’. It is a concise synopsis of a published work, like scholarly article or dissertation. If a student is asked to define précis, they can call it a summary of the text but not a paraphrased text. When a student sums up the ideas of certain literary work, it can be called précis. Do note that it is different from paraphrasing because here no need for mentioning all details discussed in a piece of writing.

Précis explains the core of the text and has a structure. The précis format will help you to understand the structure of the text. It is an objective view or you can call it a brief summing up of ideas. It is not a critical analysis, which requires you to examine contents and ideas expressed in the article. It does not demand you to write your personal opinion. Only essential points should be covered. When you are writing a precis, you must make it short, precise and one must stick to the theme.

Let us understand the same with help of a presic example. This will give you a clear idea about a precis format.

‘’In his article “Who Knows What Happened That Summer?” (1999), Matt Kamodang asserts that the Tibetans are reading more than ever despite the false claims. It is about time to reassess why we value analysis so much more, especially certain types of “high culture” reading. Kamodang supports his claims about Tibetans reading behaviour with supporting facts and figures that compares the precedent and present reading practices, and he even challenges the assumptions by raising valid questions about reading’s intrinsic value. His purpose is to disperse certain traditions or myths about interpretation in order to raise significant questions about the value of reading. He seems to have a youthful, hip, and somewhat impertinent audience in mind because his tone is sardonic, and he suggests that ideas he opposes are conventional.’’

This was just a sample and you can get an idea of how it starts, flows, and ends. Speaking of starting a  critical précis, let us proceed to the next section, which covers basic tips.

Note – summarize the main idea and do not give any personal opinion on it. It should be avoided. It is not creative writing or a reflective essay. Stick to the topic and do not go off-topic with personal opinions.

How should you start writing a Precis?

Précis writing is not as easy as you might think! You have to keep certain points in your mind before you start to pen it down. How to write a precis? Here are some tips for you to write it!

  • Read the article carefully and highlight or mark the main ideas.
  • Try to reflect on what author is trying to communicate through the text.
  • Take a close look at evidences that the author has used.
  • You would need to restate thesis given by the author in your own words. Do note that it should be precise and on-point.
  • You need to write only one or two sentences for each of the section. It would be a summary of each section but not in too many words.
  • Now you need to re-read article and check whether it is in sync with your summary.
  • You must review write-up and confirm whether you have covered the main points or not. Always use a logical structure.
  • Check the text for correctness and clarity. Do a grammar check before submitting it to the professor.

Note – Always check a précis example before you start.

Take a look at how you can start writing it.

In his thesis “The Idea of Capitalism” (1897), Marx argues that… [You can insert a quote here].

As for ending, you can take inspiration from the following sample.

‘’Marx’s tone assumes that the proletariats are being suppressed by the bourgeoisies. He is referring to an audience who believe in the idea of socialism.’’

You need to mention about the tone of the author and how he/she is trying to connect with the audience. Who is your audience?

The Features of a Great Precis

Now that you did go through a precis outline, it would be wise to check what needs to be included in it. What are the features? Let us check out!

  • Text should have clarity and precision.
  • Student should not lift sentences from the original text. You need to use your own words.
  • It is a summary of the text and not a paraphrased version.
  • Writing should be in a logical order. It should be well-connected.
  • It should have a title.
  • It should not have any irrelevant details
  • Do not take information from outside the article.

The Art of Writing a Rhetorical Precis

How to make a rhetorical precis? You must know this that it is a highly structured piece of writing and it requires you to sum up the main idea in a brief way. The student has to fit main ideas into four sentences only, and it requires a lot of precision.

Let us quickly explain you the format of the same. This will help you to understand of how it is to be used. There are instances when your professor may ask you to do it and you may feel lost. You would find many kinds of formats online but it is wise for you to stick to one!

  • In one sentence, you would need to mention the name of the author, the title of the article and even the date. You would need to add a verb such as argue, assert, refute, etc.
  • In one sentence, you need to give the explanation of how the precis writer of the work has supported and developed claim that he is making.
  • You would need to mention the statement of the author’s purpose and it should be followed by the ‘in order’ phrase.
  • How does the author try to gain the audience’s attention? Who is the target audience? You need to explain the relationship between author and the audience.

When you put it all together, summary starts looking very impressive. It is now able to catch the attention of a reader and hold it until very last sentence. It is precise and summarizes the whole idea of the article in just four sentences. Even though it is precise, you need to focus on NOT going off-topic. The rhetorical one should be on-point and must end in four sentences.

You can check rhetorical précis example before you start writing.

Good luck with your precis writing

This was an initial insight into how you can start writing a precis. It is easy to talk about it but once you sit down and write it, you will fall short of words. It is easy to write personal opinions and statements but précis is much more complicated than that and you need a patient mind. Make sure you read the text thoroughly before summing up the article. This will help you to collect all ideas and frame a darn smart précis.

Also read: "How to write an Expository Essay"

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