Summary writing in academic contexts: Implicating meaning in processes of change

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Journal Article
Linguistics and Education, 2008, 19 (4), pp. 351 - 365
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The practice of summary writing from source texts has long been a core activity in academic writing programs. When described as précis writing, textbooks focusing on teaching this skill date back to the second half of the nineteenth century. In current guidelines, students are typically asked to demonstrate an understanding of the key meanings encoded in source texts by recording those meanings in note form and then reconstructing them in a significantly shorter summary, relying minimally on the original wording. However, what is presented as a relatively straightforward process is made considerably more complex when we consider that any change in wording necessarily impacts on meaning in some way. In this paper, I explore how meaning is implicated in one process of re-instantiation from original text to notes to summary text, and to consider at a theoretical level what is involved in these changes. The findings suggest ways to scaffold the task more effectively for students and novice writers in academic English. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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