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Write an excerpt: the most important tips including an example

Posted on by Lea Metzger
Would you like to write an excerpt, but you don't know exactly what is important? In this article you will read everything you need to know about the topic! Not only will the structure of the excerpt and its difference to a summary be discussed, but you will also learn which steps are necessary to prepare an excerpt. You will also get to know different methods of excerpting. The whole thing is rounded off by a comprehensive example as well as a checklist that you can use as a guide during the creation. Before it really starts, the question of what exactly an excerpt is ...

What is an excerpt and why is it created?

An excerpt is a written excerpt from a text that is / has been read. Usually a specific question is answered. The overarching goal of the excerpt is to filter out and evaluate the core statements and relevant theses of a text.
  • tip: The excerpt is a tool that helps the student to deal with a topic or to write a term paper or similar; it does not have to be presented to anyone and the “author” does not have to be accountable to anyone.

The difference to the summary

As its name suggests, a summary summarizes an original text. This is parallel to the excerpt. And yet they are two completely different concepts. A summary is not written under a specific question. Rather, the most important (general) points are summarized. The excerpt, on the other hand, filters out the information under a key question.

The structure: A good excerpt consists of a head and a main part

Since you do not have to show the scientific “summary” to anyone, it is basically up to you how you set up the excerpt and whether you write it on the PC, by hand or similar. However, there is a structure that has proven itself for the special type of text:
  1. Excerpt head including the date of preparation, the source of the excerpted text and a short text (one to three sentences) that serves as a quick overview.
  2. The main part is made up of four elements: summaries and paraphrases of individual text sections, verbatim quotations, your own comments and positions, the page number. You can read more about these components below.

Summaries and paraphrases of individual text sections
Write in full sentences so that you don't lose any important context. Likewise, you should write in your own words. Because you have only understood what you can reproduce yourself.

Verbatim quotes
You can take over parts of the original text one-to-one if they seem particularly meaningful to support your arguments. When accepting verbatim quotations, proceed in the same way as in other scientific papers (= quotation in quotation marks).

Own comments, positions, ideas, thoughts, etc.
In this section you can, for example, record why content from the original text is important for your homework or similar. You can also state why you agree or disagree with a statement and you can write down comparisons with other text passages (from other sources).
  • Notice: Since the structure of your excerpt is generally up to you, you can make many other comments and the like here.

The page number
Always make sure to note on which page and - for a better overview - in which area of ​​the page you found the respective quote, statement or similar. Otherwise it can quickly happen that you want to use your excerpt for the bachelor thesis or similar, but you have to research the individual points. That costs time and nerves unnecessarily!

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Create an excerpt - in 5 steps

The following five steps will help you prepare an excerpt.
  1. Read the original text to get an overview of the content and its structure.
  2. Decide what the excerpt should help you with.
  3. Building on point 2, you decide on a key question under which you want to prepare the original text.
  4. Depending on your key question, you will excerpt the full text or just individual sections. Make a note of the aspects and arguments relevant to your project. Make sure you don't just copy the content, but reproduce it in your own words; Quotations are to be marked accordingly.
  5. Summarize your excerpt by compressing the most important points and deleting them as superfluous aspects afterwards.
  • Note: The example below shows you how excerpts can look specifically.

Excerpt - Special or General?

A general distinction is made between two excerpting techniques. Regardless of the form, summarizing or reproducing in your own words has the advantage that you can refer to the relevant content of an original text while you are writing your thesis or similar without having to read it again.

The special question

A given text is usually excerpted in relation to a specific question. This question can, for example, be the research question of your master's thesis.

The general question

You can also excerpt a source for a “general question”. You summarize the main statements and arguments of the text. The difference to a conventional summary lies in the special form of the excerpt. This ensures a better overview.
  • Notice: As already mentioned, this approach is rather unusual.

This is what your excerpt can look like

This example can serve as inspiration for your own excerpt.
  • The key question for this example could be: How is global climate change affecting the various regions of the world?

Thought of everything? Excerpt checklist

You have gained an overview of the original text and formulated a key question.
The bibliographical information is complete.
Quotes that were quoted were indicated by quotation marks.
You have reproduced important passages in your own words.
You have added your own comments to the quotes and passages.
You have already voted. Thanks!
How do you like this article?
Lea is about to graduate from her master's degree in social sciences. She has already written a bachelor thesis and numerous seminar papers and term papers. Lea also works as a copywriter at the housework agency and passionately writes articles for you about your studies.

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