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Précis Types of assignment

Some modules may require you to write a précis as an activity or as part of an assignment but it’s also a very useful study skill to have.

A précis is a short written account of a larger text (an essay that you’ve written for example) and its purpose is to set out the author’s key points, important concepts and logic. Writing a précis demonstrates that you’ve understood the key information in the original text and is an excellent way of learning material – by identifying the key points and claims and rewriting these in your own words.

How to write a précis

The key goal of a précis is to condense the article/book/essay while keeping the important concepts, evidence and logic of the author. It’s important to remember that a précis does not include your own thoughts or comments.  To get started, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the article discuss or argue?
  • How was this done – did the author speak to people, conduct a survey or read a collection of published works?
  • Why is this important?

Then use these steps to write your précis:

  1. Read the text carefully all the way through.

  2. Note down what you think are the key points, paying attention to the key terms, the methods used and the author’s main idea or argument.

  3. Write the points out in a logical order.

  4. Read and edit your summary to make sure you’ve included only the main points. Remove all unnecessary details.

  5. Remember to write in your own words and not to include your own judgements about the text.

  6. Check the guidance notes in the Assessments section of your module website to make sure you’ve followed the word count and other instructions correctly.

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