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Write a Précis

What is a précis?

  • A précis is a specific kind of summary of an article, book, or speech that uses the language and overall structure of the original source.

What is the purpose of a précis?

  • To present a shortened version of a source, while maintaining key words, data, or concepts from the original.
  • Note: Some kinds of précis, such as rhetorical précis, follow specific conventions not described here. Be sure to read your assignment carefully for specific requirements.

What should a précis do?

A précis should do one or more of the following:

  • identify and use the keywords used in the original text or speech 
  • maintain the order and structure of the original
  • serve as a shorter substitute for the original text or speech​

How is a précis different from a paraphrase or summary?

  • The main difference between a précis and a paraphrase or summary is that in a précis you use the language and structure of the original, particularly key terms and phrases.
  • In paraphrases and summaries, you  must use your own words as much as possible, and as few words from the original as possible.

When should I use a précis?

  • You should use a précis only when you are asked specifically to do so by an instructor (e.g., for an assignment).
  • When writing about sources in other academic papers, it’s best either to use your own words (paraphrase or summarize) or quote sources directly.

Resources to Help with Writing

Guide: Plagiarism and Academic IntegrityGuide: Cite Your SourcesLink to Guide: Write clearly: Grammar

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