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Using Summary to Develop Early Business Writing Skills

Using Summary to Develop Early Business Writing Skills

Author: Soma Jurgensen

In this tutorial you'll find a couple of examples of writing at the freshman level to encourage summarizing as well as ways to modify the assignments to address the more advanced writing skills required of sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

  • Free writing
  • Chapter summary


There is a difference between writing to learn and learning to write. Both skills are important, however in students early in their program instructors may focus too much on learning to write before addressing writing specific skills.

Writing to Learn: The purpose of writing to learn is for students to use writing to explain concepts, reflect on how the ideas apply to their lives, ask questions about the material, and make connections between concepts and classes.

Learning to Write: These types of assignments emphasize summary, abstraction, critical evaluation, analysis, and persuasion. Learning to write includes revising for clarity and conciseness.

It's possible to integrate both approaches to writing while building business writing skills from the student's freshman to senior years.

Source: Bobrowski, P., Cox, P. and Maher, L. (2003, December) Teaching first-year business students to summarize: Abstract writing assignment. Business Communication Quarterly. Volume 66, Number 4, pgs. 36-54.


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Start with Free Writing

Use writing to encourage students to organize their thoughts on paper is a good first step when writing to learn:

During a class:

  • After introducing a topic to students have them write for 5 minutes on everything they know about the topic. Ask them to relate any experience they've had with the topic and/or examples they might know of that relates to the topic.
  • Have students spend 2 min. reviewing their writing. Ask them to underline the two most important points from their writing and share them with the class.
  • Spend 10 to 15 min. discussing any patterns as a group


At the end of a class or beginning of a subsequent class:

  • Have students free write for 5 minutes on the most important points they learned in class (or from readings or guest speakers or videos, etc.)
  • At the end of 5 minutes have students categorize the kinds of ideas they remembered.
  • Spend 10-15 minutes discussing any areas that are missing, unclear, or particularly important.


Other topics, or prompts, for free writes include:

  • Expressing opinions about current controversies in the field
  • Applying course content to everyday experiences
  • Choosing and supporting a position or competing viewpoint

Source: "Other topics" from Writing (even a little bit) fasciliates learning. Dr. Maryellen Wimer, PhD., Faculty Focus

Chapter Summary Writing Assignments - Freshman to Senior Levels

You'll find chapter summary assignment prompts in this PowerPoint presentation that start at the "Understanding/Application" skill levels and progress through "Evaluation." For an overview of Higher Order Thinking Skills and the business student see the following tutorial.

Mastering the Skill of Summary Writing

With the massive amounts of information available today organizations are looking for ways to digest information efficiently in order to find the next strategy or potential innovation. By developing your summarization skills you can help meet this objective.

Mastering the Skill of Summarizing PPT

Use this PowerPoint as a reference to practice summarizing until you've been able to internalize the steps from experience.