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What am I Writing
January 2021
25-Word Summaries: How Students Read for, Write toward, and Learn from Short Summaries
For years, I have been having students write 25-word summaries as a way to get students to focus on the meaning of readings. The anecdotal evidence from students is that the summaries, plus the feedback they receive, increase their learning from the articles. In an effort to attain more formal and organized evidence of the impact of the 25-word summaries on students, a graduate student and I embarked on a qualitative research study. We recently interviewed seven students from a last year's class that employed the 25-word summaries.

Summarizing, the identification of main ideas within a text and the subsequent generation of a shortened expression of those ideas without losing meaning (Chiu, 2015; Hariyadi, Corebima, & Zubaidagh, 2018), has been determined to have a positive impact on students' comprehension (Topcu & Arslan, 2017), retention (Nelson, Smith, & Dodd, 1992), and summarization skills (Armbruster, Anderson, & Ostertag, 1987). In addition, there is some evidence that the act of summarizing increases comprehension for macro-level information (main ideas), but not for micro-level information (details), and that summarization increases information application (Chiu, 2015).

The questions driving this study include, (a) how do students prepare to write their 25-word summaries (e.g., how they read and take notes in anticipation of writing a summary), (b) what process do students use to write their 25-word summaries, (c) what impact does previously received feedback have on the preparation and writing of subsequent 25-word summaries, and (d) how do students perceive the relationship between writing 25-word summaries and learning?

Data analysis is underway . . . Stay tuned!
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Contact Information

Peter Doolittle
Blacksburg, VA 24060
pdoo@vt.edu