How to Write a Précis: Tips, Techniques, and Examples

As a student, you will encounter various types of academic writing assignments throughout your academic career. One such assignment is a précis. A précis is a condensed version of a larger text, written in your own words. It is a crucial skill for students in academic writing as it helps them to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills. In this article, we will explore the purpose of a précis, its importance in academic writing, steps for writing an effective précis, common mistakes to avoid, examples of précis, different types of précis, the format of a précis, applications of précis in academic writing, précis writing techniques for non-native speakers, advantages of précis writing in professional development, ethical considerations, and tools and resources for précis writing.

What is a Précis?

A précis is a concise summary of a larger text. It is also an exercise in compression and condensation of the original work, without altering the author’s message. The aim of a précis is to capture the main ideas, arguments, and conclusions of the text in a condensed form, without losing the essential meaning. Moreover, précis can be of various lengths, ranging from a few sentences to a few paragraphs, depending on the length of the original text.

Why Write a Précis?

A précis is an essential academic writing skill that helps students to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills. It requires the ability to read and comprehend complex texts, identify the main ideas and arguments, and present them in a condensed form. Writing a précis helps students to sharpen their writing skills, including grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Moreover, it is an important tool for summarizing research papers, literature reviews, and academic presentations.

Importance of Précis in Academic Writing

In academic writing, précis writing is an essential skill that plays a critical role in various aspects of academic work. A précis enables students to:

  • Comprehend complex texts and distill their main ideas and arguments.
  • Develop critical thinking skills by analyzing and synthesizing information.
  • Write concisely and effectively, avoiding unnecessary details and filler words.
  • Use appropriate citation and referencing styles to avoid plagiarism.
  • Present their ideas in a clear and concise manner, which is crucial in academic writing.

Understanding the Purpose of a Précis

Before writing a précis, it is essential to understand its purpose. A précis serves several purposes, including:

  • Providing a condensed summary of a larger text.
  • Identifying the main ideas and arguments of the original text.
  • Capturing the essence of the original text without losing the essential meaning.
  • Presenting the author’s message in a concise and condensed form.
  • Providing a critical analysis of the original text.

Differentiating a Précis from a Summary

A précis is not the same as a summary. A summary is a brief overview of the main ideas and arguments of a text, whereas a précis is a condensed version of the original text that retains its essential meaning. Second, a summary provides a general overview of the text, whereas a précis provides a more detailed and analytical summary. A summary does not involve any critical analysis, whereas a précis involves critical analysis and interpretation of the original text.

Identifying the Intended Audience

Before writing a précis, it is essential to identify the intended audience. The audience will determine the level of detail and the language used in the précis. The intended audience could be your professor, classmates, or a broader academic audience.

Different Types of Précis

There are different types of précis, each with its unique requirements and characteristics. Here are some of the most common types of précis:

  1. Rhetorical précis: This type of précis is mainly used in English courses and focuses on analyzing the rhetoric of a given text. It involves identifying the main argument and rhetorical strategies used by the author to persuade the reader.
  2. Academic précis: An academic précis is used in academic writing and research, especially in scientific or technical fields. It involves summarizing complex research studies or articles in a concise and readable format.
  3. Literary précis: A literary précis focuses on summarizing and analyzing the central theme, style, and characters of a literary work. It is mainly used in literature courses and is often required as an assignment.
  4. Science précis: A science précis is used in scientific research and focuses on summarizing complex scientific studies or experiments. It requires the writer to be familiar with technical terms and concepts in the field.

Understanding the Format of a Précis

To write an effective précis, it is essential to understand the format and structure of a précis. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Length of a précis: A précis is usually one-third to one-fourth of the original text’s length. For example, if the original text is 1200 words, the précis should be around 300-400 words.
  2. Font and spacing requirements: Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial, size 12. Double-space the text and use one-inch margins on all sides.
  3. Citation rules: A précis should include a citation if the original text is referenced. Follow the citation rules required by your instructor or academic institution.
  4. Margins and page layout: Use standard margins and layout for the document. Include a header with your name, course title, and date.

Differences Between Précis and Other Academic Writing Forms

It is essential to distinguish between a précis and other academic writing forms to understand the purpose and requirements of each. Here are some of the primary differences between a précis and other academic writing forms:

  1. Précis vs. summary: A summary focuses on the main points of a text, while a précis also analyzes the text’s purpose, arguments, and rhetorical strategies.
  2. Précis vs. paraphrase: A paraphrase rewrites a text in different words, while a précis summarizes the text while maintaining its original structure and wording.
  3. Précis vs. critique: A critique evaluates a text’s strengths and weaknesses, while a précis only summarizes the text’s main ideas.

Applications of Précis in Academic Writing

Précis is a valuable tool in academic writing, and here are some of its applications:

  1. Using précis in literature reviews: A précis can be used to summarize and evaluate multiple sources in a literature review. It helps the writer to identify the main arguments and themes of the sources and relate them to their research.
  2. Incorporating précis in research papers: A précis can be used to summarize complex research studies or articles that support the writer’s research. It helps to provide context and evidence for the research.
  3. Importance of précis in academic presentations: A précis can be used to summarize a presentation’s main points and make it more accessible to the audience.

Précis Writing Techniques for Non-Native Speakers

Non-native speakers of English may face some challenges when it comes to précis writing, but with practice and determination, they can improve their skills. Here are some techniques that non-native speakers can use to improve their précis writing skills:

  1. Improving language proficiency: To write an effective précis, non-native speakers must have a good command of the English language. They can improve their language proficiency by reading English texts, listening to English audio or watching English videos, and practicing writing in English.
  2. Understanding the nuances of English writing: English writing has its own set of rules and nuances that non-native speakers must understand to write effectively. This includes understanding grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and vocabulary.
  3. Practicing précis writing skills: Like any other skill, précis writing requires practice. Non-native speakers can improve their skills by practicing writing précis regularly. They can start by summarizing short articles and gradually move on to longer and more complex texts.

Advantages of Précis Writing in Professional Development

Précis writing can also be beneficial for professional development. Here are some advantages of mastering précis writing skills:

  1. Enhancing critical thinking skills: Précis writing requires the writer to analyze and summarize the main points of a text. This process can help improve critical thinking skills, which are essential in many professional settings.
  2. Improving communication skills: Précis writing involves communicating complex ideas in a clear and concise manner. This can help improve communication skills, which are important in many professions.
  3. Developing concise writing skills: Précis writing requires writers to condense a text into a few sentences or paragraphs. This can help develop concise writing skills, which are highly valued in many professional settings.

Ethical Considerations in Précis Writing

When writing a précis, it is important to adhere to ethical standards. This includes avoiding plagiarism, maintaining academic integrity, and citing sources properly. Here are some ethical considerations to keep in mind when writing a précis:

  1. Avoiding plagiarism: A précis should accurately represent the author’s ideas and arguments. It is important to avoid plagiarism by properly citing sources and using quotation marks when necessary.
  2. Maintaining academic integrity: Précis writing should adhere to academic integrity standards, which include giving credit to sources and accurately representing the author’s ideas.
  3. Citing sources properly: Proper citation is essential in a précis. Non-native speakers may find it helpful to use citation management tools to ensure that they are citing sources correctly.

Tools and Resources for Précis Writing

There are several tools and resources available for précis writing. These include:

  1. Online tools for précis writing: There are several online tools available for précis writing. These include summarizing tools, citation management tools, and writing assistance tools.
  2. Professional writing services: Non-native speakers may find it helpful to use professional writing services to help them write effective précis.
  3. Reference materials for précis writing: There are several books and reference materials available on précis writing. These can be useful resources for non-native speakers who are looking to improve their skills.


In conclusion, précis writing is an essential skill for students in academic writing. It involves summarizing a text and condensing it into a brief and objective summary. To write an effective précis, students must understand the purpose, steps, and techniques of précis writing, avoid common mistakes, and follow the format and citation rules. Précis writing can enhance critical thinking, communication, and concise writing skills, and it is crucial for maintaining academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism. By mastering précis writing skills, students can improve their academic and professional development and achieve success in their future endeavors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between a précis and a summary?

  1. A précis is a brief summary of a text that focuses on the main points and arguments, while a summary provides a condensed version of the entire text, including all the details.

Can I include my opinion in a précis?

  1. No, a précis should be an objective summary of the text without the inclusion of personal opinions.

How long should a précis be?

  1. The length of a précis depends on the length of the original text, but it is usually one-third to one-fourth the length of the original text.

Is it necessary to include citations in a précis?

  1. Yes, if you use information or ideas from the original text in your précis, you must include proper citations to avoid plagiarism.

How can I avoid plagiarism in a précis?

  1. To avoid plagiarism, you should use your own words to summarize the text and provide proper citations for any information or ideas that you borrow from the original text.

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