How To Write A Precis

A précis is a concise restating of a book, journal article, or some other work. The word comes from the Old French and means to “cut short” (dictionary.com), so this is essentially what writing a précis entails. The purpose is to explain the main points, the supporting points, and the outline of the original work, but in a truncated manner. A précis is not a critical analysis or evaluation of the work, nor a personal evaluation of the work. Rather, it is objective in nature and demonstrates that the material has been understood and represented accurately.

When writing a précis, one should begin by reading the assigned text. As one goes through the text, it is helpful to take notes along the way and summarize in a couple of sentences the main point or each section, as well as make notes on any supporting evidence used to support the main point. Be sure to restate the author’s points in your own words.

It is helpful, especially with larger works, to build up your précis paper as you go along. Read a chapter, follow the steps above, and then write that portion of the précis from the notes made from that section. Be sure that your précis paper follows the outline of the original work.

When you structure your précis, the introductory paragraph should state the nature and purpose of the author’s work being, describe the discipline and field of the work, and what the main purpose of the work. The subsequent paragraphs should be summaries of the various sections of the work, and then the concluding paragraph should state the author’s concluding thoughts and also restate the main thesis of the work over all.

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