Summary and Restatement/Descriptive Versus Analytic Writing

Merely summarizing or restating material from assigned readings and/or sources does not take us beyond the second level of understanding in Bloom’s taxonomy.  As such, it does not show that we have a deep understanding of the material we are drawing from.  That does not mean that we should never summarize or restate content from the assigned text and/or our resources. What it does mean is that most of our writing should go beyond summary and restatement. As a rule of thumb, if more than a third of our paper consists of merely summarizing or restating what we have read, we have devoted too much space providing background information.

Some call summarizing and restating descriptive writing and contrast with critical or analytic writing. The University of Leicester’s “What is critical writing” gets at the heart of the distinction between descriptive writing (summary and restatement) and critical writing in the composition of a research paper.

With descriptive writing you are not developing argument; you are merely setting the background within which an argument can be developed.  You are representing the situation as it stands, without presenting any analysis or discussion. . .

With critical writing you are participating in the academic debate. This is more challenging and risky. You need to weigh up the evidence and arguments of others, and to contribute your own. You will need to:

  • consider the quality of the evidence you have read;
  • identify key positive and negative aspects you can comment upon;
  • assess their relevance and usefulness to the debate that you are engaging in your assignment; and
  • identify how best they can be woven into the argument that you are developing.

For a more detailed comparison of the contrast between descriptive and critical writing, the two-column contrast given at  is superb.

Last revised on January 25, 2018.