Tips for Writing a Precis

by Constance DeVereaux

A well-written précis should be a serviceable substitute for the original work. The goal is to preserve the core essence of the work in a manner that is both clear and concise. At a minimum, the précis should include the topic or main thesis, the purpose of the research, what was studied, what methods were used, what results (or insight) were gained, and a conclusion. This guide provides tips and includes links to two sample papers, one on fetal protection policies and the other on James L. Sundquist and constitutional reform.

Goals of the Précis

Compress and clarify a lengthy passage, article, or book, while retaining important concepts, key words, and important data.

Remove what is superfluous and retain the core essence of the work.

Give a brief description of key terms

Give a brief description of methods – an idea of the general approach used by the researchers.

State the purpose of the research or piece of writing (why was it important to conduct this research or write on this topic?)

When finished, the précis should clearly state:

This is what was studied (argued, discussed).

This is how it was done (this was the focus).

This is what was learned.

This is what it means (why it is important).

Sample Précis

"Fetal Protection Policies and the Cultural Mandate for Job Segregation by Gender"

James L. Sundquist, "Constitutional Reform and Effective Government"

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