Summarising: example from Architecture

time to complete: 20 minutes

Now, you are going to look at an example of summary writing from architecture. 

Task: Read the original source text and the three summaries and consider the following question: which summary is the best summary of the original source text: 1, 2 or 3? Check your answer under the summaries. 

Original Source Text

The limits of architecture are variable: each decade has its own ideal themes, its own confused fashions. Yet each of these periodical shifts and digressions raises the same question: are there recurrent themes, constants that are specifically architectural and yet always under scrutiny – an architecture of limits? 

(47 words)

Adapted from: Tshcumi, Bernard. “Architecture and Limits.” Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory. Kate Nesbitt, ed. New York: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Summary 1

The limits of architecture vary: each decade has its own ideal themes and confused fashions. Yet every shift and digression raises the same question: are there recurrent themes that are specifically architectural but are always being scrutinized – an architecture of limits? (Tshcumi, 1996). 


(43 words)

Summary 2

The boundaries of design vary: every ten years have seen specific themes and offbeat new fashions. Yet each movement and alteration has raised identical queries: are there themes that appear over and over again, that are very much design-specific, but are forever being examined – a design of boundaries? (Tshcumi, 1996). 


(50 words)

Summary 3

Tshcumi (1996) observes how architectural boundaries are in a constant state of flux. However, despite this, there seem to be “constants,” recurring ideas that lie at the heart of design; he labels these constants “an architecture of limits”.

 (38 words)

Check your answer:

Answer key and explanation

  • This is almost the same length as the original text, so not a summary of the main ideas within the text.
  • The original text source has barely been altered as only a couple words have been changed around. Therefore, this is plagiarized.
  • The presence of a citation does not prevent this from being plagiarism.
  • Since there are no quotation marks, the reader assumes that the words belong to the author. In truth, they belong to Tshcumi.
  • This version is longer than the original text, so not a good summary of the main ideas. 
  • The words have been changed but the structure of the sentences is exactly the same. This is not the author’s voice. This is Tshcumi’s.
  • By following the original structure too closely, you are forced to come up with synonyms for every word, which could be difficult.  This also means that you are not summarising.
  • This is an acceptable summary and is slightly shorter than the original text.
  • Both the words and sentence structure have changed. The author has taken Tshcumi’s ideas and translated them completely into his own words.
  • A couple specific terms are taken directly and are put in quotes. This clearly tells the reader where the author’s words end and Tshcumi’s begin.