What Is a Precis in Academic Writing?

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What Is a Precis in Academic Writing?

What is a precis? A précis is a miniature version of an article, an essay, paper, or any other kind of original text which retains the author's ideas and the writing's tone and mood. In essay one can express an opinion in any desired form, good précis must exclude unnecessary details and descriptions to be precise. A precis consists of up to 800 words. Do your best writing an essay, and, who knows - one day, other students will be analyzing your work as part of their homework assignment. Or you can always ask an essay writer to do a splendid job for you. Make your choice!

Here are some Helpful Tips on How to Write a Precis

If you analyze different examples of précis, you will see that all of them have one simple function - emphasize what is really important in the original work. The text might contain numerous bright metaphors and similes. All these expressive means must be omitted. They serve a particular purpose, and your role is to decide why the author uses these tropes and how you can put down their true meaning in one sentence. Here is a list of the most effective tips on how to write a precis essay.

  1. Conduct in-depth research on the given topic to choose an original text to analyze from one of the credible sources. These sources include textbooks, academic journals, scholarly articles, newspapers, and internet sources which can be accessed online. Do not pick an original text if its full version is not available online. A teacher might want to compare your work with the original one based on the in-text citations and references.
  2. Read the text under analysis more than once.You might think that everything is clear, but the more time you re-read the original passage and the more notes you take, the easier it is for you to reduce the number of sentences and word combinations in your own Mention only the most crucial points.
  3. While you are working with a long text and get confused, create an outline to divide one piece of text into several chunks that express the key ideas. You should compress each of these chunks. Second, you create logical connections between them, and finally you proofread your summary and see how it can be improved and compressed even more.
  4. Pay attention to format mentioned in the instructions of your teacher (MLA, Harvard, Turabian, Vancouver, IEEE, ASA style etc.). Download the recently published version of the formatting guide (APA, Chicago, etc.) to study the writing standards. An example of the properly formatted precis essay is a good template which will save a plenty of time - grab some free samples now!
  5. Keep the original text in front of you all the time to consult it if you forget an important detail. It is important to avoid sharing a personal opinion or coming up with your own ideas in a critical precis writing.
  6. Do not rewrite; avoid paraphrasing. You should not focus on composing a summary - explain the purpose and main arguments in your own words using the universal academic structure.
  7. Explaining the meaning of the contents is half the battle while the primary goal is to deliver its value to the readers by stressing the ways the article may help the community with current problems.
  8. A precis occupies ¼ of the entire text. If the original article contains 1000 words, the critical precis cannot be longer than 200 words. This short paragraph delivers the main message of the original text to the target reading audience.

5 Features of the Stunning Precis

To understand how to write a precis essay, it's important to keep in mind the basic qualities.

  • Clarity refers to how well the reader understands the written text. A simple but formal language, vivid examples, and organized structure are the key success factors.
  • Be correct when you write in English: double-check grammar, spelling, and punctuation using vocabulary or special writing apps. Apply precis format following the recommended precis writing style.
  • The main purpose is to stay objective no matter what the topic is; include the opposing views to show that you are aware of other ideas.
  • Coherence (the logical relation to the original ideas mentioned in the analyzed article).
  • Conciseness - avoid unnecessary details which will simply overload your critical precis essay with wordiness: include only meaningful words, phrases, and sentences. To check whether the sentence is meaningful or not, replace some extra words to see if the meaning remains the same without them.

Precis Format & Organization

Every academic paper has a specific 5 paragraph essay structure to follow and a critical precis is not an exception - prepare your analysis based on the following guide.

  1. Introduction
The writer must list the original author's name, text's genre, full title, and the publication date (full or year only). The last element always goes after the author's name being enclosed in parenthesis. Include a summary of what you'll write about in precis introduction; stress the main argument of the text which is your thesis.

The list of genres includes journal/scholarly article, essay, novel, short poetry, fiction story, non-fiction story, etc. Get more information on each genre to understand the goal and voice of the original text.

Two types of words are critical when you write an essay precis: transition words to connect sentences/paragraphs and rhetorically accurate verbs.

  • The examples of transitions are "moreover," "then," "in addition," etc.
  • Rhetorically accurate verbs include "assume," "claim," "deny," "reject," "interpret," and "explain."

If the author of the original article fails to state the thesis statement clearly, a critical precis writer should present it the way he understands the main idea.

Precis example:

Linda Pierce's article on recruitment, "Why Is It Important to Consider Applicant's Personal Purposes During the Job Interview" (2016), asserts that hiring managers can improve their selection process by dedicating more time to learning candidate's life goals."

  1. Consider how the author supports his main idea.
Different writers use various rhetorical techniques to support their thesis statements and interact with the target audience. It is not necessary to restate particular ideas from the original text - just focus on the preferred rhetorical method.

It is possible to support the claim by using separate ideas or chain of interconnected arguments. Help yourself by identifying the key concepts of the original work just like you would do in a rhetorical analysis essay.

Precis example:

Pierce argues that hiring managers can improve their practices through considering candidate's personal goals, explaining the most effective HRM techniques, providing real-life examples, recruiters' feedback, and the basic rules of successful resume writing.

  1. Give the purpose of the paper.
There is a difference between critical precis goal and thesis; focus on providing a meaningful explanation of the original writer's intentions.

The key phrase to providing a meaningful description of the author's motive is "in order to."

Check another precis essay example!

"Pierce's purpose is to share information on the important role of personal goals in a resume in order to help recruiters avoid mistakes during the application process."

  1. Consider the reading audience.
Sentence number four is the last one in your critical precis, and it points to the target audience of the original text's writer. The sentence explains the author's position on the given issues along with the relationship with the intended readers.

Most of the writers never define their target audience, meaning you should try to define it on your own. The best guess is not a good idea. Consider the language, applied references, facts, and other details which may give you an answer.


"Following the flow of structure, the language used, and the purpose of the article, Pierce writes for the business people, applicants, and human resources managers (HRMs).

It was an example of a precis prepared for the Organizational Behavior class.

Techniques Which Help Write More Precisely

  • Use verbs instead of nouns. Scientific and technical texts are known for their abundance of nouns, so when you work with this kind of text, convert nouns to verbs to make your precis writing more compact and dynamic, e.g. They were voting to reach the abolishment of this law. → They were voting to abolish this law. As you can see, this simple transformation allowed us to get rid of a preposition and shorten the length of the main word.
  • Avoid using 'there is/ there are'. These phrases are the favorite introductory combinations, but they distract readers from the essence of the sentence, e.g. There were a lot of factors that influenced further development of his work = A lot of factors influenced further development of his work. Did the meaning of the sentence change? We got a more precise sentence.
  • Avoid using prepositions as they are rather small and don't seem heavy, but a large number of prepositions in the text prolongs it and distracts readers, e.g. The friends of my mother gave her really sweet presents. → My mother's friends gave her really sweet presents.
  • Fewer adjectives. In the sentence "My mother's friends gave her really sweet presents' the adjective 'really' can be easily removed because it doesn't add any meaning to the sentence. It is used strictly to evaluate, not for giving information.
  • Use terms instead of definitions. Sometimes writers forget that a lot of processes they describe can be replaced by an overarching term which will be understandable for all readers, e.g. He wanted to give me money in exchange for my painting. → He wanted to buy my painting. When you have a story to tell, think twice before you give a lengthy explanation - there might be a single word out there that can help make your précis as brief as it is meant to be.
  • Consider using active voice. Again, research papers and other academic works that have to be official are often full of passive voice constructions. When you need to write a précis of such a work, use active voice to have your precis writing lighter and more readable, e.g. The laws of motion and gravitation were formulated by Isaac Newton. → Isaac Newton formulated the laws of motion and gravitation. Dynamics is what you have to think about first when you are writing a précis, and active voice prevents you from making a heavy text.
  • Don't use ambiguous or vague nouns.There is nothing wrong with such words as "aspect," "area," "discipline," etc., but, in précis, they can be unnecessary and should be omitted, e.g. John is a great specialist in the field of linguistics. → John is a great specialist in linguistics, or even John is a great linguistics specialist. The first sentence looks fancy and formal, but when you are writing a précis, you need to forget about tricks that make your precis writing cool and pay attention to those techniques which keep it clear.

Need a Precis Example Which Works?

There are lots of great books and passages that you may be asked to compose a précis of. It is always complicated to compress great authors' ideas because it seems that all of them are important and none can be put aside, but they can. What is a precis? To make your writing process easier, structure your precis writing according to the tips above.

Another time-tested method is to order a top-quality academic precis essay or research paper on any topic in the world from professional online writing services.

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