Reading Skills for Academic Study

Summarising & note-taking

Summarising

Example

As part of an essay, you need to include a section of about 100 words on the formation of volcanic islands. You find the following text:

Volcanic Islands

Islands have always fascinated the human mind. Perhaps it is the instinctive response of man, the land animal, welcoming a brief intrusion of earth in the vast, overwhelming expanse of sea. When sailing in a great ocean basin, a thousand miles from the nearest continent, with miles of water beneath the ship, one may come upon an island which has been formed by a volcanic eruption under the sea. One's imagination can follow its slopes down through darkening waters to its base on the sea floor. One wonders why and how it arose there in the midst of the ocean.

The birth of a volcanic island is an event marked by prolonged and violent travail: the forces of the earth striving to create, and all the forces of the sea opposing. At the place where the formation of such an island begins, the sea floor is probably nowhere more than about fifty miles thick. In it are deep cracks and fissures, the results of unequal cooling and shrinkage in past ages. Along such lines of weakness the molten lava from the earth's interior presses up and finally bursts forth into the sea. But a submarine volcano is different from a terrestrial eruption, where the lava, molten rocks, and gases are hurled into the air from an open crater. Here on the bottom of the ocean the volcano has resisting it all the weight of the ocean water above it. Despite the immense pressure of, it may be, two or three miles of sea water, the new volcanic cone builds upwards towards the surface, in flow after flow of lava. Once within reach of the waves, its soft ash is violently attacked by the motion of the water which continually washes away its upper surface, so that for a long period the potential island may remain submerged. But eventually, in new eruptions, the cone is pushed up into the air, where the lava hardens and forms a rampart against the attacks of the waves.

  1. Read the passage carefully twice from beginning to end.
  2. Remember your purpose: to describe the formation of a volcanic island.
  3. Select the relevant information
  4. Mark all the points which should come into your answer. Do this very carefully, and be sure not to miss anything.
The birth of a volcanic island is an event marked by prolonged and violent travail: the forces of the earth striving to create, and all the forces of the sea opposing. At the place where the formation of such an island begins, the sea floor is probably nowhere more than about fifty miles thick. In it are deep cracks and fissures, the results of unequal cooling and shrinkage in past ages. Along such lines of weakness the molten lava from the earth's interior presses up and finally bursts forth into the sea. But a submarine volcano is different from a terrestrial eruption, where the lava, molten rocks, and gases are hurled into the air from an open crater. Here on the bottom of the ocean the volcano has resisting it all the weight of the ocean water above it. Despite the immense pressure of, it may be, two or three miles of sea water, the new volcanic cone builds upwards towards the surface, in flow after flow of lava. Once within reach of the waves, its soft ash is violently attacked by the motion of the water which continually washes away its upper surface, so that for a long period the potential island may remain submerged. But eventually, in new eruptions, the cone is pushed up into the air, where the lava hardens and forms a rampart against the attacks of the waves.
  1. Make notes
    • island formation: earth versus sea.
    • where? sea bed, not more 50 miles thick, cracked and uneven.
    • weak  lava bursts through.
    • c.f. land volcano: no sea pressure
    • how? lava cone pushes upwards
    • surface - washed away by waves  submerged
    • lava hardens  island.
  1. Using this list of points, write your rough draft, referring to the original only when you want to make sure of some point.

    A volcanic island comes into being after a long and violent struggle has taken place between the forces of the earth and the sea. The island begins to form when hot lava breaks through weak points on the sea-bed where the earth's crust is not more than fifty miles thick and is marked by deep cracks. The volcanic island, unlike a land volcano, has to push up through the immense pressure of the sea. The cone made up of lava finally reaches the surface, but it does not appear because waves wash away its upper surface. When the lava hardens it stands up to the waves and the island is formed.

  2. After correcting your draft, write an accurate copy of your text.

    A volcanic island is born only after a long and violent struggle between the forces of the earth and the sea. It begins to form when hot lava breaks through a cracked and uneven part of the sea-bed where the earth's crust is weak. Unlike the land volcano, it has to build upwards despite the immense water-pressure until it finally reaches the surface. Even then it is too soft to withstand the waves and remains underwater until the cone is pushed into the air from below and the lava hardens.

  3. Check your work.

    Take care to make your text accurate. Your sentences should be well connected to each other so that your text reads as a continuous paragraph.

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