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How to Write a Precis in 6 Steps

Most students don’t know a lot about this type of assignment until they are forced to complete it. Don’t be surprised if you just recently heard about this type of assignment for the first time; most students are confused about it and end up with so many questions: “What is a precis itself?”, “Where can I start”, and “How do I write a precis?”. Luckily, we are here to give you the answers. In this article, we will discover what this type of work is and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to write it.

Definition of Precis and Its Purpose

According to the precis definition, the word “Précis” comes from the French language and means “precise” or “to cut brief”. A precis is a brief synopsis of another work—for example, a dissertation or a scholarly article. The main purpose of a precis is to sum up any ideas that were stated in the piece, explain the main message, and give readers an idea of how the original piece was structured.

What Kind of Papers Can Contain a Precis?

In a nutshell, a precis is a separate written piece that is not attached to other academic works. Typically, a precis is written in an article – either scholarly or non-scholarly – or any other academic work. Its length can vary, depending on the length of the original piece.

Often, students confuse a precis with another form of writing – a critical analysis. However, they are quite different. Unlike a critical analysis, a precis should not contain your opinion in regard to the original piece.

A good precis has to be short and straight to the point. Yet, what are the other characteristics of this type of writing? Here are the key things to keep in mind:

  1. A precis is a short summary, yet not a paraphrased copy of the original piece.
  2. The text should be precise and clear.
  3. A precis should be written in your own words, but it is allowed to use some quotes from the original piece (though not too many, only the ones that bring real value).
  4. It should not reflect your personal opinion.
  5. It should convey only the most important information and omit secondary ideas.
  6. The key points should be covered as comprehensively as possible.
  7. The information in a precis should be conveyed in a logical sequence, with clear connections between all parts of the text.
  8. It should not contain any details from other sources.
  9. A precis should not include any irrelevant or secondary details.
  10. A precis is always written in the third person, so the use of first person pronouns is not appropriate here.

Apart from a regular precis, there is also another form of this assignment called a rhetorical precis. The essence of this task is the same. However, it is usually much shorter and, thus, harder to write. A rhetorical precis also requires you to sum up core ideas from the original piece, but it has an additional focus on the delivery of the information in the piece. Thus, a rhetorical precis blends a summary and a brief analysis of how the author has conveyed his/her ideas.

The biggest pitfall in writing rhetorical precis is that you should fit everything normally into four sentences. Here is a sample of what needs to be included in a rhetorical precis:

  1. The bibliographical information of the original piece, such as the title, author’s name, date, and other relevant data.
  2. An explanation of how the writer of the piece has developed and supported his/her core ideas.
  3. A statement of the author’s purpose.
  4. The delivery: How the author captures the reader’s attention. Who his/her target audience is. How he/she caters those ideas to readers.
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