Writing a Summative Essay - A Guide with Tips and Examples

author By Mary Boies

Summative essays are among the most common ones academic tutors and lecturers use to assess their students' analytical and learning abilities. This type of essay is normally used to examine the students’ comprehension and knowledge of certain concepts or course material. And just like other essays, summative essays have three main sections: the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Summative assessments synthesize students’ understanding and learning of specific academic content and are often administered at the end of an academic year or term. These assessments usually establish the overall comprehension and proficiency of the evaluated topic.

This, however, leaves a lot of students uncertain of where to begin and what to do. But do not fuss! You do not need to panic; this comprehensive guide will break down everything you need about summative essays.  That said, keep on scrolling to find out more.

What is a Summative Essay?

Summative essays require students to assess and synthesize the information learned and knowledge gained over a semester or a particular unit.

A summative essay is often written at the conclusion of a semester or unit, permitting learners to display the knowledge gained over that duration.

To write an excellent summative essay, you should be able to identify the most important points from your coursework and arrange them into a rational argument.

Note that summative essays often assume the form of argumentative essays, whereby you should take a position on the issue being discussed and then support these claims using relevant proof.

Nonetheless, summative essays can also assume other forms like explanatory essays, personal narratives, and compare-and-contrast essays. No matter what form they assume, summative essays offer great opportunities for students to ponder on their learning and display their comprehension of the course material.

Remember that the length and complexity of a summative essay depend on the student’s academic level. The students must have a great understanding of the style and aim of the assessment to come up with an effective summative essay.

Types of Summative Essays

There are different types of summative essays. Below are the main types of summative essays.

Explanatory/ Information

This is the most common type in social science programs. It primarily collects key ideas, main arguments, and domain-specific hypothetical ideas taught within the unit plan.


Opinion essays require students to state their thinking and then support it with logic and facts.


The evaluative kind of summative writing usually requires you to take a specific idea or element discussed during the unit and evaluate or assess it using a particular criterion. For such essays, you should take a stance on the chosen theme and back it with unit materials and textual evidence.


This kind of writing requires establishing and developing a claim made in the introduction of the essay, and reputable resources should support this claim in the essay’s main body. Conversely, the opposing claim illustrates the opposing point of view with relevant supporting proof.


Theorizing is a type of writing that answers questions like “what if? “Here, a theory is presented on a certain theme that depicts or contrasts with reality.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast summative essays comprise qualities and attributes the student could compare and contrast using text and research evidence. They do not require the student to prioritize one choice over another, and it, however, does require you to display an understanding of both and then make a comparison.

Structure of a Summative Essay

A summative essay takes shape and structure of the typical academic essay with an introduction, body paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs.

The Introduction

The introduction is among the most critical parts of the paper, given that it offers a brief overview of its topic and main argument. It should immediately grab the reader's attention and give them a general feel of the remainder of the paper. And if you struggle to develop a good introduction for your essay, try using an anecdote or hook to engage the reader from the word go. The thesis statement, where necessary, is also included here.

The Main Body Paragraphs

For this section, it is vital to concentrate on key points and provide proof to support your thesis. Every paragraph should focus on an individual point. In addition, each paragraph should conclude in a sentence that links it back to the thesis.

By concentrating on different key arguments and providing relevant proof to support your thesis, you can effectively convey your position to the reader. Also, concluding all your body paragraphs with a sentence that links back to your thesis will remind your reader of your essay’s overall argument.

Related Reading: Parts of a body paragraph.

The Conclusion

The conclusion of a summative essay briefly summarizes the main points and clarifies how they support the overall argument. Additionally, the conclusion should offer the reader a sense of closure by answering any pending queries or concerns that might have surfaced in the essay.

A brief and precise summary of your essay’s main points ensures your reader completely comprehends your standpoint. In addition, tackling lingering concerns or questions gives your essay a sense of conclusiveness. All in all, the aim of your essay conclusion should be to provide your readers with a proper understanding of your argument.

Steps for Writing a Summative Essay

Here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to write an excellent summative essay.

Step one: Know your essay topic

Though this appears to be the most straightforward process, many people often disregard it. Many writers look at different topics and then pick one because it seems to be the simplest or has found enough content.

Having some level of understanding for your lecturer’s or tutor’s opinion is vital here. What do they expect and want from you? This is an important step in producing relevant content for your summative essay. If you are somewhat confused about the topic, you can discuss it with your professor or colleagues.

Step two: Conduct research for the relevant content

Now that you clearly understand your summative essay’s topic, you can go through your lecture notes or any available academic sources. Skim over the most important points. You can even refresh your brain with your course syllabus or study material.

And if you are lucky enough to have attended a workshop, seminar, or training course on the chosen topic, you’ll have ample knowledge to put down.

Step three: Prepare an Outline

While going through relevant material, you can divide the literature into small paragraphs, giving you a quick overview of the literature. Most importantly, when skimming through the material, have the essay topic at the back of your head to note any valuable and relevant information.

Take note of any critical points that you feel may support your essay. Make sure you re-read all paragraphs and highlight all vital points. Mark those areas that you will want to refer to in your essay and those points you do not wish to include.

Step four: Come Up With A Thesis Statement for Your Essay

A thesis statement is simply a brief statement that recaps your essay’s main argument. Your thesis statement should be brief and precise. It should also be specific enough that it is easily supportable by evidence from your research.

Step five: Write the Introduction

Your essay’s introduction should quickly introduce the reader to your essay’s main points. Also, remember to keep the intro short, not more than seven sentences. The thesis statement should be the final remark of your introduction.

The best sentence starters for summative essays include present tense verbs that adopt an active voice. For instance, “the aim of this essay is to” or “this paper will argue that.” You develop an engaging and livelier writing style by opening your sentences using an active voice and in the present tense.

Moreover, good sentence openers for summative essays can also incorporate strong statements or rhetorical questions. For example, you can start your summative essay with a question like “What’s the real value of friendship?” or a sentence like “It is the little things in life that matter.” Opening your essay with such attention-capturing sentences ensures that the reader is hooked from the start.

Step six: Write the Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should highlight one main point that should be stated clearly in the first sentence. Use the rest of the paragraph to support the main point with proof from your previous research. Ensure all sources are referenced using the appropriate format (APA, MLA, Harvard).

End each body paragraph with a statement summarizing the main point and supporting your arguments.

Step Seven: Write the Conclusion

Your conclusion should briefly summarize the main points of your essay and have a strong conclusion sentence that leaves the reader with something to think about after reading your paper. Once again, this should not be too long; five to six sentences are enough.

The Outline Format for a Summative Essay

Below is what a five-paragraph summative essay outline looks like, together with the critical elements that it features:

Paragraph one: Introduction

  1. Hook sentence (attention grabber).
  2. Concise background information to give the reader a small preview of what is being discussed in the rest of the essay.
  3. Thesis statement.

Paragraph two: Body paragraph one

  1. Topic sentence: The first main idea of your essay clarifies the topic.
  2. Support proof.
  3. Analysis of the proof.
  4. Final remarks and then moving to the next point.

Paragraph three: Body paragraph two

  1. Topic sentence: It is the essay’s second main idea.
  2. Supporting proof.
  3. Analysis of the proof.
  4. Final remarks and then moving to the next point.

Paragraph four: Body paragraph three

  1. Topic sentence: It is the essay’s third main point.
  2. Supporting proof.
  3. Analysis of the proof.
  4. Final remarks.

Paragraph five: Conclusion

  1. Restate your thesis statement.
  2. A summary of the entire essay.
  3. Address unanswered questions or lingering concerns.
  4. Call to action.

Example Outline for a Summative Essay

Below is an example of an explanatory summative essay outline that discusses how modern technological improvements have transformed human behavior and facilitated progress.

Paragraph one: Introduction

  1. Improvements in technology have transformed the universe into a global village.
  2. Background information on the low productivity levels before the improvements in technology.
  3. Thesis statement: Technological advancement enhanced human learning, thus paving the way for reformation.

Paragraph two: Situation before technological improvements

  1. Describe the low productivity levels before advancements in technology.
  2. Discuss how technology has impacted infrastructure, economies, education, and communication.
  3. Illustrate how this has promoted global change.

Paragraph three: Development and spread of technology

  1. Discuss the foundation of algebra and how this has helped to transform the technological world today.
  2. Demonstrate the consequences of this new technology on transport and production.
  3. Discuss the quick spread of technological advancements.
  4. Link this information to reformation.

Paragraph four: Impact of technology on reformation

  1. Discuss how ease of access to information globally has helped individuals.
  2. Discuss how technology has aided humans during the reformation period.
  3. Discuss the significant impacts these technological advancements have had on the planet.

Paragraph five: Conclusion

  1. Restate the thesis statement: Technological advancement enhanced human learning, thus paving the way for reformation.
  2. Provide a summary of the main points in the paper.
  3. Highlight the value of technological improvements to the world today.

Sample Summative Essay

A compare and contrast summative essay comparing the economic system of Canada and that of the USA.

Both Canada and the USA are capitalist countries with a capitalist economic system. While these two North American countries use the same economic system, there are several differences in their approach to capitalism. Canada’s capitalist economic system is highly regulated compared to the American one. There is more state intervention in Canada to ensure the citizenry has access to crucial services like education and healthcare. In contrast, the USA’s capitalist economic system is more laissez-faire, and the government plays a relatively smaller role in the market.

Both capitalist economic systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Canada's highly regulated economic system ensures that most citizens get high-quality and affordable education and healthcare services from the public. However, the system also tends to lead to greater government bureaucracy. On the other hand, the laissez-faire approach employed by the USA ensures more innovation and private sector investments. Nevertheless, it also leads to increased inequality as it puts more money in the pockets of the rich.

While both economic systems have advantages and disadvantages, Canada's highly-regulated approach to capitalism is better than the American system. This is because it ensures the public enjoys high-quality and affordable essential services.

How to start a summative essay?

Summative essays are short. While they are short, an introduction is still necessary. And the introduction better contains everything you would expect in a typical introduction for it to be considered complete. A typical essay introduction starts with an attention-grabbing statement, followed by background information, and then a thesis statement. Ensure your summative essay introduction has all these things if you want it to be considered complete.

How to end a Summative Essay?

A summative essay ends with a conclusion. The perfect way to write a conclusion for a summative essay is to start with a restatement of the thesis and then provide a summary of the main points. If the essay is too short (less than 250 words), nobody will expect you to dwell on restating the thesis or summarizing the main points. A short concluding sentence will suffice. Nevertheless, you must restate the thesis and the main points for a proper conclusion. You also need to finish a powerful concluding statement that captures what you hope the impact of your research will be.

Tips for writing the best Summative Essay

Follow the tips below to become an expert summative essay writer.

  1. Brainstorm after reading instructions. After reading the instructions provided by your instructor for your summative essay, you should brainstorm; you should think about what the instructor wants for a couple of minutes. Doing this will help you to settle on a good topic. It will also help you to decide early what you want to do or to prove in your paper. Of course, this will make it easier for you to conduct research.
  2. Always use an outline. Before you start writing any essay, you should always create an outline. An outline is very important because it gives an essay structure and flow. Writing your summative essay without an outline may miss good structure and flow, resulting in a low or average grade.
  3. Credible sources only. It is absolutely crucial to use only credible sources in your research. Because if you don’t, you can easily be misled in your essay. Furthermore, you can get an average or low grade. Instructors do not like learners who use non-credible sources such as blogs, random websites, and social media, as they think it is lazy and non-professional. So ensure you strictly use credible sources if you want a high grade on your essay.
  4. Do not forget to proofread your work. You must proofread your work when you are done. Nobody writes a perfect essay in their first draft. Therefore, it is vital to proofread your work after you finish it. Proofread it to eliminate grammar errors, typos, sentence errors, and so on. Ensuring it is flawless will increase your chances of getting a high grade in your final exams.
  5. Cite your sources. An essay without cited sources is not a complete essay. You will not get top marks in an essay if you don’t provide in-text citations and reference page references. You are a learner, so when you are asked to write an essay, you are essentially being tested on your ability to find the correct information from experts and analyze it. Do not make the mistake of presenting a paper without references, and you will be penalized.

And with all that, what next?

Summative essays are fun to write, and you have everything you need to know to write a brilliant summative essay. The ball is in your court. If you have an assignment, it is now time to put what you have learned into practice.

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