Task: Purposeful Summaries

The Purposeful Summary Task

You’ll be writing Purposeful Summaries of three counterintuitive articles as discussed in today’s Purposeful Summary Lecture. Links to dozens of candidate articles can be found in the sidebar of the blog. You may make use of those articles, or follow a trail from those links to find sources of your own. In either case, provide links inside your own post to guide me to your sources.

  1. Read the Purposeful Summary Lecture carefully and examine the models there as your guide for good summary.
  2. Read Apple’s Face Palm Bug” as another example of a counterintuitive event.
  3. Select three articles from the Counterintuitivities list in the blog’s sidebar.
  4. Write Purposeful Summaries of the three articles. (See instructions below.)
  5. Publish your work in a new post.


You don’t need to be sincere. As long as your writing indicates an understanding of the counterintuitive nature of the topic, and summarizes the source material in such a way that your entries emphasize that counterintuitivity, I will consider any crazy conclusions you come to.

Semester-long Strategies to consider

If you’re using this exercise to investigate possible counterintuitive topics for your Semester-long Research Position paper, you need to answer the question, “Is there anything further to say about this topic once I have completed a summary of the first source? Does the topic interest me enough to spend two months investigating? Will I be able to find a range of sources (not just a number of sources) from both academic and non-academic publications?”

Forbidden Rhetoric for this Exercise

  • DO NOT begin by citing the article you’re summarizing.
  • In other words, DO NOT begin by saying “In the article, ‘Is This Photo Ethical?’ the author describes what happened in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.”
  • DO NOT say that the author “talks about” an earthquake.

Required Rhetoric

  • Begin all three summaries with the phrase “It seems counterintuitive that . . . .”
  • Use what you’ve learned about (for example) the earthquake, its aftermath, the throng of reporters who descended on Haiti, the roles they have to balance to be both humane and professional. Make an argument of your own, very possibly one that contradicts any position the original author may have taken.
  • Suppress the identity of the article and its author(s).
  • Write as if you are describing the subject matter first hand.
  • Argue, demonstrate, persuade; in other words, use the material you are summarizing for a purpose!

The Task

Before class THU FEB 09, create your own summaries of three counterintuitive articles. You may make use of the topics linked to the sidebar, or follow those links to find sources of your own. In either case, provide links inside your own post to guide me to your sources.


  • DUE: THU FEB 09 (11:59 pm WED FEB 08).
  • Publish your assignment in two categories: Purposeful Summaries and the category for your username found under Author.
  • Give your post the title Summaries–Username, substituting your own username, of course.
  • Word count is irrelevant, but thorough analyses of whatever length will be graded higher than superficial writing that wastes words. Complex ideas briefly expressed are rewarded best.
  • Start each summary with the statement: “It seems counterintuitive that . . . .”
  • You will receive just one grade for this draft, which is intended to diagnose your abilities and needs. If you request feedback, you’ll receive guidance to help you improve your grade, one time, with a Rewrite.
  • There will be no formal Rewrite assignment two weeks from now.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Non-Portfolio Grade (20% category)

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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