Format for Precis (weekly assignments)

There is a difference between a text's facts and the strategy used to present those facts. A "precis" (`pray-see) reflects this difference. It is designed to reflect the structure of a text's argument, not just a set of notes on the text's contents. A precis is one typed page long.

No matter what type, a precis has three sections:

1) A statement about the text's FOCUS. This is the main issue that the text addresses.

**You write a concise statement (1-2 sentences) of that focus.

Likely alternatives:
  • -issues or problems
  • -representative concerns of a group, or its interlocked set of beliefs
  • -institutions/systems
  • -events and their characteristics or repercussions

E.G.: "The structure of the mind and how it relates to behavior in the social world."

What not to do: Do not include journalistic commentary, or examples, or evaluations -- just state what the topic is.

2) A statement of LOGIC and GOAL (its Intent), which will introduce a CHART WITH HEADINGS encompassing the text's data in two parallel columns of notes (usually with page references to the reading).

**You write a sentence describing the logic pattern (E.g., "By examining the sources of _________, the author shows the consequences of ____________"; "In order to ____________, the text correlates the ________ and ____________ of social behaviors.")
Typical verbs indicating such logic: compare, contrast, link causally, cause, follow from . . .

**After that, you write two column headings creating classes of information which the author systematically correlates with each other. Under these headings, you typically add three or four examples which fit the content of the text into its form.

Typical categories of information:

  • -characteristics of a model, role, event
  • -stages in an event or process
  • -sources, conditions, or restrictions on a contexts
  • -participants or interest groups
  • -effects, impact, consequences
  • -goals, purposes to be realized.

3) A paragraph ( ca. 3 sentences) indicating the IMPLICATIONS of the information pattern. This is not a description of the information pattern or focus, but rather an extension of the covert statement implied by the information and pattern. That is, what is this text/precis good for, especially as seen from the outside? In setting the argument up this way, what is being hidden, asserted, or brushed aside? What is new or old-fashioned about the correlations made? Who would profit most by this arrangement?


TOTALS: + 5 = A; +4 = B; + 3 = C; + 2 = D; + 1 = F. Assignments are one page long; top grade is 90 (unless extraordinary synthesis happens in the implications).