Writing: Note-Taking Summarising Example 2

Academic Writing

Summarising & note-taking


Example 2

As part of a piece of writing, you need to include a section of about 100 words on the advantages and disadvantages of progress from the Samoans’ point of view. You find the following text:

Progress in Samoa

Samoa Sasa sat cross-legged in his one-room, open-air home, shooing away chickens that strutted across the floor mats. Bananas cooked on the wood stove. Naked children cried in nearby huts. From one hut came the voice of Sinatra singing ‘Strangers in the Night’ on a local radio station.
The sound of progress frightened Sasa. For most of his 50 years time has stood still. Now small European-styled homes are springing up around his village in Western Samoa and the young men are leaving for New Zealand. In the town there are experts from all over the world advising the Samoan Government on many development projects that Sasa does not understand.
The people of Luatuanuu Village – including his eight children – have always worked the banana plantations and respected the custom that the Matais (family chiefs) like Sasa represented absolute authority.
They owned all the land communally, they elected a parliament and they administered justice in each village, thus leaving few duties for the nation’s 219-man police force. Would all that, too, change? Sasa wondered.
‘We are a poor country and change must come,’ Sasa said through a translator. ‘But I do not want it so fast. I do not want my children to go to New Zealand to look for big money. I want them to stay here in Luatuanuu and work our plantations as we always have done.’
The confusion Sasa feels is shared by many of the 150,000 Western Samoans – and undoubtedly by the peoples of other newly independent, developing nations as well. The capital, Apia, is teeming with people wanting to help: an 80-member US Peace Corps headquarters, experts from the United Nations, investors from Japan, analysts from the Asian Development Bank and civil engineers from New Zealand.
Already streets are being torn up for a new road system. The hospital is being rebuilt with a loan from New Zealand. A new $1 million Government hotel has opened to promote tourism – an industry the country is not quite sure it wants. A loan from the Asian Development Bank will modernise the communications system. Japanese investors have opened a sawmill and are building houses. When these and many other development schemes are completed and Western Samoa, one of the world’s poorest nations in cash terms, is forced into the twentieth century, what is to become of its culture?
‘Most Samoans want the modern amenities, but they don’t want to throw away our culture to get them,’ said Felise Va’a, editor of the Samoan Times. ‘There is no easy answer because in many ways our culture retards development. The question people are asking is, what is a balance between the past and the future?’
The tradition of communal land ownership stultifies individual incentive and has resulted in neglect of the land. The system of permitting only the nation’s 15,000 Matais to elect 45 of the 47 MPs destroys political involvement. The exodus to New Zealand – and the money the emigrants send home – creates a false economy and results in thousands of Samoan families ignoring the land and living off the earnings of their expatriate children.
New Zealand permits 1,500 Western Samoan immigrants a year and each year 1,500 – one per cent of the population – go. They, together with thousands of other Samoans in New Zealand on temporary work visas, send home about $3 millions a year. The money provides a boost to Western Samoa’s agricultural economy, but it also is inflationary, and the inflation rate has been 35 per cent in two years.
Western Samoa has travelled a long way in the 12 years since independence. It has political stability and a people who are 90 per cent literate. It offers investors a cheap labour force, and a land that is 80 per cent uncultivated. It offers visitors the most uncorrupted Polynesian culture left anywhere today.

(From an article in The Guardian by David Lamb)

How do you go about it?

One possible approach is to go through the following steps:

  1. Read through the text from beginning to end.
  2. Remember your purpose: to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of progress from the Samoans’ point of view.
  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.
  5. Change the structure. You should now have a brief list in your own words of all the points you marked in 4.
    • Sasa frightened by progress
    • doesn’t understand development
    • Samoa poor country, needs change
    • Sasa doesn’t want change fast
    • doesn’t want young people to emigrate
    • many other Samoans confused
    • Samoans want benefits of progress
    • but don’t want to lose traditional culture
    • they want balance past and future
    • system of land ownership inefficient
    • electoral system undemocratic
    • money sent by emigrants good for economy
    • but causes inflation and neglect of land
  6. Without looking at the original text, join these points together into a paragraph. Change the order of the points if necessary, to make the construction more logical. Use conjunctions and adverbs such as ‘therefore’, ‘however’, ‘although’, ‘since’, to show the connections between the ideas.

Here is a possible paragraph:

Samoa is a very poor country with an inefficient system of land ownership and an undemocratic electoral system. Change is necessary; however, many Samoans, like Samoa Sasa, are worried about the speed of development. They want the benefits of progress, but find it difficult to understand what is happening, and are frightened of losing their traditional way of life. They do not want their young people to leave for New Zealand, and although the emigrants send money home, the increased wealth is causing neglect of the land and inflation. Samoa’s problem is to find a compromise between past and future.

Look again at the text, just to check that you have not changed the meaning of anything; make corrections or rewrite the paragraph if necessary.

Now try this question yourself: As part of the same essay, you need to include a paragraph of not more than 100 words describing the changes that are taking place in Samoa. Write the paragraph.

Press {modal index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=648&catid=152&Itemid=567|width=500|height=300}this{/modal} to see a possible answer.

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