How to Add a Document Summary in Google Docs

220279 How to Add a Document Summary in Google Docs

Google Docs is a popular word processing software that makes it easy to create, edit, and collaborate on documents. One useful feature in Google Docs is the ability to add a document summary. A summary gives an overview of the key points and contents of your document. This can help readers quickly understand what your document is about without having to read the entire text.

Adding a summary in Google Docs only takes a few clicks. Follow the steps below to learn how to create an automatic or custom document summary.

Benefits of Adding a Document Summary

Before diving into the how-to steps, let’s look at some of the benefits of adding summaries in Google Docs:

  • Saves reader’s time – Summaries allow readers to get the gist of a long document quickly without having to comb through all the details. This improves efficiency.
  • Highlights key points – A well-written summary focuses on the main topics, conclusions, and takeaways of a document. This helps focus the reader’s attention.
  • Improves SEO – Including a document summary can boost search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines use summaries to understand what a web page or document is about.
  • Creates accessible content – For people using screen readers or other assistive devices, a summary provides helpful context upfront before diving into a long content piece.

Enable the Document Summary Feature

Before you can add a custom or automatic summary to a Google Doc, you first need to enable the Document Summary feature:

  1. Open your Google Doc.
  2. Click Tools > Document Summary.
  3. In the panel that appears on the right, toggle the switch to On. This enables summaries for the current document.

Once enabled, you’ll see new options appear for adding and editing summaries in Google Docs.

Add an Automatic Summary

The fastest way to add a summary to your document is to let Google Docs create one automatically:

  1. With Document Summary enabled, click Tools > Auto Summarize. Alternatively, click the Auto Summarize button in the Document Summary panel.
  2. Google will analyze your document text and automatically generate a summary section at the top. You can tweak the length and style of the auto-generated summary as needed (see customization options below).

The key benefit of automatic summaries is convenience – letting Google Docs scan your document and pull out the most salient points saves you work. The tradeoff is you lose some creative control compared to writing a custom summary.

Write a Custom Document Summary

For more control over your document summary, you can write your own custom one:

  1. Place your cursor at the very top of your Google Doc, above any existing text. This is where your summary will live.
  2. Type a concise overview that summarizes your document’s key points.
  • Keep it short – Aim for no more than a few paragraphs or bullet points. Summaries should give a high-level overview without getting into details.
  • Focus on key points – What are the main takeaways or conclusions of this document? What will readers learn or understand after reading it? Include only the most critical information.
  1. Highlight your summary text and click the Mark as summary option in the Document Summary panel. This tags your custom text as the document summary.

The advantage of custom summaries is you have full creative control to highlight the specific ideas you want readers to take away. The downside is it takes more effort on your part to distill things down to key points.

Customize the Summary Section

Whether you use an automatic or custom summary, Google Docs provides additional options to tweak the summary section:

  • Edit summary text – Click into the summary section to edit, add, or delete text as needed.
  • Change length – Use the slider in the Document Summary panel to make your summary longer or shorter.
  • Modify style – Toggle between three style options:
  • Classic summary (default)
  • Lead paragraph styling
  • Heading 1 styling
  • Update automatically – Turn on “Update when document changes” to automatically refresh the summary when edits are made to the document.

Take advantage of these customization tools to ensure your summary is easy-to-read, informative, and stays in sync with the rest of your document contents as changes occur.

Best Practices for Effective Summaries

Keep these best practices in mind when creating summaries in Google Docs:

  • Focus only on key points and takeaways – do not restate all details or background information. Summaries should be high-level overviews.
  • Condense concepts using clear and concise language. Avoid using unnecessary filler words.
  • Use formatting techniques like bullet points, bolded text, or short paragraphs to make your summary easy to scan.
  • Place critical information like conclusions, recommendations, or next steps at the start of your summary for emphasis.
  • Customize the length and style of your summary appropriately based on document length and reader needs.

Additional Tips

  • Unlike document titles which appear in the title bar, summaries only display within the document itself.
  • You can add summaries to any Google Docs file type: documents, spreadsheets, slides, drawings, etc.
  • For long documents, also make use of the table of contents feature to further help readers navigate.
  • Overly technical summaries defeat the purpose of quickly orienting readers. Gear your summary towards your target audience.

About The Author