Writing a Precis Efficiently in 6 Simple Steps

NRS-430V Contemporary Nursing Practice

Learning how to write a precis in nursing is a valuable skill that can improve critical thinking, reading comprehension, and the ability to communicate large amounts of information succinctly and effectively. This guide will take you on this journey, detailing every step and offering insights on navigating the challenges of precis writing in nursing.

Introduction to Precis Writing

In academic circles, a precis is formal writing that involves summarizing a reading assignment or literature. A nursing precis, in particular, distills complex patient information, research findings, or nursing literature into a succinct yet comprehensive format. It’s a tool that presents the essence of the original content in a condensed form without losing its context or meaning.

The importance of precis writing in nursing cannot be overstated. A well-written nursing precis can help streamline communication between healthcare professionals, improve patient outcomes, and contribute to the overall efficiency of healthcare delivery. Thus, honing this skill can be a game-changer in your nursing career, equipping you with a powerful tool to succeed in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape. Let’s dive in and explore the world of nursing precis writing.

What is a Precis: The Definition

At the heart of academic and professional writing lies the art of condensing information without losing the core message, a skill that involves crafting what is known as a precis. But what exactly is a precis?

A precis, derived from the French term ‘precis,’ meaning ‘precise’ or ‘brief,’ is a compact, clear, and precise summary of a text, be it an article, a book, a type of essay, a research paper, or even a speech. It’s an art of condensation, reducing lengthy texts to one-fourth or one-third of their original length while encapsulating the key points, main arguments, and central ideas.

In nursing, a Precis can be vital for communicating complex patient data, research findings, or nursing procedures concisely, accurately, and easily digestible. This unique combination of brevity and clarity makes a precis a highly effective tool in both academic and professional settings, equipping nursing professionals with the ability to convey complex information in a simplified manner.

The Purpose of a Precis

A nursing precis serves as a bridge between extensive medical literature or research and its succinct understanding. It is designed to provide a compact, coherent summary of vast data, distilling it to the bare minimum without losing its essence or meaning. This clear, comprehensive presentation of the original work’s primary points aids in the understanding and communication of the main findings or ideas.

What Kind of Papers Can Contain a Precis?

Almost any type of nursing academic paper can contain a precis. This includes research papers, literature reviews, clinical study reports, and dissertations. A precis helps provide a snapshot of these documents, offering readers an overview without going into excessive detail.

Why Are Students Assigned to Write a Precis?

Precis writing assignments are an academic exercise and a skill-building initiative for nursing students. It serves multiple purposes geared towards preparing students for the demands of the nursing profession. Here are the reasons why nursing students are assigned to write precis:

  • Development of Summarizing Skills: One of the primary objectives of assigning precis writing to nursing students is to hone their summarizing skills. By regularly practicing the art of writing precis, students learn to condense extensive and complex information into a clear, concise format. This skill is vital in nursing, where detailed reports and patient histories must be summarized for easy understanding and quick reference.
  • Enhancing Comprehension: Precis writing demands a thorough understanding of the original text. Thus, it encourages nursing students to read literature more attentively and promotes better comprehension of complex medical content.
  • Effective Communication: Precis writing is a pathway to effective communication. It encourages students to present information succinctly and is essential for communicating medical information to patients, families, and the healthcare team.
  • Critical Thinking: The process of precis writing also engages the students in critical thinking. They must identify the original work’s main arguments, evidence, and conclusions and present them in a structured summary. This aids in developing their analytical skills, which are crucial in nursing for diagnosing and problem-solving.
  • Time Management: In the fast-paced healthcare environment, time is a crucial factor. The ability to quickly read and summarize medical literature or patient information can save precious time, enabling more efficient care. This piece of writing helps nursing students to develop this skill.
  • Preparation for Professional Life: Precis writing in nursing education also prepares for professional life. Nurses must often create brief yet comprehensive patient care reports, shift reports, and documentation. The skill of precis writing equips them to perform these tasks efficiently.

Precis Format

A nursing precis should adhere to the principles of writing a summary or precis: conciseness, objectivity, coherency, clarity, and correctness.

  • Conciseness: The precis should be brief, typically one-third the length of the essay. Every sentence must be essential to the overall understanding of the work.
  • Objectivity: The precis must accurately represent the author’s ideas without personal bias or interpretation.
  • Coherency: The ideas in the precis must logically flow from one to another, maintaining the same order as the original text.
  • Clarity: The precis must be understandable to the reader. Avoid medical jargon if possible, and explain terms when necessary.
  • Correctness: The precis must be free from grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.

Precis Format Types

When dealing with precis writing skills in nursing, one may encounter several different types. Each type serves a specific purpose and requires a unique approach. Here’s an in-depth look at four such formats:


The critical precis is a brief, concise review of an article. In it, you distill the main points and arguments, providing an overview of the evidence presented in the article. It is called ‘critical’ not because it criticizes the work but because it critically examines the content, meticulously extracting the key points for the Precis. It helps readers understand the substance of the article at a glance, facilitating quick decision-making on whether to delve into the details.


Unlike a critical precis, a rhetorical precis doesn’t just distill the main points; it delves deeper into the author’s methodology. It involves summarizing the main arguments and outlining the strategies used by the author to present their points. A rhetorical precis does not include personal opinions or interpretations; it focuses on providing an objective summary of the author’s rhetorical strategies.


This type focuses on summarizing a research article or study in nursing. A research precis encapsulates the research’s purpose, methodology, findings, and implications in a compact format. It is an invaluable tool for readers who wish to understand the research without reading the entire study. It also provides a handy reference for scholars and practitioners who wish to recall the gist of the research without revisiting the complete text.


Literary precis comes into play when dealing with literature, including biographies, autobiographies, novels, or any narrative text related to nursing or healthcare. It concisely summarizes the work’s plot, characters, and main themes, giving readers a glimpse into the text’s essence without revealing intricate details.

How to Write a Précis: Style

The style of your nursing precis is key to maintaining its readability and professional tone. Your precis should reflect the tone and structure of the original work, ensuring that it remains an accurate representation of the source material. Here are some style guidelines you should follow when writing a nursing precis:

  • Precis Title: Your title should be informative and precise. Standard practice is to start with ‘Precis of [Author’s Name]’s “[Name of Work/Article]”. ‘ This format ensures the reader knows immediately the work that has been summarized.
  • Font Size: A 12-point font size is standard for academic and professional writing. This site is easy to read on both printed and digital documents.
  • Spacing: Double spacing is a common practice in academic writing. It enhances readability and allows room for notes or comments.
  • Margins: Ensure that your document has at least a 1-inch margin on all sides. This makes the text less crowded and easier to read, leaving space for notes or annotations.
  • Name and Pledge: Place your name and a statement of originality at the end of your precis. This declares that the work is yours and that you have accurately and fairly summarized the original text.
  • The tone of Voice: Stick to the author’s voice from the original piece. If the author’s tone is formal, maintain that formality in your precis. Avoid interjecting personal opinions or emotions.
  • Direct Quotations: If you must use direct quotes, use quotation marks and include the page number in parentheses after the quote. However, try to minimize the use of direct quotes in a precis. Instead, strive to rephrase the author’s ideas in your own words.
  • Order and Organization: Keep the information order in your precis the same as in the original article. This continuity helps the reader follow the author’s progress of ideas and arguments.

How to Write a Precis in 6 Steps

Writing a nursing precis involves distilling complex and extensive information into a concise and readable format. Here are six steps to guide you through this process:

Step 1: Pick the article, work, or story you will write a precis on

You should opt for an article, a research paper, a case study, or nursing literature that aligns well with your current studies or professional interests. The chosen text should be relevant to your nursing field, providing fresh insights, methodologies, or perspectives. Moreover, it should be sufficiently complex and lengthy, allowing for a challenging yet feasible precis-writing task.

Ensure you fully understand the content. If a text is overly complex or dense, it may pose difficulties in distillation and summarization. However, a certain level of complexity can also offer valuable learning opportunities, as it will challenge your comprehension and summarization skills. Your chosen text should come from a credible and reputable source, as this ensures the reliability of the information.

Step 2: Read the original piece

The aim of the first reading is to understand the overall theme, the key arguments, and the structure of the text. As you read, ask yourself, ‘What is the author’s main argument?’ and ‘What evidence does the author use to support their claims?’ Try comprehending the author’s perspective rather than forming your own opinions or judgments about the content. 

Highlight or underline important points as you read. This will help you when you start to create your precis. Pay close attention to the introduction and conclusion, as these sections often contain the most significant points of the text. Don’t hesitate to read the text multiple times until you feel confident you’ve understood the author’s intent and main arguments. 

Step 3: Re-read it and take notes

Your focus during this stage should be identifying the core arguments, the supporting evidence, and other critical details from the text. One method is to divide your notes into different sections based on the parts of the article. You could have sections for the introduction, methodology, results, and conclusion.

While taking notes, stick to the objective of writing a precis. That is, capture the key points and arguments without personal bias or interpretation. These notes should serve as the skeleton for your precis, helping you distill the vast information in the original text into a concise, coherent summary. It’s also a good practice to record any unique terms or jargon the author uses. 

Step 4: Make an outline

An essay outline serves as a roadmap, guiding you through the writing process and ensuring that you stick to the main points and maintain the order of the original text. Your outline should be structured similarly to the original text. If the original text has an introduction, body, and conclusion, so should your precis. Ensure that each part of your outline reflects the corresponding section in the original text. 

Step 5: Write a precis

Begin your precis by stating the author’s name, the work’s title, and the main thesis or argument of the work. This part serves as the introduction of your precis and should capture the essence of the original work. Following the introduction, proceed to the body of your precis. This should cover the original text’s major points, arguments, and supporting evidence.

However, ensure you present these in your own words and maintain a neutral, third-person perspective. Conclude your precis by summarizing the overall message or implications of the original work. Ensure your essay conclusion ties back to the thesis or argument you presented in the introduction.

Step 6: Proofreading and editing

Look for any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors. Correct these immediately to enhance the readability and credibility of your precis. Use this opportunity to check for deviations from the original text’s intent or tone. Ensure your precis maintains objectivity, accurately representing the original work without adding personal bias.

Next, evaluate the structure of your precis. Check if it follows the sequence of the original text and presents the key points logically and coherently. Lastly, review your precis for conciseness. Eliminate redundant words or phrases and ensure every sentence contributes to understanding the original work.

Citing a Precis for an Academic Essay

Even though a precis is a summary of someone else’s work, it is still your unique interpretation. Therefore, citing your sources is vital to avoid accusations of plagiarism. When citing a precis, you should focus on two main areas: In-Text Citations and Works Cited.

  • In-Text Citations: These are used when directly quoting or paraphrasing a source in your precis. The citation style can depend on your institutional guidelines or the journal you are writing for.

For example, if you’re using the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style and you quote a source written by John Doe, an in-text citation might look like this:

“Doe (2020) found that patient outcomes improved significantly with personalized care.”

Or, if you’re paraphrasing:

  • “Personalized care was associated with better patient outcomes (Doe, 2020).”
  • Works Cited: This is the reference section at the end of your precis, where you list all the sources you referenced in your precis. Again, the formatting of this section will depend on the citation style you’re using (APA, MLA, etc.)

In APA style, a citation for a journal article in your works cited section might look like this:

Doe, J. (2020). The Impact of Personalized Care on Patient Outcomes. Journal of Nursing, 12(4), 123-130.

Precis Examples: Different Types

Below, you’ll find examples of the different types of nursing precis:

Critical Precis Example

Original Article: “The Impact of Personalized Care on Patient Outcomes” by John Doe

Precis: In his article, “The Impact of Personalized Care on Patient Outcomes,” John Doe presents a compelling argument that personalizing patient care can lead to significantly improved health outcomes. He substantiates his claim with extensive research studies, providing ample empirical evidence to back his arguments.

Rhetorical Precis Example

Original Article: “The Need for More Hands-On Training in Nursing Education” by Jane Smith

Precis: In her article “The Need for More Hands-On Training in Nursing Education,” Jane Smith asserts that nursing students require more practical training for effective patient care. Smith employs statistical data, expert testimonials, and comparisons to persuade her readers of the importance of implementing more hands-on training in nursing education.

Research Precis Example

Original Research: “Efficacy of Music Therapy in Reducing Patient Anxiety” by Alex Lee

Precis: Alex Lee’s research “Efficacy of Music Therapy in Reducing Patient Anxiety” examines the potential benefits of music therapy in reducing patient anxiety. Through a rigorous study involving 100 patients, Lee found that music therapy could significantly reduce anxiety levels, suggesting its potential utility in healthcare settings.

Literary Precis Example

Original Literature: “Nurses on the Front Line: A Tale of Heroism and Sacrifice” by Emily Brown

Precis: Emily Brown’s book, “Nurses on the Front Line: A Tale of Heroism and Sacrifice,” recounts nurses’ heroic deeds and sacrifices during the global health crisis. Brown interweaves personal narratives with larger social and historical contexts, presenting a moving testament to the dedication and courage of nurses.

How to Write a Precis: Final Thoughts

Writing a nursing precis is an essential academic and professional skill. Distilling complex literature or research into a concise, coherent summary encourages clear, effective communication, a cornerstone of nursing practice. As you continue to write precis, your comprehension, and summarizing skills will improve, which will undoubtedly serve you well in your nursing career.

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Precis Writing FAQs

How Do You Write a Rhetorical Precis?

A rhetorical precis follows a structured format and includes the author’s name, the work’s title, the medium, the main arguments or points, the evidence provided, and the purpose of the work. Remember to use the third person and a formal tone.

How Long Should a Precis Be?

A precis should be approximately one-third the length of the original text. It should be concise yet capture all the main points of the original work.

What is a Rhetorical Precis?

A rhetorical precis is a highly structured summary of literature or speech. It summarizes the original work’s main points, argument, and structure, focusing on the ‘how’ of the argument, not just the ‘what.’

What is the Best Way to Write a Precis?

The best way to write a precis is to read the original text thoroughly, understand the main arguments and points, and then condense this into a concise, objective summary following the original text’s order. The precis should be written in your own words, without personal bias or opinion.

In Which Person a Precis Written?

A precis is written in the third person. The language should be formal and objective, and it should not include personal opinions or commentary.

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