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PSYCH 241: Human Sexuality: Writing a Precis

Created Aug. 25, 2016

What is a precis?


A precis is a very structured 4 sentence analysis of a written work. If you can write a precis for each article in your review, you will have a concise summary of your analysis and understanding of it. Each sentence of the precis can be repurposed in your paper to tie ideas together, for example, if you have multiple authors who agree on a topic, or disagree, based on their evidence, you can rework their supporting ideas and evidence into your overall analysis. A precis includes the following:



Sentence 1: restatement of thesis

Sentence 2: listing of supporting ideas and evidence

Sentence 3: states the author's purpose statement 

Sentence 4: Identifies the author's audience 


Example of full precis:

Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith, asserts in the excerpt from his book Reason in Exile that “all forms of religion are potential sources for irrationality and violence.” He suggests that believers of faith, even the moderates, are harmful to society and that “religious ideology is dangerously retrograde.” His purpose is to show how irrational even religious moderates are in order for people to abandon faith and embrace reason. Harris states in his conclusion that “[r[eligious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity – a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible. His intended audience are those who follow any sort of religion. 

Sentence 1: restatement of thesis:

Sam Harris, in this essay, “Reason in Exile” published in Rereading America (2007), argues that our religious beliefs have long outgrown their usefulness and, in fact, are “antithetical to our survival” as a species at this point.  He supports this claim with an in depth examination of suicide bombers, religious extremism, and a sound denunciation of religious “moderation.” Even moderation of the mystic, anachronistic, and outright bizarre claims of the religious literals does not permit anything critical to be said about the beliefs themselves or the actions they prompt according to Harris.  He examines how our religious beliefs fly in the face of almost everything we now know about the world and highlights the consequences of blindly maintaining allegiance to religious propositions for which there is absolutely no evidence.  His purpose is to present compelling information, supported by example, to encourage readers to question their own religious beliefs and convictions using 21st Century logic.  He establishes a passionate tone with his reader that is almost an invitation for discussion and debate.  His audience is a well-educated one with at least cursory background in world history and/or world religions.  His vocabulary and usage are impressive. 


Sentence 2: listing of supporting ideas and evidence: 

Robert D. Strom and Qing Xie, in their essay, “Family Changes in the People’s Republic of China”  

(1995), argues that One Child Policy has modified parent expectations and behavior in China. They support  

their statement by analyzing the traditional family roles in China, the changes in the status of woman,  

preference for gender of only children and the challenges in raising only children for parents. They included the  

research of parent performance in order to reveal that parents of only children are motivated to succeed and  

wish to treat sons and daughters with greater equality than has been the custom. Their intended audience  

could be education planners who need such information to give out support for the best interests of children,  

families, and society. 


Hyunjoon Park the author of “Effects of Single Parenthood on Educational Aspiration and Student Disengagement in Korea”, (2007) asserts that Korea has a recent rapid increase in divorce rate causing major effects on children’s educational outcome. Park supports his thesis through comparing western societies to non-western societies, the concept of extended families, and with his own study he has conducted on the subject. The author’s purpose of writing this article is to explain the differences found in single parent households and two parent households containing the variables covering economic status, extended family and many other variables in order to allow others to see the effects this can have on the children living in the household. Park uses a statistical and very evidence based approach to help inform readers of all races of the effects family life can have on children. 


Sentence 3: purpose statement  

Rosalind Barnett, in her essay, “Gender Myths & the Education of Boys” (2007), suggest that boys need different education versus girls in America because boys to fall behind girls academically. She supports her proposal by research and experiment. Her purpose is to inform readers how boys and girls need different education system in America to convince government, parents, and people who teach students. The audience would be politicians, parents, and teachers.  



Kate Levine, lawyer and author of “If You Cannot Afford a Lawyer: Assessing the Constitutionality of Massachusetts's Reimbursement Statute" (2007), argues that the fees that states charge indigent defendants are not constitutional and these defendants cannot afford to pay them.  She supports her claim by analyzing the US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment and Gideon v. Wainwright. Levine’s purpose is to bring this injustice to the attention of the readers. Her audience is other attorneys that can help change how the poor are treated in our justice system. 


Sentence 4: Audience 


Bartley, Blanton and Gillard, in their study, “Husbands and Wives in Dual-Earner Marriages: Decision-Making, Gender Role Attitudes, Division of Household Labor, and Equity” (2005), assert the point that there are perception differences between husbands and wives in dual earner households, claiming that there is a double standard.  They support their proposal by giving historical evidence (that the roles have indeed changed), and theoretical evidence for their second assertion (that the roles and tasks within the marriages are perceived differently by spouses).  The purpose of this study is to inform the reader of the changing roles in modern society.  Immediately, a formal relationship is established with the audience, this is apparent by the use of the advanced vocabulary.  

Kim J. Cox (University of Florida, College of Nursing) in her article “Midwifery and Health Disparities: Theories and Intersections” (2009) claims that the healthcare reform of 2010 (proposed by the National Institute of Health) with provide major advancements in health disparities. To support her argument she utilizes proposed parts of the reform and applies them to the general medical community. Her initial purpose is to inform health care providers of the public distress on the topic, in order to education medical providers on how they too can help weaken theses disparities. She takes a very professional relationship with her audience (which is assumed to be medical providers) by inducing a “call-to-action” for medical providers to play their part in providing equal health care.