Example Summaries

Summary of Reading Example

In her book, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich decides to abandon her everyday life in exchange for a low wage job and lifestyle to determine if unskilled workers can survive on a low-wage income. This idea of research came to her when discussing welfare reforms with editor Lewis Lapham. She states, “Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism—you know, go out there and try it for themselves.” Ehrenreich worked as a waitress, hotel maid, housecleaner, and Wal-Mart sales representative and attempted to live on the wages she earned. She found that making ends meet was a daily struggle and realized that any emergency would have devastating consequences.

Abstract Example

In the New York Times bestseller, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, the author, Barbara Ehrenreich takes a journey into the minimum wage-paying world to see if it is possible to make a living. In 1998-2000, Ehrenreich travels to Key West (Florida), Minnesota and Maine to experience several different low income occupations: a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aide, and a salesperson at Wal-Mart. For a month at a time, Ehrenreich interviews for the low-wage paying job, searches for low-income housing, and works eight hour daily shifts to see if it is possible for the average American to earn a steady living on minimum wage. Though she could have done her research through simple calculations, she wanted to experience the normal situations of over 30% of America’s working community. Ehrenreich explains, “My aim here was much more straightforward and objective—just to see whether I could match income to expenses, as the truly poor attempt to do everyday” (6). Although she admits having advantages the average workers did not (a PhD in biology, a car to get her to work each morning, and a credit card for emergencies), Ehrenreich replicated the living conditions of the minimum wage-earning American, renting cheap apartments and buying food she could afford on her take-home wages. She found it was possible to get by, but not at all comfortably, and an unexpected cash emergency would have caused financial disaster.

Howe Writing Initiative ‧ Farmer School of Business ‧ Miami University

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