I need a single word, a verb, that conveys the meanings:

  • to pick out the most important information"
  • or alternatively "pull out the best"
  • even "distinguish valuable information from less valuable information"

This is to describe the process when one is writing an abstract, only the most critical information from a paper is kept.

Verbs like "select", "choose", "pick out", "separate" don't seem to convey within them the meaning that you're selecting the most important.

The words "hand-pick" and even "cherry-pick" seem the closest I can find, but have a too informal tone. "Distill" also seems close, but is that only metaphorical or does it actually imply this meaning?

I have other chapter titles that are just single-words, and all verbs. This will be a chapter title, hence, am looking for a single-word.

What word will convey this meaning?

  • Boiling it down. Summarizing. Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 5:32

5 Answers 5


You do distil the information; the metaphorical usage is common and certainly picked up by dictionaries. Perhaps the odd person might think of chemistry lessons, and a few more of whisky, but most will accept the metaphorical sense as such without batting an eye:

distil something (from/into something) [formal]:

... (2) Extract the essential meaning or most important aspects of.

  • The notes I made on my travels were distilled into a book.


  • By this time, results from years of research and analysis had been distilled.
  • After being asked for a demo, Beam submitted two full-length albums, which were distilled down into the 11-song 'The Creek Drank the Cradle'.
  • Table 1 presents background characteristics distilled from the 1,448 case records.


Also spelled distill, especially in the US.

  • ... distill the crucial points of the book.



Curate is gaining use in ways more general than museums, with the meaning of selecting, managing, and presenting a collection.



glean (v.)

If you glean something such as information or knowledge, you learn or collect it slowly and patiently, and perhaps indirectly.

At present we're gleaning information from all sources. Collins

Extract (information) from various sources.

The information is gleaned from press clippings. Lexico

To pick over in search of relevant material

gleaning old files for information m-w

The method which I submit to attention has been the result of twenty years' practice in, and studious application to, my profession, having gleaned the best information from the first masters, both of London and Paris. Charles Mason; A Short Essay on the French Danse de Société (1827)

Given that these regional action plans are collated by experts with the best knowledge of each ape species, information gleaned from them is considered to provide the most accurate information, which reflects the opinions of hundreds of experts and stakeholders. Arcus Foundation; Extractive Industries and Ape Conservation (2014)

We can investigate the capabilities, legitimacy, and financial strength of an Argentine company and provide useful information gleaned from government, industry and financial contacts, the local press, and other sources. IBP; Argentina Business and Investment Opportunities Yearbook (2016)

The valuable data gleaned from the relatively informal recidivist study indicated the need for an expanded, more formal study of released trainees. US Dept. of Labor; MDTA Experimental and Demonstration Findings (1971)



to collect; gather; pluck: Quotations are culled from a variety of literature, diaries and letters, local histories, journals, and newspapers.




Select (a passage from a text, film, or piece of music) for quotation, performance, or reproduction.

The relevant pages are extracted in those two volumes.

What we have done is undertaken our duty responsibly in seeking to extract the relevant documents from the relevant files so that only that which is relevant is before the court.


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