How to Write a Summary of an Article

Updated on August 15, 2018
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

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When Should You Summarize an Article?

There are a few instances when you might want to summarize an article. These are:

  • To show how an author's ideas support your argument
  • To argue against the author's ideas
  • To condense a lot of information into a small space
  • To increase your understanding of an article

What Needs to Be Included in a Summary of an Article?

A great summary should include certain important elements that make the reading experience easier on the reader. A good summary will consist of the following elements.

  • The main idea of the article is conveyed clearly and concisely
  • The summary is written in the unique style of the writer
  • The summary is much shorter than the original document
  • The summary explains all of the important notions and arguments
  • The summary condenses a lot of information into a small space

How Do You Summarize an Article?

Summarizing an article can be boiled down to three simple steps. By following these steps, you should have a thorough, clear, and concise summary in no time.

  1. Identify the main idea or topic.
  2. Identify the important arguments.
  3. Write your summary.

Continue reading for detailed explanations of each of these steps.

1. Identify the Main Idea or Topic

The aim of an article is to convey a certain idea or topic through the use of exposition and logic.

In a summary, you want to identify the main idea of the article and put this information into your own words. To do this, you must be willing to read the article several times. On the first reading, try to gain a general notion of what the article is trying to say. Once you've done this write down your initial impression. This is most likely the thesis, or main idea, of the article. Also, be sure to include the author's first and last name and the title of the article in your notation for later reference.

When trying to identify the central idea, you should ask yourself, "Why was this essay written and published?" Clues to help determine this include the following.

How to Identify the Main Idea of an Article

  1. Gather information from the title.
  2. Identify the place it was published, as this can help you determine the intended audience.
  3. Determine the date of publication.
  4. Determine the type of essay. (Is it expository, argumentative, literary, scholarly?)
  5. Take note of the tone of the piece.
  6. Identify certain notions or arguments that seem to be repeated throughout.

Applying these methods of identification, let's take a look at the article "Bypass Cure" by James Johnson. We can assume the subject of the article from the title. Upon further examination, it becomes clear that the author is arguing that new research suggests the best cure for diabetes is the surgical solution of a gastric bypass.

Now that we have identified the main idea of the article, we can move onto the next step.

Think of the thesis of your summary as a caption on a picture.  Example: In spite of having lost most of the season due to an injury, Jim Johnson beat his own record and won the meet, qualifying him for the state finals.
Think of the thesis of your summary as a caption on a picture. Example: In spite of having lost most of the season due to an injury, Jim Johnson beat his own record and won the meet, qualifying him for the state finals. | Source

2. Identify Important Arguments

At this point in the preparation process, you should read the article again. This time, read more carefully. Look specifically for the supporting arguments. Some tips on how to identify the important arguments of an article are listed below.

How to Identify Important Arguments in an Article

  1. Read on a paper copy or use a computer program that lets you make annotations.
  2. Underline the topic sentence of each paragraph. (If no one sentence tells the main concept, then write a summary of the main point in the margin.)
  3. Write that sentence in your own words on the side of the page or on another piece of paper.
  4. When you finish the article, read all the topic sentences you marked or wrote down.
  5. In your own words, rewrite those main ideas.
  6. Use complete sentences with good transition words.
  7. Be sure you don't use the same words, phrases, or sentence structure as the original.
  8. You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
  9. Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.

In short, you want to boil the article down to its main, supporting arguments. Let everything else fall away, and what you are left with is an argument or an opinion, and the arguments that support it.

3. Write Your Summary

Your summary should start with the author’s name and the title of the work. Here are several ways to do this correctly:

Introduction Sentence Examples for an Article Summary

In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains ...

John Wood, in "Cats Don't Dance," explains ...

According to John Wood in "Cats Don't Dance" ...

As John Wood vividly elucidates in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance" ...

John Wood claims in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance" that ...

Combine the thesis of the article with the title and author into your first sentence of the summary. Reference the following sentence as an example.

In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains that in spite of the fact that cats are popular pets who seem to like us, felines are not really good at any activities that require cooperation with someone else, whether that is dancing or sharing.

If possible, your first sentence should summarize the article. The rest of your summary should cover some of the central concepts used to support the thesis. Be sure to restate these ideas in your own words, and to make your summary as short and concise as possible. Condense sentences and leave out unimportant details and examples. Stick to the important points.

How to Quote the Author of an Article

When you refer to the author for the first time, you always use their full name. When you refer to the author after that, you always use their last name. The following examples show how to use the author's name in an article summary after you have already introduced them.

Johnson comments ...

According to Wood's perspective ...

As Jones implies in the story about ...

Toller criticizes...

In conclusion, Kessler elaborates about ...

You don't need to use an author's title (Dr., Professor, or Mr. and Mrs.), but it does help to add their credentials to show they are an authoritative source. The sentences below show ways to do this.

In "Global Warming isn't Real," Steven Collins, a professor at the University of Michigan, claims that ...

New York Times critic Johann Bachman argues in "Global Warming is the Next Best Thing for the Earth" that ...

If you are discussing the ideas of the author, you always need to make it clear that you are reciting their ideas, not your own.

How to Introduce the Ideas of the Author in an Article Summary

  • Use author tags
  • Use mentions of "the article" or "the text"
  • Add the page number that the information is found on in parenthesis at the end of the sentence

Using Author Tags

In writing your summary, you need to clearly state the name of the author and the name of the article, essay, book, or other source. The sentence below is a great example of how to do this.

According to Mary Johnson in her essay, "Cats Make Good Pets," the feline domestic companion is far superior to the canine one.

You also need to continue to make it clear to the reader when you are talking about the author's ideas. To do this, use "author tags," which are either the last name of the author or a pronoun (he or she) to show you are still discussing that person's ideas.

Also, try to make use of different verbs and adverbs. Your choice of author tag verbs and adverbs can contribute to the way you analyze the article. Certain words will create a specific tone. See the tables for a selection of different word choices.

List of Author Tags

Says
Explains
Comments
Persuades
Suggests
Understands
Argues
Reminds
Helps us understand
Elucidates
Presents
Intimates
Concludes
Presents the idea
Creates the impression
Criticizes
Defines
Highlights
Concedes
Shows
States
Thinks
Admits
Lists
Notes
Analyzes
Disagrees
Observes
Points out
Emphasizes
Discusses
Identifies
Implies
Insists
Responds
Shows
Proves
Rejects
Suggests

Adverbs to Use With Author Tags

Conclusively
Expressively
Realistically
Tightly
Angrily
Radically
Clearly
Dutifuly
Evenly
Occasionally
Quickly
Ironically
Honestly
Eagerly
Elegantly
Sharply
Rarely
Loosely
Exactly
Happily
Hastily
Perfectly
Sternly
Unexpectedly
Sometimes
Never
Justly
Devotedly
Finally
Warily
Wearily
Completely
Fully
Doggedly
Iconically
Sarcastically
Seriously
Carefully
Politely

How Long Is a Summary of an Article?

The length of an article summary will depend on the length of the article you are writing about.

If the article is long (say, 10-12 pages) then your summary should be about four pages. If the article is shorter, your summary should be about one to two pages. Sometimes, an article summary can be less than one page.

The length of a summary will also depend on the instructions you have been given. If you are writing a summary for yourself, it's up to you how long or short it will be (but remember, a summary is supposed to be a short regurgitation of the information outline in an article). If you are writing a summary for a class assignment, the length should be specified.

Example Summary Paragraph

The following paragraph is an example of a one-paragraph summary of an article.

In "My Favorite Shoe," Treyvon Jones explains that Nike shoes are the best brand of running shoe for serious track athletes. Jones supports this view by pointing out that Nike shoes are more comfortable, last longer, and provide more cushioning for the feet. He notes that the statistics from sales and scientific evidence of how Nike shoes are better for the feet support his claim. In addition, Jones points out that most professional runners use Nike and he tells his own story of how he won the 100-meter men's competition after switching to Nike shoes.

Below is a template showing the components of a great summary.

Summary Template

Part of Summary
Contents
Introduction Sentence
In "My Favorite Shoe," Treyvon Jones explains (insert main idea).
Supporting Arguments
Jones supports this view by pointing out (insert author's supporting arguments).
Final Point
In addition, (insert author's overarching argument and point).

How to Edit and Revise Your Summary

Before you are officially done, it is important to edit your work. The steps below explain the process of editing and revision.

  1. Give you summary a reread and edit out any obvious mistakes.
  2. Read your summary aloud. If anything sounds off, fix it.
  3. Let one of your peers read your summary. Make changes according to their feedback.

With that, your summary should be complete.

How to Summarize (Video)

Questions & Answers

  • What is the summary of the article?

    A summary tells all of the main ideas but doesn't include the background details or evidence. Usually, a summary is much shorter than the original article, often a couple of paragraphs. In science, the summary is called an abstract.

  • How should I end my summary?

    The summary should end with the author's conclusion or last main point.

  • Can I include a particular term that the author uses in the article while writing a summary?

    If the writer coins a term for something, you absolutely should use that term in your summary and explain that what the author means by that word. Similarly, if the author uses some specialized terms or vocabulary that is difficult to say in any other way, you should use the same words. You do need to make sure that your summary does not use the same phrases or sentences of the original (see my article on paraphrasing correctly: http://hubpages.com/academia/Using-and-Citing-Sour...

  • How should I end a summary?

    You end a summary with the conclusion of the article or a comment about the reason the author has written this piece. Here are some examples:

    1. In conclusion, the article clearly articulates all of the reasons a person needs to be careful not to let their car battery freeze in winter.

    2. To make sure the reader gets the point, the author concludes with a funny story of why she will never wave to a policemen at the side of the road again.

    3. Although she may belabor the point too much, Johnson does clearly and effectively explain many reasons why college students should take the time to recycle as much as they can.

© 2011 Virginia Kearney

Comments

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    • profile image

      Florence 

      13 days ago

      Thank you for the information of how to write a summary. Very helpful. I am a first year at university, and referencing was a challenge for me. This article is definitely going to help me.

    • profile image

      leah 

      5 weeks ago

      Your explanations on how to write a summary article helps a lot.

    • profile image

      susan 

      2 months ago

      I caught very effective information from your explanation about how to write a summary of which kinds of words and how i can start the sentences...thank you

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 months ago from United States

      Hi Syawal, I do not have any articles about how to write short stories. That is a good idea!

    • profile image

      syawal 

      3 months ago

      Thank you very much bcoz from this article I can understand a little bit about how to write a summary.Did you have article about how to write simple short story?

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 months ago from United States

      Cyrille, the last sentence depends on whether your job is just to write a summary or whether you are also supposed to respond with what you thought about the article. If you are supposed to respond, then the last sentence should tell whether you were convinced by the article. If you are just summarizing, then the last sentence should say what the author wants to convince the audience to do, say, think, or believe.

    • profile image

      Cyrille Brown 

      3 months ago

      Hi! I don't know how to make the conclusion of the summary of an argumentative article

    • profile image

      Ekr 

      3 months ago

      10q This is very helpful .

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 months ago from United States

      Hi Mudradevi, You can do either present or past tense if you are consistent throughout, but generally, I think present tense works best. It would go like this:

      In "We See the Future," John Joshua states that...

      The author describes his thoughts about...

    • profile image

      mudradevi 

      3 months ago

      do we need to write summary in past or present tense?

    • profile image

      Jennifer 

      3 months ago

      We are using this in class right now. The teacher love this, because this is how sh want us to write. She loves this!!

    • profile image

      ZWIDEH SHECKEDNER KHUNGA NKHOMBO 

      4 months ago

      Thank you for helping me...its a very good work

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      5 months ago from United States

      Hi Bethany, I think that you are quite correct except that the response would not be personal. Instead, your response would be an outline of how you would teach that topic. I think I would try to clarify with the person who gave you this assignment whether they want an outline or a narrative (paragraph form) of writing. I think that summarizing the article as a beginning would be helpful, especially if you are going to teach this information. I don't have information about developing curriculum, but I do have some articles about outlining an explaining article, which is what this probably would be like.

    • profile image

      Bethany 

      5 months ago

      I was told to read several articles and then write a "curriculum outline" over each one (this is for a job where I will be required to teach certain topics, closely related to the required reading).

      I feel this is similar to a summary but maybe it should be formatted like an outline for an essay. I would love to hear what you think! I'm very confused.

    • profile image

      Carly Ownbey 

      6 months ago

      i am so glad you made this because i am not good at this kind of stuff

    • profile image

      Cynthia Bass 

      7 months ago

      Thanks for helping me. I haven't wrote a summary in awhile and this will help me.

    • profile image

      Mirkomil 

      7 months ago

      thank you a lot. monday i have english exam and it will help me

    • profile image

      mari 

      7 months ago

      Thank you for helping me. Actually it's my first time taking help from you. So thank you. I'll make sure to take help from you next time as well when I'll again get in some problem.I'm sure you will help me again. So thank you again.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 months ago from United States

      Yes Mari- a definition could be appropriate if the audience may not know the word or how it is used in that context.

    • profile image

      mari 

      7 months ago

      Can i write a definition in my summary? Will it be okay to write it?

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 months ago from United States

      Hi Karen, you can use the actual noun of the person's name, or a word that describes the person or their relationship to you. For example:, mom, teacher, friend, the woman wearing purple, the lady with long hair, the middle-aged woman, Mrs. Jones or my friend.

    • profile image

      Karen Kenny 

      8 months ago

      Good Morning! I was just wondering if you might have a list of words to use in place of "I", "you" and "we"?

    • profile image

      Karen Kenny 

      9 months ago

      This article has been so HELPFUL! Thank You!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      9 months ago from United States

      Hi Helencab! I'm so glad that my ideas are helping your students. One of the most enjoyable parts of posting these articles has been to see people all over the world using them.

    • profile image

      Helencab 

      9 months ago

      Thanks a lot! I have been looking for something like this for my students of 2nd Bachillerato (in Spain) and it's perfect!

    • profile image

      marii 

      10 months ago

      great tip!

    • profile image

      giselle 

      10 months ago

      Thanks for the grateful tips!

    • profile image

      Hanane Moumaddid 

      10 months ago

      thank you so much ...

    • Jorge Kwyntin profile image

      Jorge Kwyntin 

      10 months ago

      it helps a lot for summary writers like me..

      thank.........you VK

    • profile image

      Natha 

      11 months ago

      Great article, very helpful :)

    • profile image

      netha 

      11 months ago

      nice work

    • profile image

      Rebecca 

      11 months ago

      Congratulations, this was very helpful to me.

      Thank you

    • profile image

      Raphy 

      11 months ago

      extremely helpful. thanks

    • profile image

      Avian Report 

      11 months ago

      This is a nice piece of work!

      Thank you.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 years ago from United States

      Hi Edu--If you assignment is to write about an article, then you usually need to summarize (tell the main ideas of the article) before you talk about it. Sometimes you summarize the whole article and then tell what you think. Other times, you might just summarize smaller parts of the essay and mix it with what you think. You might want to see my article on How to Write a Reading Response paper.

    • profile image

      Edu 

      3 years ago

      I would like to write an essay from an article.

      Is there any other way of writing the essay or summarizing the article is the only means to be my essay?

    • profile image

      Sourat 

      4 years ago

      I love it very very satisfied

    • unverm profile image

      unverm 

      4 years ago

      Thanks a lot...

    • profile image

      Zukiswa Dube 

      5 years ago

      thankyou so much this is loud and clear i was so frustrated don't know where to start my summary.

    • profile image

      Eldar 

      6 years ago

      That's the most clear explanation that i've been looking. Thank You though

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      So glad to have you join us on Hubpages xstatic. I've been a teacher of writing for years and I've published in print, but I love this medium because you get a chance to have much more feedback. And you can always go back and edit your Hubs! Besides, you can write on anything you like.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      I bookmarked this one. I was an English major, but have not written formally for a long time. When I strated to write my first Hub the other day, based on an article I read elsewhere and some personal experience, I decided I needed to brush up on the process. This is a big help, and I will read more of your Hubs.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks donnaisabella--what a pretty name! Glad you find the information useful. I really only started posting here for my own students and have been amazed at how many people look at my pages each day on writing. However, I've written these up because so many times I felt the books didn't explain very well. Best wishes!

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 

      6 years ago from Fort Myers

      Very helpful information. Thanks for sharing. I wish I had this 26 years ago, what a difference it would have made. But guess what, I will still need it in a little while!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      I'm so glad I've helped you Asmaa. So many English books really don't give very clear directions. That is why I've written up a summary of the best instructions I've found over the years in different textbooks (plus my own ideas!). Hope your essay goes well!

    • profile image

      Asmaa 

      6 years ago

      Thank you so much!!!!

      You helped me a lot!

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