How to Write a Summary of an Article
When Should You Summarize an Article?
- 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 is a Summary?
A great summary is easy to read and explains all of the main points in the original. Important points to remember:
- 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.
- Identify the main idea or topic.
- Identify important arguments.
- 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.
Example: In the article "Why Two Best Friends Doesn't Work," author Cassandra Grimes argues that most teenage girls can't get along in groups of more than two.
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
- Gather information from the title.
- Identify the place it was published, as this can help you determine the intended audience.
- Determine the date of publication.
- Determine the type of essay. (Is it expository, argumentative, literary, scholarly?)
- Take note of the tone of the piece.
- 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.
Example: "Bypass Cure" by James Johnson records a recent discovery by researchers that people who have bypass surgery for weight control are also instantly cured of diabetes. Since rising diabetic rates and obesity has become a worldwide concern, the article provides a startling but controversial potential solution.
Now that we have identified the main idea of the article, we can move onto the next step.
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
- Read on a paper copy or use a computer program that lets you make annotations.
- 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.)
- Write that sentence in your own words on the side of the page or on another piece of paper.
- When you finish the article, read all the topic sentences you marked or wrote down.
- In your own words, rewrite those main ideas.
- Use complete sentences with good transition words.
- Be sure you don't use the same words, phrases, or sentence structure as the original.
- You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
- 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 ...
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
Helps us understand
Presents the idea
Creates the impression
Adverbs to Use With Author Tags
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.
Part of Summary
In "My Favorite Shoe," Treyvon Jones explains (insert main idea).
Jones supports this view by pointing out (insert author's supporting arguments).
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.
- Re-read the summary and edit out any obvious mistakes.
- Read your summary aloud. If anything sounds off, fix it.
- 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
How can I summarize a research article?
An abstract is basically a summary of a research article. To write a good summary in your field of science, it would help to look up several research articles and look at their abstracts. Use that as a model for your own summary.Helpful 255
How should I end my summary?
The summary should end with the author's conclusion or last main point.Helpful 176
How do I conclude the summary of an article?
Conclude your summary with a statement about what the author is trying to convince you to believe, do, or think.Helpful 150
What is "skimming?"
"Skimming" means that you don't read every word. You look at the bold print in a chapter, the first sentences of each paragraph and look over a page to see if there are important points. Skimming is like doing an overview. Skimming is easy if you are reading in your own language and often we do skimming when we are looking at a newspaper, or scrolling down our social media posts. Basically, when you skim read, you are looking for the most interesting or most important things. When you find it, you might read a whole section, but you might also skip a lot that doesn't seem important.Helpful 91
How do I write a summary? Should I use my own words?
Your summary should reinforce the main point of the article, and should always be in your own words, just like the rest of your essay. However, a summary should not add your own opinion. The response is your opinion, and the summary is just a repetition of what is in the article.Helpful 26
© 2011 Virginia Kearney