How to Write a Summary of an Article

Updated on January 23, 2017
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VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Most of my students prefer a hard copy rather than relying on digital highlighting and notes.
Most of my students prefer a hard copy rather than relying on digital highlighting and notes. | Source

When to Summarize?

  • To show how an author's ideas support your argument.
  • To argue against the author's ideas
  • To condense a lot of information in a short space.

Good Summaries:

  1. Tell the main idea clearly.
  2. Are written in your own style.
  3. Are shorter than the original document.
  4. Explain all of the important notions/arguments.
  5. Condense a lot of information.

1. Find Main Idea

In a summary, you want to identify the main idea of the article and put this information in your own words. Plan to read the article several times. In the first reading you want to get the general notion of the essay. Write that down after you finish reading. That will be the thesis of your summary. Include the author's first and last name and the title of the article.

To figure out the central idea, you should ask yourself why this essay was written and published. Clues to help determine this are:

  1. The title.
  2. The place it was published (which can help you determine the intended audience).
  3. The date of publication.
  4. The type of essay.
  5. The tone of the piece.
  6. Notions which seem to be repeated throughout.

Example: In "Bypass Cure," James Johnson argues that new research suggests that the best cure for diabetes is the surgical solution of a Gastric Bypass.

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

Now you want to do a second reading. This time, read more carefully to get the other important arguments. Here is how to do that:

  1. Read on a paper copy or use a computer program that lets you annotate.
  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 of 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.

3. Write Your Summary

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

  • 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...

2. Look for the thesis sentence or write out a thesis sentence that summarizes the main idea. Underline a topic sentence for each paragraph or write a sentence in the margins or on notebook paper for each paragraph. Combine that thesis with the title and author into your first sentence of the summary.

Example first sentence: 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.

3. The rest of your summary should tell some of the central concepts that are used to support the thesis. Be sure to restate these ideas in your own words. Make your summary as short and concise as possible. Condense sentences and leave out unimportant details and examples. Stick to the important points.

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 another source.

Example: 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 still talking about the ideas in that author's work. To do this, use "author tags," which is either the last name of the author or a pronoun (he or she) to show you are still discussing that person's ideas.

Author Tags Verb List

helps us understand
presents the idea
creates the impression
points out

Tips and Examples

1. When you refer to the author after the first time, you always use the last name.

  • Johnson comments...
  • According to Wood's perspective...
  • As Jones implies in the story about...
  • Toller criticizes...
  • In conclusion, Kessler elaborates about...

2. Use 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.

3. 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.


  • 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...

4. You always need to make it clear when you are discussing the ideas of the author. Here are some ways to do that:

  • 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.

Adverbs to Use with Author Tags


Summary Template

1. Start with an author tag that includes the first and last name of the author and the title of the text. Examples:

  • In “My Favorite Shoe,” Treyvon Jones explains...
  • Treyvon Jones in his article “My Favorite Shoe” explains....

2. Finish the sentence with the main point of this article. Answer the question, "What is this essay mostly about?" Think: "What does the author want you to say/do/believe after reading this article?"

3. Next, talk about the main reasons the author believes this and give a few brief examples.

Example Paragraph

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.

© 2011 Virginia Kearney


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    • profile image


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

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 7 weeks 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 7 weeks 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 2 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Cynthia Bass 3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Mirkomil 3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      mari 3 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 image

      Virginia Kearney 3 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 3 months ago

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

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 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 4 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 5 months ago

      This article has been so HELPFUL! Thank You!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 5 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 5 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 6 months ago

      great tip!

    • profile image

      giselle 6 months ago

      Thanks for the grateful tips!

    • profile image

      Hanane Moumaddid 6 months ago

      thank you so much ...

    • Jorge Kwyntin profile image

      Jorge Kwyntin 6 months ago

      it helps a lot for summary writers like me.. VK

    • profile image

      Natha 7 months ago

      Great article, very helpful :)

    • profile image

      netha 7 months ago

      nice work

    • profile image

      Rebecca 7 months ago

      Congratulations, this was very helpful to me.

      Thank you

    • profile image

      Raphy 7 months ago

      extremely helpful. thanks

    • profile image

      Avian Report 7 months ago

      This is a nice piece of work!

      Thank you.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 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.

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      Edu 2 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?

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      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 image

      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 image

      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 image

      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!