Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
A summary is telling the main ideas of the article in your own words.
Summary Writing Steps
These are the steps to writing a great summary:
- Read the article, one paragraph at a time.
- For each paragraph, underline the main idea sentence (topic sentence). If you can't underline the book, write that sentence on your computer or a piece of paper.
- When you finish the article, read all the underlined sentences.
- In your own words, write down one sentence that conveys the main idea. Start the sentence using the name of the author and title of the article (see format below).
- Continue writing your summary by writing the other underlined sentences in your own words. Remember that you need to change both the words of the sentence and the word order. For more information, see the video below.
- Don't forget to use transition words to link your sentences together. See my list of transition words below to help you write your summary more effectively and make it more interesting to read.
- Make sure you include the name of the author and article and use "author tags" (see list below) to let the reader know you are talking about what the author said and not your own ideas.
- Re-read your piece. Does it flow well? Are there too many details? Not enough? Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.
Sample Summary Outline
Author Tag: You need to start your summary by telling the name of the article and the author. Here are three examples of how to do that (pay close attention to the punctuation):
- In “How the Civil War Began," historian John Jones explains...
- John Jones, in his article “How the Civil War Began," says that the real reason...
- "How the Civil War Began," by historian John Jones, describes...
First Sentence: Along with including the article's title and author's name, the first sentence should be the main point of the article. It should answer the question: What is this essay about? (thesis). Example:
In "How the Civil War Began" by John Jones, the author argues that the real reason for the start of the Civil War was not slavery, as many believe, but was instead the clash of cultures and greed for cash.
Rest of Summary: The rest of your essay is going to give the reasons and evidence for that main statement. In other words, what is the main point the writer is trying to make, and what are the supporting ideas he or she uses to prove it? Does the author bring up any opposing ideas, and if so, what does he or she do to refute them? Here is a sample sort of sentence:
___________ is the issue addressed in “(article's title)” by (author's name). The thesis of this essay is ___________ . The author’s main claim is ___________ and his/her sub claim is ___________ . The author argues ___________ . Other people argue ___________ . The author refutes these ideas by saying ___________ . His/her conclusion is ___________ .
How Often Do You Mention the Author?
You don't need to mention the author in every sentence of a summary, but you do need to make it clear when an idea is from the article and when it is your own idea. Usually, you want to be sure to tell the title of the article and the full name of the author in the first sentence of your summary. After that, use the author's last name or the title when you want to summarize something from the article or book. To avoid sounding too repetitious, you can substitute words in the table below.
Author Tag List
|Author's Name||Article||Words for "Said"||Adverbs to Use With "Said"|
"first couple of words"
the article (book etc.)
the historian (or other profession)
What About Multiple Authors?
For articles with 1–4 authors, cite all of the authors the first time you mention the article and title. Afterward, use "authors" or the last name of the first author and "et al." (which is Latin for "and others"). For articles with more than four authors, use the first and last name of the first author in the opening sentence and "et al." Then use the last name and "et al." or "authors" or some other plural throughout.
- Men and Women in Conversation: Example response essay to Deborah Tannen's article about how divorce can be prevented if people learn the communication signals of the opposite gender.
- Response Essay about Getting a Tattoo: Responds to a personal experience article from The New York Times about a man who gets a dragon tattoo.
- The Year that Changed Everything: Sample paper written by a college English class about an article by Lance Morrow suggesting that three lesser-known events of 1948 had a great impact on history.
Read More From Owlcation
Transition Words List
For the most part
On the contrary
Questions for Analysis in a Summary
How is this written?
Who is the audience?
Is it effectively written for that audience?
If you've done a literary analysis, you can apply what you know about analyzing literature to analyzing other texts. You will want to consider what is effective and ineffective. You will analyze what the author does that works and what doesn't work to support the author's point and persuade the audience to agree.
Using TRACE for Analysis
Sometimes, especially when you're just getting started writing, the task of fitting a huge topic into an essay may feel daunting and you may not know where to start. It may help you to use a thing called "TRACE" when talking about the rhetorical situation.
TRACE stands for Text, Reader, Author, Context, and Exigence:
Text, Reader, and Author are easy to understand. When writing the analysis, you need to think about what kind of text it is and what the author wanted to have the audience think, do, or believe. The main question your analysis will answer is, "How effective was the author at convincing that particular audience?"
Context means several things: how the article fits into the history of discussion of that issue, the historical moment in time when the article is written, and the moment in time when a person reads the article.
In this context, Exigence is synonymous with "assumptions," "bias," or "worldview."
Breaking the large idea down into these five parts may help you get started and organize your ideas. In your paper, you'll probably want to address three to five of these elements.
Each of the following elements can be one paragraph of your analysis. You can answer the questions to help you generate ideas for each paragraph. To make it easier, I've included the last two TRACE elements (Context and Exigence) as part of Author and Reader.
- How is the essay organized? What is effective or ineffective about the organization of the essay?
- How does the author try to interest the reader?
- How well does the author explain the main claims? Are these arguments logical?
- Do the support and evidence seem adequate? Is the support convincing to the reader? Does the evidence actually prove the point the author is trying to make?
- Who is the author? What do they know about this subject?
- What is the author's bias? Is the bias openly admitted? Does that make their argument more or less believable?
- Do the author's knowledge and background make them reliable for this audience?
- How does the author try to relate to the audience and establish common ground? Is it effective?
- How does the author interest the audience? Do they make the reader want to know more?
- Does the author explain enough about the history of this argument? Is anything left out?
- Who is the reader?
- How would they react to these arguments?
- How is this essay effective or ineffective for this audience?
- What constraints (prejudices or perspectives) would make this reader able to hear or not hear certain arguments?
- What is the exigence (events at this moment in time which affect the need for this conversation) that makes the audience interested in this issue?
Professional Sample SAR
Sample Analysis Format
Text: Analyzing the text is very much like doing literary analysis, which many students have done before. Use all of your tools of literary analysis, including looking at the metaphors, rhythm of sentences, construction of arguments, tone, style, and use of language. Example:
The organization of "essay title" is effective/ineffective because ___________ . The essay's opening causes the reader to ___________ . The essay's style is ___________ and the tone is shown by ___________ . The language used is___________ . The essay's argument is constructed logically/illogically by ___________. The essay is organized by ___________ (give a very brief description of the structure of the essay, perhaps telling where the description of the problem is, where claims are made, and where support is located—in which paragraphs—and why this is effective or ineffective in proving the point).
Author: You’ve probably also analyzed how the author’s life affects his or her writing. You can do the same for this sort of analysis. For example, in my sample reading the response about Michael Crichton's "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" article, students noted that the fact that Crichton is the author of doomsday thrillers like Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park makes his argument that we shouldn't pay much attention to current doomsday scenarios like global warming rather ironic. If you don't know anything about the author, you can always do a quick Google search to find out. Sample format:
The author establishes his/her authority by ___________ . The author's bias is shown in ___________ . The author assumes an audience who ___________ . He/She establishes common ground with the audience by ___________ .
Reader: You can write this section by inferring who the intended reader is, as well as looking at the text from the viewpoint of other sorts of readers. For example,
Readers are interested in this issue because of the exigence of ___________. Constraints on the reader's reaction are ___________. I think the reader would react to this argument by ___________. I think that the author's ___________ is effective. ___________ is less effective because ___________ includes ___________. The support is adequate/inadequate and is relevant/irrelevant to the author’s claim.
How to Write a Response
Generally, your response will be the end of your essay, but you may include your response throughout the paper as you select what to summarize and analyze. Your response will also be evident to the reader by the tone that you use and the words you select to talk about the article and writer. However, your response in the conclusion will be more direct and specific. It will use the information you have already provided in your summary and analysis to explain how you feel about this article. Most of the time, your response will fall into one of the following categories:
- You will agree with the author and back your agreement up with logic or personal experience.
- You will disagree with the author because of your experience or knowledge (although you may have sympathy with the author's position).
- You will agree with part of the author's points and disagree with others.
- You will agree or disagree with the author but feel that there is a more important or different point that needs to be discussed in addition to what is in the article.
How will this article fit into your own paper? How will you be able to use it?
What do you think?
Does this article persuade you?
Questions to Help You
Here are some questions you can answer to help you think about your response:
- What is your reaction to the essay?
- What common ground do you have with the author? How are your experiences the same or different from the author's and how has your experience influenced your view?
- What in the essay is new to you? Do you know of any information the article left out that is relevant to the topic?
- What in this essay made you re-think your view?
- What does this essay make you think about? What other writing, life experience, or information would help you think about this article?
- What do you like or dislike about the essay and/or the ideas in the essay?
- How much of your response is related to your personal experience? How much is related to your worldview? How is this feeling related to the information you know?
- How will this information be useful for you in writing your essay? What position does this essay support? Or where might you use this article in your essay?
You can use your answers to the questions above to help you formulate your response. Here is a sample of how you can put this together into your essay (for more sample essays, see the links above):
Before reading this article, my understanding of this topic was ___________. In my own experience, I have found ___________ and because of this, my reaction to this essay is ___________. Interestingly, I have ___________ as common ground with the author/audience. What was new to me is ___________. This essay makes me think ___________. I like/dislike ___________ in the essay. I will use this article in my research essay for ___________.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have to summarize and respond to an article. How would I start my thesis?
Answer: Your thesis is the main idea of the article and your main response to it.
Question: How can I summarize an essay?
Answer: The best way to summarize an essay is to start by quickly reading it through. After you read it once, write down what you think the main idea of the author is (or pick the one sentence which seems to tell the main point or thesis of the article). Next, read it again more slowly. This time, underline or highlight the main topic sentence in each paragraph. Then, re-write each of these sentences in their own words either on a hard copy of the essay or in a Word document. Now you can take all of those re-written topic points and use those as the basis of your summary. Re-read all of those sentences, and you should have all of the main ideas of the essay. If you realize there is something missing, then you will have to write that in. However, you aren't finished yet because your summary needs to flow like a smooth paragraph. So take what you've written and re-write it to have the sentences make sense and flow together. Use my Easy Words for Starting Sentences article to help you use the transition words that show the linking of ideas (next, furthermore, moreover, however, on the one hand, not only, but also). If you want to do a really exceptional job, once you have finished your summary, you should go back and look at the original article one last time. Compare your summary with the article and ask yourself these questions:
Have I made the main point of the article clear?
Do I explain what the author of the article wanted the reader to think, do, or believe?
Do I give all the main reasons for the author to write this article?
Question: What is a strong opening for a response essay in letter form?
Answer: After the salutation, you need to write your main thesis in a roadmap form. Usually, you either agree, disagree or agree with parts and disagree with other parts. Alternatively, your response could talk about how the text made you reflect on something in your own experience.
Question: What should the conclusion to a SAR paper be?
Answer: In a SAR paper, the conclusion should usually be your response to the article. That means that you will tell the reader what you think about it, including whether you liked it, what you learned from it, how it reminded you of something in your own experience, or how it changed your thinking.
Question: How do you cite an article if it has multiple authors?
Answer: You can either use the first author and then add "et al." which means "and others." However, if there are just two authors, you might want to include both full names the first time you reference the article and then use just both last names in the author tags.
Question: Can I use quotes in a main idea?
Answer: It is always better to summarize or paraphrase rather than using quotes to state the main idea of your paper or the summary. See my article on when a quotation is appropriate: https://hubpages.com/academia/Examples-of-Summary-...
Question: I have to summarize and evaluate an essay. How can I evaluate efficiently?
Answer: Read your article and before you begin your summary, make a table. On one side of the table, write out the main points of the article. On the second side, write what you think about the main points. In the middle, write what you thought about whether the author argued effectively for each point or not. That table should make the writing easier.
Question: How do you write an analysis on an article that informs?
Answer: Your analysis would examine how well the analysis is done:
How well does the author explain the concepts?
Do they define terms and make sure the audience understands?
Is the order of information clear?
Is there anything missing in the explanation?
Does the information include everything needed for the audience to understand the issue or subject?
Question: How do you write an opinion analysis?
Answer: You might want to discuss this with your instructor, but I suspect that "opinion analysis" is just a different way of saying "analysis and response." The response part is really having you give your opinion of the essay. You can do an analysis without first doing a summary. Just follow the instructions in this article. You may also want to see: How to Write an Analysis Response: https://hubpages.com/academia/How-to-Write-an-Anal...
Question: How is writing a thesis different from a summary article?
Answer: A summary means you are telling the main idea of someone else's article, book, or other text. A thesis is your idea and the main point of your essay. If you are writing a summary and response paper, you will need to say what the main idea is of the article you are summarizing and then your thesis would be your response to that article. Here are some types of thesis responses you could make:
1. The article by James John is interesting and insightful, but it uses too much detail to describe each point, and I became bored and unconvinced that he had the right solution to the problem of XX.
2. James John's article was garbled and difficult to read, but I found that his main thesis got right to the point and actually gave me insights I could apply to my life in the area of XX.
3. Although I thought James John's article was somewhat simplistic and short, I found that many of his examples resonated with my own experiences and made me think about his ideas for several days, giving me insights about how I could have better responded when XX.
Question: What if there are two authors of an article or book? Do I have to use both their names or just one of them and the article or book title?
Answer: If both authors are listed on the cover, I would use both names when you first mention the article. Afterward, it would be easier to refer to them by saying "the authors" or using "the article."
Question: We have to write an analysis in 6 to 7 sentences. How can I keep my analysis that short?
Answer: You will need to focus on just a few aspects of the article and make sure the evidence for your point is included briefly in each sentence. The first sentence should be your main thesis about how the article is effective (and if applicable, what is ineffective). Use a couple of sentences to elaborate on what is effective and a couple to show what is ineffectively done. End with a conclusion of how the article is useful to readers.
Question: When writing an analysis paragraph do you still use the seven sentence paragraph format?
Answer: It is always a good idea to talk to your instructor about the requirements for your particular essay. In general, an analysis paragraph can have the same format as other types of paragraphs. The first sentence would be the topic sentence and state your main analysis of the essay. That would be followed by examples from the essay to support that main point. For example, if your topic sentence stated, "The essay is effective because of the tone, word choice, and effective examples used by the author," your following sentences would explain and give examples from the essay that prove that point. Sometimes, you will include in the topic sentence what was done ineffectively, but you can also do that as a separate paragraph. The number of sentences would depend on the information you wanted to use to explain and illustrate your analysis.
Question: How can I analyze primary sources in the area of History?
Answer: You analyze primary sources in the same way that you would analyze any other text. You look at how the way it is written influences the meaning (tone, voice, word choice and examples etc.). You also would consider how the text in context with the time that it is written in comparison to our current historical and political situation.
Question: How do I write an essay on two topics that seem alike, but are different?
Answer: You are probably referring to a comparative essay when you need to explain the similarities and differences between two different topics. There are two main ways to do this
1. Talk about the similarities in one section and then the differences in another.
2. Thematically: Use different topics to organize the paper and then within each topic, discuss the similarities and differences of each of the two topics. For example, if you are discussing the similarities and differences between two types of cars, you could use the criteria of how well they drive, interior space, safety record, repair record, and choices in colors.
© 2011 Virginia Kearney
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on July 02, 2020:
Hi Deepa! I am so very glad that you are finding this helpful as you teach your children. I have over 100 articles to help teach English writing. Please come back and I hope I can help you again! Blessings to you!
Deepa on July 01, 2020:
Very Use ful .Thank you.
Deepa Immanuel on July 01, 2020:
For the first time ,I am seeing such a valuable information on Analysis of Essays.Now I find it easy to help my children in their work .Thank you so much.
Me on May 28, 2020:
Wow this article is so helpful. Thank you so much! Especially the examples and the questions were incredibly helpful.
CATHERINE on April 16, 2020:
This was the most informative and helpful guide.
moses on February 16, 2020:
melai on June 09, 2019:
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Moose Kekeao on February 18, 2019:
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Phiri Stanford on February 14, 2019:
This has been profoundly helpful. Thanks a lot!
Ludwina on January 31, 2019:
I found it more clearly and help for the ged test
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 19, 2018:
Hi Anthony--I'm so glad you've found this helpful. My 100 articles on writing have been written from my experience in teaching students how to write and trying to explain more clearly than the textbook. I could have taken my articles and written my own textbook but by posting them here on HubPages, they are searchable by Google and people can find the information they need.
Anthony on November 18, 2018:
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Polycarp Udoh on October 28, 2018:
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email@example.com on September 30, 2018:
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Q_Q on September 20, 2018:
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ibrahima barry on April 17, 2018:
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James on March 04, 2018:
I found this pretty helpful. Thanks!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 14, 2018:
Hi Rezvan, to prepare for your exam, you should practice following the steps I show you here and you should read all of my example articles. You can also look at my article about summary and response. You should ask your instructor whether your analysis is supposed to include a personal response. Sometimes, the "response" part is included in the analysis. If it is not, that can be a good way to start the article, by talking about your expectations before reading and then how you thought after reading. What did you think this was going to be about? Or judging from the title, what would most people think this is about? That can be a good way to introduce your paper, especially if the topic turns out to be a surprise. Another simple way is just to state the main idea of the article in one sentence. A third introduction would explain the context of the publishing of the article or the cultural circumstances that most people would know about that topic.
Rezvan on February 14, 2018:
Thank you so much for the amazing information. I have a question for you.
I have an exam in 2 days that will ask me to write to summarize and analyze" an article. I wonder how it looks like to have both a summary and analysis! I am a bit confused about how to structure it and how to start my introduction.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 06, 2018:
I'm not sure how you can do a personal response without using a personal pronoun. However, if that is your assignment, you can say: This article makes the reader feel... The author is believable because.... The current situation of ..... would remind a reader that....
Somok on February 06, 2018:
I have to write a response essay today, and I cannot use personal pronoun like I, You, We, Us. I’m so confused
Imtiaz Ali on December 14, 2017:
i am very thankful to you.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 15, 2017:
Hi Karen! I'm so glad that this information helped you. I hope you will share this with other students. I know that many English instructors are graduate students who are not terribly experienced teachers and have a lot of work to do in their own studies. After over 20 years of focusing on teaching writing, I wanted to share what I had learned from my students about how to write these essays more clearly and easily. Most of my information comes from working with students and analyzing their essays to see what worked best.