How to Write a Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay Paper With Examples
A summary is telling the main ideas of the article in your own words.
Steps in Writing
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 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.
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?
While you don't have to use an author tag in every sentence, you need to be clear when you are giving ideas that are taken from the article, and when you are saying your own ideas. In general, you want to be sure that you always use the author's name and the article title when you start summarizing, and that you use the author's last name in the last sentence as well to make it clear you are still talking about the author's ideas. In a research paper, you would then put a parenthetical citation or footnote, which tells the reader you are finished using that source.
Author Tag List
Words for "Said"
Adverbs to Use With "Said"
"first couple of words"
the article (book etc.)
the historian (or other profession)
- 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.
Transition Words List
For the most part
On the contrary
Are you doing this paper for
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 from three to all five of these elements.
Step by Step Sample
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 does he or she know about this subject?
- What is the author's bias? Is the bias openly admitted? Does that make his or her argument more or less believable?
- Does the author's knowledge and background make her or him 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? Does she or he 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 in 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 do you write your papers?
What do you think?
Does this article persuade you?
How to Write
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 which 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?
Questions to Help You
Here are some questions you can answer to help you think about your response:
- What is your personal 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 own 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 own worldview? How is this feeling related to the information you know?
- How will this information be useful for you in writing your own 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 own 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
© 2011 Virginia Kearney