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- How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples
How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples
Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023.
Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.
There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:
- Read the text
- Break it down into sections
- Identify the key points in each section
- Write the summary
- Check the summary against the article
Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).
Table of contents
When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about summarizing.
There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:
- As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material
- To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read
- To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.
But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.
In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.
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You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:
- Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
- Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
- Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and reread any particularly important or difficult passages.
There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:
- Start by reading the abstract . This already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
- Pay attention to headings and subheadings . These should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
- Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: What did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?
To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.
If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .
Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.
Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?
Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.
In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.
If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.
In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.
To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.
The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.
Examples of article summaries
Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.
The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.
Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.
However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.
An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.
For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.
Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.
Citing the source you’re summarizing
When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.
You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.
APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator
Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:
- You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
- You haven’t missed any essential information
- The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.
If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.
If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- ChatGPT vs human editor
- ChatGPT citations
- Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
- Using ChatGPT for your studies
- What is ChatGPT?
- Chicago style
- Types of plagiarism
- Avoiding plagiarism
- Academic integrity
- Consequences of plagiarism
- Common knowledge
A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Want to make your life super easy? Try our free text summarizer today!
A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.
You might have to write a summary of a source:
- As a stand-alone assignment to prove you understand the material
- For your own use, to keep notes on your reading
- To provide an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
- In a paper , to summarize or introduce a relevant study
To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:
- Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
- Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.
An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.
An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.
All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer .
Cite this Scribbr article
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McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-summarize/
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Writing Article Summaries
- Understanding Article Summaries
Common Problems in Article Summaries
Read carefully and closely, structure of the summary, writing the summary.
- Sample Outlines and Paragraphs
Understanding Article Summaries
An article summary is a short, focused paper about one scholarly article that is informed by a critical reading of that article. For argumentative articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the thesis and supporting arguments; for empirical articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the research questions, methods, findings, and implications of the study.
Although article summaries are often short and rarely account for a large portion of your grade, they are a strong indicator of your reading and writing skills. Professors ask you to write article summaries to help you to develop essential skills in critical reading, summarizing, and clear, organized writing. Furthermore, an article summary requires you to read a scholarly article quite closely, which provides a useful introduction to the conventions of writing in your discipline (e.g. Political Studies, Biology, or Anthropology).
The most common problem that students have when writing an article summary is that they misunderstand the goal of the assignment. In an article summary, your job is to write about the article, not about the actual topic of the article. For example, if you are summarizing Smith’s article about the causes of the Bubonic plague in Europe, your summary should be about Smith’s article: What does she want to find out about the plague? What evidence does she use? What is her argument? You are not writing a paper about the actual causes of Bubonic plague in Europe.
Further, as a part of critical reading, you will often consider your own position on a topic or an argument; it is tempting to include an assessment or opinion about the thesis or findings, but this is not the goal of an article summary. Rather, you must identify, explain, and analyse the main point and how it is supported.
Your key to success in writing an article summary is your understanding of the article; therefore, it is essential to read carefully and closely. The Academic Skills Centre offers helpful instruction on the steps for critical reading: pre-reading, active and analytical reading, and reflection.
As you read an argumentative article, consider the following questions:
- What is the topic?
- What is the research question? In other words, what is the author trying to find out about that topic?
- How does the author position his/her article in relation to other studies of the topic?
- What is the thesis or position? What are the supporting arguments?
- How are supporting arguments developed? What kind of evidence is used?
- What is the significance of the author’s thesis? What does it help you to understand about the topic?
As you read an empirical article, consider the following questions:
- What is the research question?
- What are the predictions and the rationale for these predictions?
- What methods were used (participants, sampling, materials, procedure)? What were the variables and controls?
- What were the main results?
- Are the findings supported by previous research?
- What are the limitations of the study?
- What are the implications or applications of the findings?
Create a Reverse Outline
Creating a reverse outline is one way to ensure that you fully understand the article. Pre-read the article (read the abstract, introduction, and/or conclusion). Summarize the main question(s) and thesis or findings. Skim subheadings and topic sentences to understand the organization; make notes in the margins about each section. Read each paragraph within a section; make short notes about the main idea or purpose of each paragraph. This strategy will help you to see how parts of the article connect to the main idea or the whole of the article.
A summary is written in paragraph form and generally does not include subheadings. An introduction is important to clearly identify the article, the topic, the question or purpose of the article, and its thesis or findings. The body paragraphs for a summary of an argumentative article will explain how arguments and evidence support the thesis. Alternatively, the body paragraphs of an empirical article summary may explain the methods and findings, making connections to predictions. The conclusion explains the significance of the argument or implications of the findings. This structure ensures that your summary is focused and clear.
Professors will often give you a list of required topics to include in your summary and/or explain how they want you to organize your summary. Make sure you read the assignment sheet with care and adapt the sample outlines below accordingly.
One significant challenge in writing an article summary is deciding what information or examples from the article to include. Remember, article summaries are much shorter than the article itself. You do not have the space to explain every point the author makes. Instead, you will need to explain the author’s main points and find a few excellent examples that illustrate these points.
You should also keep in mind that article summaries need to be written in your own words. Scholarly writing can use complex terminology to explain complicated ideas, which makes it difficult to understand and to summarize correctly. In the face of difficult text, many students tend to use direct quotations, saving them the time and energy required to understand and reword it. However, a summary requires you to summarize, which means “to state briefly or succinctly” (Oxford English Dictionary) the main ideas presented in a text. The brevity must come from you, in your own words, which demonstrates that you understand the article.
Sample Outlines and Paragraph
Sample outline for an argumentative article summary.
- General topic of article
- Author’s research question or approach to the topic
- Author’s thesis
- Explain some key points and how they support the thesis
- Provide a key example or two that the author uses as evidence to support these points
- Review how the main points work together to support the thesis?
- How does the author explain the significance or implications of his/her article?
Sample Outline for an Empirical Article Summary
- General topic of study
- Author’s research question
- Variables and hypotheses
- Experiment design
- Materials used
- Key results
- Did the results support the hypotheses?
- Implications or applications of the study
- Major limitations of the study
The paragraph below is an example of an introductory paragraph from a summary of an empirical article:
Tavernier and Willoughby’s (2014) study explored the relationships between university students’ sleep and their intrapersonal, interpersonal, and educational development. While the authors cited many scholars who have explored these relationships, they pointed out that most of these studies focused on unidirectional correlations over a short period of time. In contrast, Tavernier and Willoughby tested whether there was a bidirectional or unidirectional association between participants’ sleep quality and duration and several psychosocial factors including intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement. Further they conducted a longitudinal study over a period of three years in order to determine whether there were changes in the strength or direction of these associations over time. They predicted that sleep quality would correlate with measures of intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement; they further hypothesized that this correlation would be bidirectional: sleep quality would predict psychosocial measures and at the same time, psychosocial measures would predict sleep quality.
How To Write a Summary of an Article - Guide & Examples
Learn how to summarize an article, where to start, what to include, and how to keep it short and interesting through this practical guideline.
Jan 24, 2023
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Have you ever considered why article summaries yield so much attention online?
And why it matters so much to writers?
It would be demoralizing to pour a great deal of effort and enthusiasm into an article only to have it end in a banal, trite manner.
It's like a well-made film with a vague ending.
A poor summary of an article isn't just detrimental to the piece overall, it can also leave you feeling like your precious time has been squandered.
This post will go over some guidelines on how to summarize an article, such as where to start, what to include, and how to keep it short and interesting.
Moreover, we will offer some tried-and-true solutions that can help you speed up the summarizing process.
But before we get into that, let's figure out why we have to summarize articles in the first place.
Why Do We Need to Summarize Articles?
When you need to convey the gist of a lengthy article to someone who still needs to read it, a summary is your best bet.
It allows readers to get the brief of an article quickly without having to read it cover to cover. Your readers can easily remember and retain the main points of an article if they are correctly summarized.
What's more, article summaries are a time-saving technique that can be used when:
✅ Writing the last part of an article .
✅ Writing a review of a book .
✅ When getting ready for a presentation in class .
✅ When conducting research for a project .
✅ When getting ready for an interview .
✅ When preparing for a test .
✅ When writing a blog post .
✅ When making a report for a customer .
✅ When writing news summaries for a website .
✅ If you are writing a speech .
Now that you know where to use it, let’s learn how to write a summary of an article in 5 simple steps. .
You’ll be surprised when you discover that you were probably unconsciously using all these techniques already.
How To Write a Summary of an Article In 5 Steps
1. read the article.
The first step in writing a summary of an article is, of course, to read the article carefully.
Even though this step might seem obvious, you might be surprised by how many people think a quick overview is all they need to understand a concept fully.
That may be true, but if you want people to take your summary seriously, take the time to read the article carefully and pay attention to the main points, its details, and the structure of the tex t.
That way, you can ensure you're covering the essentials of the article, which serve as your summary's backbone.
2. Identify The Main Ideas of The Article
Let’s not beat around the bush: a quick glance at the article's outlines will reveal its central arguments .
Outlines of articles emphasize everything of utmost importance for the subject at hand.
However, if the article doesn’t have outlines, you can extract the main ideas by looking for the topic sentence in each paragraph.
3. Write Your Understanding of The Topic
The third step in writing a summary of an article is to write its main points in your own words .
The question you should ask yourself when you write an article's summary is this:
🎯 What are the most important points that your readers should remember?
At this point, you are free to use more than just a simple statement.
Think about the big picture and focus on conveying the general impression of the argument.
Your summary argument can be more convincing by including specifics directly connected to the main idea.
4. Define Your Thesis Statement
Now that you've laid out your arguments, what do you think of your findings as a whole?
The summary boils down to your assessment.
🎯 What is the bottom line message you are trying to convey?
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for putting your ideas into words, therefore we are limited in the advice we can provide you.
Just be yourself when you write it — your audience will enjoy the authenticity and originality that comes from your voice .
If a reader doesn't care about what he just read, that's the worst possible reaction, right?
Thus, whether they agree or disagree, you've accomplished your goal as a writer if your audience is engaged with your content.
5. Rewrite The Summary
Once you've completed the four steps outlined above, you have your first draft of the summary, which needs additional tweaking to make it coherent and effective.
To successfully summarize an article, you will need to rewrite it (either the entire output or just fragments of it) to strengthen your context .
You can get the most out of your sentences by using a rewriting technique that primarily focuses on shifting the working order and experimenting with synonyms.
The following are the essential components of powerful sentences:
🎯 They are clear and easy to read .
🎯 They maintain a consistent and logical line of thought .
🎯 They are engaging .
Moreover, there are two additional factors that necessitate rewriting the original article summary draft:
📍To make sure we are not repeating ourselves .
📍To avoid plagiarism .
Ok, you’re all set. Now we should test what you’ve learned from the example.
A Summary of An Article From The Example
Reading instructions is one thing, but doing what you read is entirely different.
I'll demonstrate 4 writing strategies that can help you quickly and effectively summarize any piece of writing by applying them to the same section of the article.
Here is the piece I’ll be using in the following text:
Additionally, you'll learn how to use AI-enabled tools to produce summary output even more quickly.
1. Summarizing Technique
The art of summarizing allows you to condense a lengthy piece of writing down to its essentials.
Simplifying a text means getting rid of all the fluff and focusing on the core concepts while ignoring the supporting details.
To be effective at summarizing, it's crucial that the summary maintain the same tone and point of view as the original text.
Summarizing Output Example
Tools, such as the TextCortex add-on , can help you quickly and effortlessly summarize large portions of text.
Just highlight your text , and from the rewriting menu that appears at the bottom, hit the “ Summarize ” button.
You can use TextCortex within 30+ online platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Hemingway, Notion etc.
This means you don’t have to switch between the tabs to tweak your text — leverage AI writing assistance within your chosen platform's textbox.
2. Rewriting Technique
The rewriting method allows you to alter a sentence's form without changing its meaning.
You can rewrite sentences to make them more understandable, shorter, or engaging.
Rewriting techniques can also make your sentence sound more interesting or sophisticated by switching out a few words for synonyms..
Rewriting Output Example
The TextCortex add-on, also offers the “ Rewriting ” feature in its arsenal.
Again, highlight the sentences or paragraphs in bulk, and choose the option from the rewriting menu.
From this point, you can either copy and paste the output, or click on it to apply changes.
If you are not satisfied with the quality of your output, just click on “ Load more ” to get additional suggestions.
3. Changing the Tone of Voice Technique
One way to change the narrative and style of your writing is by adjusting the tone of voice .
This writing technique requires a writer to experiment with various sentence structures.
In other words, changing the writer's tone of voice allows you to set the mood and evoke a certain reaction from the audience.
Encouraging Tone of Voice Output Example
You guessed it right.
The TextCortex add-on also provides you with the “ Tone ” feature that enables you to switch between different narrative styles such as “encouraging”, “casual”, “decisive”, and so on.
You can access this feature either from the rewriting menu or by hitting the purple bubble that prompts the creator suite with 60+ AI templates to choose from.
The final version of your summary must endure at least one additional writing technique: proofreading .
You can use it to find and fix typos and other mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, and capitalization.
A proofreading technique ensures a clear, concise, and accurate summary as a result.
The " Text-to-speech " feature is a great way to check your work for errors when using the TextCortex add-on.
There aren't enough ways to describe how tedious it is to spot your own mistakes in writing. With this feature, you can have AI read your content aloud, allowing you to gauge its overall impact and spot errors with greater precision.
The " Text-to-speech " function can be activated by selecting the text you wish be read aloud and then selecting the appropriate option from the rewriting menu.
After a short wait, the " play " button will become available, and you can press it to hear the final version of your content.
What Is The Easiest Way To Summarize An Article?
Congratulations! You have successfully completed a brief course on how to write a summary of an article.
As for the question on what is the easiest way to summarize an article, my answer is clear — utilize AI writing tools to do that for you.
There comes a point in every creative person's life when inspiration dries up, and a deadline looms without mercy.
A smart move to get the ball rolling again and avoid the torture of writer's block is to invest in software that can cut down on your writing time while providing a significant breakthrough in your writing.
With the TextCortex add-on , you can accomplish all that and even more:
👍Rewrite original sentences without changing the meaning.
👍Expand the sentences to add more details in your paragraphs.
👍Summarize the original text for a brief output.
👍 Change the tone of voice to play with different narratives.
👍 Autocomplete your sentences from random thoughts.
👍 Generate long-form posts from a 5-word concept.
👍 Transform bullets into emails .
The TextCortex tool is easily accessible, enabling you to use its features on more than 30 widely used platforms.
Furthermore, its 60+ AI templates will help you write various content forms like a pro.
Interested in boosting your writing skills for free?
Get your TextCortex free account today to claim your 10 free daily creations and explore a different side of AI-writing power.
What are The 3 Elements of The Summary?
1. Introduction — A quick overview of the article's main points.
2. Body — A detailed description of the main ideas (including evidence and arguments).
3. Conclusion — An overall evaluation of the provided solutions.
How Many Paragraphs Are In The Summary?
How many paragraphs an article summary has will depend on how long the article is and what the purpose of the summary is.
In general, a summary will have between 1 and 4 paragraphs .
However, if the article is very long, it may need more than 4 paragraphs.
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How to Write Article Summaries, Reviews & Critiques
Writing an article summary.
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When writing a summary, the goal is to compose a concise and objective overview of the original article. The summary should focus only on the article's main ideas and important details that support those ideas.
Guidelines for summarizing an article:
- State the main ideas.
- Identify the most important details that support the main ideas.
- Summarize in your own words.
- Do not copy phrases or sentences unless they are being used as direct quotations.
- Express the underlying meaning of the article, but do not critique or analyze.
- The summary should be about one third the length of the original article.
Your summary should include:
- Give an overview of the article, including the title and the name of the author.
- Provide a thesis statement that states the main idea of the article.
- Use the body paragraphs to explain the supporting ideas of your thesis statement.
- One-paragraph summary - one sentence per supporting detail, providing 1-2 examples for each.
- Multi-paragraph summary - one paragraph per supporting detail, providing 2-3 examples for each.
- Start each paragraph with a topic sentence.
- Use transitional words and phrases to connect ideas.
- Summarize your thesis statement and the underlying meaning of the article.
Adapted from "Guidelines for Using In-Text Citations in a Summary (or Research Paper)" by Christine Bauer-Ramazani, 2020
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How to Write a Summary - Guide & Examples (from Scribbr.com)
Writing a Summary (from The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center)
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- Last Updated: Aug 16, 2023 11:47 AM
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