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How do I write an article summary?

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What Is an Article Summary?

An article summary is a brief account of the article's main idea and its supporting points. When you write an article summary, you are writing a short explanation of the gist of the article, with enough information so someone who hasn't read the article gets a good idea of what it is about.

Characteristics of an Article Summary

An article summary has the following characteristics:

  • It explains the article's main idea, its points and its arguments, clearly and briefly.
  • It is much shorter than the document it summarizes.
  • The writing style is unique to the person writing the summary.
  • It contains no quoted material. Everything is paraphrased.

 

Writing an Article Summary: 3 Steps

You can summarize an article in 3 steps:

  • Identify the main idea/topic
  • Identify important arguments
  • Write your summary

Check the tabs in this section for more information about these steps.

  • The purpose of an article is to convey ideas. The author typically communicates these ideas in a logical sequence, which makes it easier for someone to summarize the content of the article.
  • The main idea is what ties the article together, and the secondary ideas, points, arguments, etc., all function to support the main idea.
  • To identify the main idea, you will need to read the article several times. The first reading will give you a general impression of what the author is trying to say.  Write this down so you don't forget it later; this will become the first sentence of your summary. Here are two examples:
    • In "How to Tie Your Own Shoelaces," author Mark Norton writes that learning how to tie secure knots will prevent crooked laces or laces that come undone.
    • Friends should avoid going into business together to prevent many potential obstacles that might destroy the friendship, cautions Nina Paxton in "Toxic Brew."
  • Read the article again (and again) until you are sure you understand it. You can't summarize content if you don't understand it, and your summary will reflect this.

 

 

  • Read the article again, paying attention to any arguments that support the main idea.
  • Underline the topic sentence for each paragraph, or write a summary (one or two sentences) describing in your own words and style what the main concept of the paragraph is.
  • After you finish reading the article, read all the topic sentences you wrote. Make adjustments if needed so everything is written in your own personal style.
  • Make sure the details you have listed are important. Secondary details are of less importance and won't be needed.
  • Check to see that the article is boiled down to the gist, to just the main topic and the supporting arguments. Get rid of everything else.


 

  • Your summary should start with the author's name and the title of the piece. You will be using the main idea sentences you wrote at the beginning of the process. Examples:
    • In "How to Tie Your Own Shoelaces," author Mark Norton writes that learning how to tie secure knots will prevent crooked laces or laces that come undone.
    • Friends should avoid going into business together to prevent many potential obstacles that might destroy the friendship, cautions Nina Paxton in "Toxic Brew."
  • Aim for summarizing the core of the article in your first sentence. The rest of your summary should include the important points that support the core thesis.
  • When you mention the author for the first time, use name and surname.
    • Example: Duncan McNeil argues that we should all learn to turn off our worries temporarily.
  • After the first mention, use the surname only.
    • Example: McNeil uses scientific statistic showing the value of taking a break from anxiety.
  • Don't use the author's title (Dr., Mr., etc.). You can add a short description of the author's credentials, though.
    • Example: Nora Beresford, professor of developmental psychology at McMaster University, explains the relationship between socialization and self esteem in her article "The Social Group and Its Effects on Self-Esteem."
  • Throughout your summary, make clear, every so often, that you are reporting on the author's ideas, not your own. To accomplish this, use author tags. Here are some examples of author tags: writes, explains, discusses, shows, suggests.
    • Example: Beth Armstrong argues that chocolate can function as a medicine when used accordingly.