Learning how to summarize an article properly is a skill that you’re probably going to need to develop at one point during your university or college education. It’s an essential part of the learning process and a way to show your professor that you have understood the materials.
Essentially, an article summary means you’re taking someone else’s article and summarizing it in your own words. It may sound simple, but when it comes time to actually sit down and write a summary, it’s hard to know where to start or what you should do. There’s a lot more to it than just restating some arguments, and to get full marks, you’ll need to make sure you include everything your professor is looking for.
In this blog, we’re going to show you how to summarize an article step by step to make sure you ace your assignment. With our help, you can succeed in any class. Here’s how it all works.
Female student holding an article over her head
What’s the Point of an Article Summary, Anyway?
Before you learn how to summarize an article, it’s important to know why you’re summarizing it in the first place. Sometimes you’ll need to be able to underline important information that will be used later on in a research paper. When you go to write that paper later, you’ll already have the supporting arguments you need to use and how you will approach the topic.
The ultimate goal of an article summary is to condense the information you have read and to develop a better understanding of the material. It’s an expository take on someone’s work. Many different subjects and courses will require this type of assignment because it’s a great way to get an introduction to a certain topic or study the perspective of an expert in the field. Their supporting arguments can help you understand why you’re learning about this subject to begin with.
Article summaries show that you are able to read and interpret information. How well did you understand the author’s point of view? Could you sum up their arguments in a few sentences if you had to? This is an important skill that you will take with you throughout your time at university or college, as well as in your future career.
Depending on what industry or position you end up in, you may need to know how to summarize an article later in your career. For example, you company may ask you to read and summarize a case study to present the information in a meeting, or to condense an article and extract important information for a project.
Female student reading from a book
Start With The Abstract
If you want to learn how to summarize an article, the first thing you should do is study the abstract. This is where you should begin every time, because it is essentially the author’s own summary of their article.
The abstract of the article is designed to summarize and condense the information you’re going to read and the point the author is making. Here is an example – there is some background information with a statistic, a condensed explanation of the issue and topic, and the goal or conclusions of the study.
When you have to choose your own article to summarize, or if you’re using an article summary for a research paper, the abstract will let you know if the article contains the right information you need. It can also tell you if the topic is something you’re interested in.
Read Through The Article at Least Twice
The first thing you should do is read the article through once thoroughly to get an understanding of the author’s arguments and topic. Don’t worry about taking notes at this point and just focus on scanning through the article without the pressure of your assignment. This is where good reading skills come in, especially if your education requires you to write many article summaries.
If you’re dealing with a complicated article and aren’t sure you really understand after scanning through it, go through again for clarification. You won’t be able to effectively condense or summarize an article if you’re not entirely sure what the author is saying.
Of course, it’s best not to leave your assignment to the last minute. But when you’re in a crunch, you may need to learn how to do this step quickly. Check out Episode 48 of The Homework Help Show, where our host and top writer, Cath Anne, provides some helpful tips on reading an academic article when you’re short on time.
After you’re sure you understand the article, go through again and make notes. These notes will form the basis for your summary and will help you include the most important details.
Male student highlighting info for study notes
Making Helpful Notes
Underline the article’s topic sentence or thesis statement. As you go through and read the rest of the article, you’ll be able to determine if the author’s evidence does a good job proving their main point(s).
Make note of the supporting arguments. These arguments are what you’re going to need to summarize in your paper. Focus on the main take-aways and think about what the author is saying that may be important or valuable to your course. The more you can relate these points back to your course, the more impressed your professor will be.
It is also a good idea to underline certain keywords or vocabulary terms within the article. Major keywords should be included when you summarize the article. Doing so indicates to your professor that you understand the article and have absorbed the key concepts. This is particularly important if there are certain terms or phrases that the author has coined.
Take a look at our blog about effective note-taking to learn more tips and tricks that will help you make sure you record all of the details you need to write a good summary. Some of the techniques you use in class will also be helpful when it comes time to condense and summarize.
Female student writing a summary of an article
How to Summarize an Article: Getting Started
Once you’ve read the article through at least twice and made notes, it’s time to write a summary. To get started, Make an outline for your summary. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure you cover all of your bases in the paper. It will also help you stay on track when you start writing to make sure you don’t include any unnecessary information.
Your summary should include an introduction paragraph where you introduce the topic, provide background on the article, and restate what the author is arguing in your own words. Then, the body paragraphs should cover the main supporting arguments and the evidence the author has used to defend them. Your conclusion will paraphrase the argument again and offer further research questions or statements. We will go into these in more detail below.
Remember, your job is to write a summary about the article, not the topic itself. You aren’t including your own argumentative position. Instead, you’re analyzing the author’s position and focusing on what they’ve written, or how they’ve reached their conclusions.
The Elements of a Good Summary
● Restate the author’s thesis in your own words.
● Include the author’s name, article title, and the journal in which the article is published.
● Paraphrase whenever possible and use direct quotations as needed.
● Do not copy and paste sentences from the article. This is considered plagiarism and can get you in serious trouble. The only time you can do this is if you are using a direct quotation and it is properly cited.
● Use present tense.
● Avoid using first person narrative unless your professor has specifically told you to do so.
● Stay objective. You’re not critiquing the article. You are summarizing it and providing an overview of the author’s arguments.
● Stick to the point. Don’t overwhelm your reader with unnecessary information.
● Unless your teacher has specified a length requirement, aim to make your summary about a third of the length of the article you’re summarizing.
Flipping through an article in a book
Developing a Good Topic Sentence
The topic sentence and/or thesis statement of an article summary is essentially a retelling of the author’s own thesis. This sentence should state the main idea that the author has presented. It’s easier to do this when you write a summary because the author has already written the arguments. You just need to find them and underline them, then be able to rewrite them in your own words. It’s okay if your thesis statement takes up a few sentences.
Summarize the Author’s Argument by Retelling Their Points
You should be able to summarize the author’s arguments and restate them in your own words. Your professor is looking to see how well you understood and processed the author’s arguments and how you have connected them to the topics covered in your class or in your own learning. For example, if the article is a study, identify the author’s hypothesis and/or research question, as well as the methodology they have used to come to their conclusions.
When you summarize an author’s arguments, you should always be careful not to overstate things. The more you can condense it, the more this shows you’ve learned the material. Consider what you think is the most important and work with this. If you’re learning how to write an article summary for the purpose of writing a research paper, highlight the supporting arguments that relate to the points you’re planning to make.
Male student reading article for summary ideas
Examine the Sources
Take a look at the types of sources that the author has used in their supporting arguments. A good summary will examine the research to draw conclusions about the strength of the argument. The more credible the sources are, the stronger the author’s argument will be.
Different types of articles will usually rely on a range of sources to prove the author’s points. History papers will rely on primary sources for information about the time. These sources often provide firsthand accounts to events in the past and can be very credible when used properly. Empirical articles will usually outline the direct findings of a study that the authors have conducted, providing firsthand accounts of those conclusions.
Make note of the secondary sources as well. The most reliable supporting evidence comes from peer-reviewed journals and academic institutions as opposed to magazine articles or one-sided editorial pieces.
Paraphrasing and Quotations
Paraphrasing shows your professor that you have absorbed and understood the information in the article. It indicates that you’ve considered the author’s points, interpreted them, and are able to communicate them in your own words. The more you can summarize in your own words, the better your mark will be.
Direct quotations can strengthen your paper in some cases as long as they are used effectively. Quotations are important for academic essays and papers, but for article summarizing, it’s best to keep these to a minimum. Again, you need to show that your summary is coming from your own understanding and interpretation.
Male student recording quotation information
Questions to Consider When You Write a Summary
Here are some additional questions you should ask yourself when writing your article summary. This will help guide your paper and help you figure out what you should include when you run out of ideas.
● Who is the author’s target audience?
● What tone of voice is the author using?
● Is the article argumentative? If so, what is the author’s goal? In other words, what is the author trying to get the reader to do or think about?
● What questions does the article leave you with?
● Do the supporting arguments convince you of the author’s perspective? Why or why not?
Female student writing a summary outline
The Layout For a Good Summary
Knowing the layout for an academic essay can help you learn how to summarize an article and structure your paper. The following is a basic format you should follow to ensure that your paper is cohesive, flows well, and provides the most important information.
Your first sentence should be something that catches your reader’s attention. After that, you should use your introduction paragraph to identify the author and the article title. If you can find any background information on the author, even just their credentials, this can be helpful in your introduction as well. Your topic sentence or thesis statement should be the last sentence or a few sentences, and this will explain what points you’re going to expand on.
The first sentence of each body paragraph should be a topic sentence that introduces one of the supporting arguments. Each of the author’s supporting points should have its own body paragraph unless your professor has specifically asked for a short summary. Within those body paragraphs, you will discuss those supporting arguments and explain or condense them. Be sure to discuss the evidence the author has used as well, and the conclusions they have made about each specific point. Try to stick to one supporting argument per body paragraph for clarity.
In your body paragraphs, when you are summarizing the author’s arguments, be sure to use phrases that remind your audience you are paraphrasing. Here is a list of some of those phrases (substitute “the author” with your author’s last name):
● The author states that…
● In the article, the author argues that….
● According to the author…
● The author believes that…
● Based on these conclusions, the author argues that…
Begin your conclusion by restating the topic sentence or thesis statement you made in your introduction about the author’s main point. Make sure you rephrase this from your first statement. This section helps you to express the underlying meaning of the author’s arguments and the article as a whole. In a few sentences, describe any further questions, implications, or concerns the article may point out. You can also describe any limitations that the author’s points may have. This is particularly important when you’re summarizing an empirical article because there are always other factors to consider when it comes to research studies.
Student working on more than one article at a time
Summarizing More Than One Article in a Paper
Sometimes you may have to write a summary of multiple articles. It’s one thing to learn how to summarize an article, but how do you put this all together when there’s more than one to focus on? The good news is that it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
There are many ways to break down a multiple-article summary. You can choose to break it down by argument if both authors have made similar conclusions. In this case, you’d just include evidence both authors use. Or, you can break it down by author perspective and focus on one author’s points per paragraph. This second option is more effective when summaries need to be shorter in length.
When summarizing multiple articles, you can also choose to compare and contrast what each author has said. Start with a paragraph or two about the similarities between the authors’ arguments, and then include paragraphs about the differences and the way that each author has reached their own conclusion.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have chosen two articles that focus on childhood obesity in the United States. Both articles may argue that childhood obesity is an epidemic in the country, but have different conclusions as to what factors are to blame. You’d include one body paragraph about why both authors say that it is an epidemic, with evidence provided by both authors. Then you’d include following body paragraphs about each author’s different supporting arguments. In the conclusion, you’d summarize both perspectives toward the common goal.
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Still Not Sure How to Summarize an Article? Let us Help
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