How to Write a Summary of an Article
When to Summarize?
- To show how an author's ideas support your argument.
- To argue against the author's ideas
- To condense a lot of information in a short space.
- Tell the main idea clearly.
- Are written in your own style.
- Are shorter than the original document.
- Explain all of the important notions/arguments.
- Condense a lot of information.
1. Find Main Idea
In a summary, you want to identify the main idea of the article and put this information in your own words. Plan to read the article several times. In the first reading you want to get the general notion of the essay. Write that down after you finish reading. That will be the thesis of your summary. Include the author's first and last name and the title of the article.
To figure out the central idea, you should ask yourself why this essay was written and published. Clues to help determine this are:
- The title.
- The place it was published (which can help you determine the intended audience).
- The date of publication.
- The type of essay.
- The tone of the piece.
- Notions which seem to be repeated throughout.
Example: In "Bypass Cure," James Johnson argues that new research suggests that the best cure for diabetes is the surgical solution of a Gastric Bypass.
2. Identify Important Arguments
Now you want to do a second reading. This time, read more carefully to get the other important arguments. Here is how to do that:
- Read on a paper copy or use a computer program that lets you annotate.
- Underline the topic sentence of each paragraph. If no one sentence tells the main concept, then write a summary of the main point in the margin.
- Write that sentence in your own words on the side of the page or on another piece of paper.
- When you finish the article, read all the topic sentences you marked or wrote down.
- In your own words, rewrite those main ideas.
- Use complete sentences with good transition words.
- Be sure you don't use the same words, phrases, or sentence structure of the original.
- You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
- Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.
3. Write Your Summary
1. Your summary should start with the author’s name and the title of the work. Here are several ways to do this correctly:
- In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains...
- John Wood, in "Cats Don't Dance," explains...
- According to John Wood in "Cats Don't Dance"...
- As John Wood vividly elucidates in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance"...
- John Wood claims in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance" that...
2. Look for the thesis sentence or write out a thesis sentence that summarizes the main idea. Underline a topic sentence for each paragraph or write a sentence in the margins or on notebook paper for each paragraph. Combine that thesis with the title and author into your first sentence of the summary.
Example first sentence: In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains that in spite of the fact that cats are popular pets who seem to like us, felines are not really good at any activities that require cooperation with someone else, whether that is dancing or sharing.
3. The rest of your summary should tell some of the central concepts that are used to support the thesis. Be sure to restate these ideas in your own words. Make your summary as short and concise as possible. Condense sentences and leave out unimportant details and examples. Stick to the important points.
Using Author Tags
In writing your summary, you need to clearly state the name of the author and the name of the article, essay, book, or another source.
Example: According to Mary Johnson in her essay, "Cats Make Good Pets," the feline domestic companion is far superior to the canine one.
You also need to continue to make it clear to the reader when you are still talking about the ideas in that author's work. To do this, use "author tags," which is either the last name of the author or a pronoun (he or she) to show you are still discussing that person's ideas.
Author Tags Verb List
helps us understand
presents the idea
creates the impression
Tips and Examples
1. When you refer to the author after the first time, you always use the last name.
- Johnson comments...
- According to Wood's perspective...
- As Jones implies in the story about...
- Toller criticizes...
- In conclusion, Kessler elaborates about...
2. Use different verbs and adverbs. Your choice of author tag verbs and adverbs can contribute to the way you analyze the article. Certain words will create a specific tone. See the tables for a selection of different word choices.
3. You don't need to use an author's title (Dr., Professor, or Mr. and Mrs.) but it does help to add their credentials to show they are an authoritative source.
- In "Global Warming isn't Real," Steven Collins, a professor at the University of Michigan, claims that...
- New York Times critic Johann Bachman argues in "Global Warming is the Next Best Thing for the Earth" that...
4. You always need to make it clear when you are discussing the ideas of the author. Here are some ways to do that:
- Use author tags.
- Use mentions of "the article" or "the text."
- Add the page number that the information is found on in parenthesis at the end of the sentence.
Adverbs to Use with Author Tags
1. Start with an author tag that includes the first and last name of the author and the title of the text. Examples:
- In “My Favorite Shoe,” Treyvon Jones explains...
- Treyvon Jones in his article “My Favorite Shoe” explains....
2. Finish the sentence with the main point of this article. Answer the question, "What is this essay mostly about?" Think: "What does the author want you to say/do/believe after reading this article?"
3. Next, talk about the main reasons the author believes this and give a few brief examples.
In "My Favorite Shoe," Treyvon Jones explains that Nike shoes are the best brand of running shoe for serious track athletes. Jones supports this view by pointing out that Nike shoes are more comfortable, last longer, and provide more cushioning for the feet. He notes that the statistics from sales and scientific evidence of how Nike shoes are better for the feet support his claim. In addition, Jones points out that most professional runners use Nike and he tells his own story of how he won the 100-meter men's competition after switching to Nike shoes.
© 2011 Virginia Kearney