BooksCorrespondenceCreative WritingNewspapers & MagazinesPoetryQuotationsWriting

How to Write a Summary of an Article

Updated on January 23, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Profile
Most of my students prefer a hard copy rather than relying on digital highlighting and notes.
Most of my students prefer a hard copy rather than relying on digital highlighting and notes. | Source

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.

Good Summaries:

  1. Tell the main idea clearly.
  2. Are written in your own style.
  3. Are shorter than the original document.
  4. Explain all of the important notions/arguments.
  5. 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:

  1. The title.
  2. The place it was published (which can help you determine the intended audience).
  3. The date of publication.
  4. The type of essay.
  5. The tone of the piece.
  6. 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.

Think of the thesis of your summary as a caption on a picture.  Example: In spite of having lost most of the season due to an injury, Jim Johnson beat his own record and won the meet, qualifying him for the state finals.
Think of the thesis of your summary as a caption on a picture. Example: In spite of having lost most of the season due to an injury, Jim Johnson beat his own record and won the meet, qualifying him for the state finals. | Source

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:

  1. Read on a paper copy or use a computer program that lets you annotate.
  2. 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.
  3. Write that sentence in your own words on the side of the page or on another piece of paper.
  4. When you finish the article, read all the topic sentences you marked or wrote down.
  5. In your own words, rewrite those main ideas.
  6. Use complete sentences with good transition words.
  7. Be sure you don't use the same words, phrases, or sentence structure of the original.
  8. You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
  9. 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

said
explain
comments
persuades
suggests
understands
argues
reminds
helps us understand
elucidates
presents
intimates
concludes
presents the idea
creates the impression
criticizes
defines
highlights
concedes
shows
states
thinks
admits
lists
notes
analyzes
disagrees
observes
points out
emphasizes
discusses
identifies
implies
insists
responds
shows
proves
rejects
suggests

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.

Examples:

  • 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

conclusively
expressively
realistically
tightly
angrily
radically
clearly
dutifuly
evenly
occasionally
quickly
ironically
honestly
eagerly
elegantly
sharply
rarely
loosely
exactly
happily
hastily
perfectly
sternly
unexpectedly
sometimes
never
justly
devotedly
finally
warily
wearily
completely
fully
doggedly
iconically
sarcastically
seriously
carefully
politely

Summary Template

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.

Example Paragraph

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

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 18 months ago from United States

      Hi Edu--If you assignment is to write about an article, then you usually need to summarize (tell the main ideas of the article) before you talk about it. Sometimes you summarize the whole article and then tell what you think. Other times, you might just summarize smaller parts of the essay and mix it with what you think. You might want to see my article on How to Write a Reading Response paper.

    • profile image

      Edu 18 months ago

      I would like to write an essay from an article.

      Is there any other way of writing the essay or summarizing the article is the only means to be my essay?

    • profile image

      Sourat 3 years ago

      I love it very very satisfied

    • unverm profile image

      unverm 3 years ago

      Thanks a lot...

    • profile image

      Zukiswa Dube 3 years ago

      thankyou so much this is loud and clear i was so frustrated don't know where to start my summary.

    • profile image

      Eldar 4 years ago

      That's the most clear explanation that i've been looking. Thank You though

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      So glad to have you join us on Hubpages xstatic. I've been a teacher of writing for years and I've published in print, but I love this medium because you get a chance to have much more feedback. And you can always go back and edit your Hubs! Besides, you can write on anything you like.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      I bookmarked this one. I was an English major, but have not written formally for a long time. When I strated to write my first Hub the other day, based on an article I read elsewhere and some personal experience, I decided I needed to brush up on the process. This is a big help, and I will read more of your Hubs.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks donnaisabella--what a pretty name! Glad you find the information useful. I really only started posting here for my own students and have been amazed at how many people look at my pages each day on writing. However, I've written these up because so many times I felt the books didn't explain very well. Best wishes!

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 5 years ago from Fort Myers

      Very helpful information. Thanks for sharing. I wish I had this 26 years ago, what a difference it would have made. But guess what, I will still need it in a little while!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      I'm so glad I've helped you Asmaa. So many English books really don't give very clear directions. That is why I've written up a summary of the best instructions I've found over the years in different textbooks (plus my own ideas!). Hope your essay goes well!

    • profile image

      Asmaa 5 years ago

      Thank you so much!!!!

      You helped me a lot!

    Click to Rate This Article