How to Write a Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay Paper With Examples

How to Write a Summary / Analysis / Response Essay
How to Write a Summary / Analysis / Response Essay

Steps in Writing a Summary

A summary tells the main ideas of an article in your own words. These are the steps to writing a great summary:

  1. Read the article, one paragraph at a time.
  2. For each paragraph, underline the main idea sentence (topic sentence). If you can't underline the book, write that sentence on your computer or a piece of paper.
  3. When you finish the article, read all the underlined sentences.
  4. In your own words, write down one sentence that conveys the main idea. Start the sentence using the name of the author and title of the article (see format below).
  5. Continue writing your summary by writing the other underlined sentences in your own words. Remember that you need to change both the words of the sentence and the word order. For more information, see video below.
  6. Don't forget to use transition words to link your sentences together. See my list of transition words below to help you write your summary more effectively and make it more interesting to read.
  7. Make sure you include the name of the author and article and use "author tags" (see list below) to let the reader know you are talking about what the author said and not your own ideas.
  8. Re-read your piece. Does it flow well? Are there too many details? Not enough? Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.

A summary is telling the main ideas of the article in your own words.

Sample Format

Author Tag: You need to start your summary by telling the name of the article and the author. Here are three examples of how to do that (pay close attention to the punctuation):

  1. In “How the Civil War Began," historian John Jones explains...
  2. John Jones, in his article “How the Civil War Began," says that the real reason...
  3. "How the Civil War Began," by historian John Jones, describes....

First Sentence of Summary: Along with including the article's title and author's name, the first sentence should be the main point of the article. It should answer the question: What is this essay about? (thesis). Example:

In "How the Civil War Began" by John Jones, the author argues that the real reason for the start of the Civil War was not slavery, as many believe, but was instead the clash of cultures and greed for cash.

Rest of Summary: The rest of your essay is going to give the reasons and evidence for that main statement. In other words, what is the main point the writer is trying to make and what are the supporting ideas he or she uses to prove it? Does the author bring up any opposing ideas, and if so, what does he or she do to refute them? Here is a sample sort of sentence:

___________ is the issue addressed in “(article's title)” by (author's name). The thesis of this essay is ___________ . The author’s main claim is ___________ and his/her sub claim is ___________ . The author argues ___________ . Other people argue ___________ . The author refutes these ideas by saying ___________ . His/her conclusion is ___________ .

How often do you mention the author? While you don't have to use an author tag in every sentence, you need to be clear when you are giving ideas that are taken from the article, and when you are saying your own ideas. In general, you want to be sure that you always use the author's name and the article title when you start the summary, and that you use the author's last name in the last sentence as well to make it clear you are still talking about the author's ideas. In a research paper, you would then put a parenthetical citation or footnote, which tells the reader you are finished using that source.

Author Tag List

Author's Name
Words for "Said"
Adjectives to Use With "Said"
James Garcia
"whole title"
"first couple of words"
the author
the article (book etc.)
the writer
Garcia's article
the historian (or other profession)
the essay
the report
Different ways to indicate who said what (and how, and where).

Sample Summary, Analysis, and Response Essays

  • Men and Women in Conversation: Example summary, analysis, and response (SAR) essay to Deborah Tannen's article about how divorce can be prevented if people learn the communication signals of the opposite gender.
  • Response Essay about Getting a Tattoo: An example SAR paper which responds to a personal experience about a man who gets a dragon tattoo.
  • The Year that Changed Everything: A sample SAR essay which was written by a college English class about an article by Lance Morrow suggesting that three lesser-known events of 1948 had a great impact on history.

Transition Words List

Adding Ideas
In addition
In contrast
For the most part
In fact
Most importantly
On the contrary
For a complete list, see my Hub "Easy Words to Use as Sentence Starters."
Analysis requires knowing who the author is trying to persuade and what he or she wants the audience to think, do, or believe.
Analysis requires knowing who the author is trying to persuade and what he or she wants the audience to think, do, or believe. | Source

Are you doing this paper for

  • English
  • History
  • Psychology
  • Other class--tell us in comments below
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Analysis explains how the author wrote effectively or ineffectively to convince a particular reader.

Using TRACE to Write Your Essay

Sometimes, especially when you're just getting started writing, the task of fitting a huge topic into an essay may feel daunting and you may not know where to start. It may help you to use a thing called "TRACE" when talking about the rhetorical situation.

TRACE stands for Text, Reader, Author, Context, and Exigence:

Text, Reader, and Author are easy to understand. When writing the analysis, you need to think about what kind of text it is and what the author wanted to have the audience think, do, or believe. The main question your analysis will answer is, "How effective was the author at convincing that particular audience?"

Context means several things: how the article fits into the history of discussion of that issue, the historical moment in time when the article is written, and the moment in time when a person reads the article.

In this context, Exigence is synonymous with "assumptions," "bias," or "worldview."

Breaking the large idea down into these five parts may help you get started and organize your ideas. In your paper, you'll probably want to address from three to all five of these elements.

How to Write an Analysis

An analysis examines:

  • How is this written?
  • Who is the audience?
  • Is it effectively written for that audience?

What is analysis? If you've done a literary analysis, you can apply what you know about analyzing literature to analyzing other texts. You will want to consider what is effective and ineffective. You will analyze what the author does that works and what doesn't work to support the author's point and persuade the audience to agree.

Using TRACE: Generally, your analysis is the body of your essay and so it will be the longest part. You will want to consider at least three of the TRACE elements. You can do these in any order, but generally, you will do Text first. You can do either Reader or Author second; however, your emphasis should be on what is effective/ineffective for the audience.

Break your analysis into paragraphs. Each one of these aspects will form the basis for at least one paragraph of the body of your paper. You will use examples from the paper and your own arguments about these examples to prove your point.

Ideas for How to Write Your Essay
Ideas for How to Write Your Essay

Step by Step Sample

Each of the following elements can be one paragraph of your analysis. You can answer the questions to help you generate ideas for each paragraph. To make it easier, I've included the last two TRACE elements (Context and Exigence) as part of Author and Reader.


  1. How is the essay organized? What is effective or ineffective about the organization of the essay?
  2. How does the author try to interest the reader?
  3. How well does the author explain the main claims? Are these arguments logical?
  4. Do the support and evidence seem adequate? Is the support convincing to the reader? Does the evidence actually prove the point the author is trying to make?


  1. Who is the author? What does he or she know about this subject?
  2. What is the author's bias? Is the bias openly admitted? Does that make his or her argument more or less believable?
  3. Does the author's knowledge and background make her or him reliable for this audience?
  4. How does the author try to relate to the audience and establish common ground? Is it effective?
  5. How does the author interest the audience? Does she or he make the reader want to know more?
  6. Does the author explain enough about the history of this argument? Is anything left out?


  1. Who is the reader?
  2. How would they react to these arguments?
  3. How is this essay effective or ineffective for this audience?
  4. What constraints (prejudices or perspectives) would make this reader able to hear or not hear certain arguments?
  5. What is the exigence (events in this moment in time which affect the need for this conversation) that makes the audience interested in this issue?

Analysis of author: Michael Crichton, author of "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves"
Analysis of author: Michael Crichton, author of "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" | Source

Professional Sample SAR

Michael Critchton's "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" argues that we are overdoing caution and fear. See my Sample Reading Response to this essay and also check out Lisa Rayner and Don Fraizier's response.

Sample Analysis Format

Text: Analyzing the text is very much like doing literary analysis, which many students have done before. Use all of your tools of literary analysis, including looking at the metaphors, rhythm of sentences, construction of arguments, tone, style, and use of language. Example:

The organization of "essay title" is effective/ineffective because ___________ . The essay's opening causes the reader to ___________ . The essay's style is ___________ and the tone is shown by ___________ . The language used is___________ . The essay's argument is constructed logically/illogically by ___________. The essay is organized by ___________ (give a very brief description of the structure of the essay, perhaps telling where the description of the problem is, where claims are made, and where support is located—in which paragraphs—and why this is effective or ineffective in proving the point).

Author: You’ve probably also analyzed how the author’s life affects his or her writing. You can do the same for this sort of analysis. For example, in my sample reading the response about Michael Crichton's "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" article, students noted that the fact that Crichton is the author of doomsday thrillers like Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park makes his argument that we shouldn't pay much attention to current doomsday scenarios like global warming rather ironic. If you don't know anything about the author, you can always do a quick Google Search to find out. Sample format:

The author establishes his/her authority by ___________ . The author's bias is shown in ___________ . The author assumes an audience who ___________ . He/She establishes common ground with the audience by ___________ .

Reader: You can write this section by inferring who the intended reader is, as well as looking at the text from the viewpoint of other sorts of readers. For example,

Readers are interested in this issue because of the exigence of ___________. Constraints on the reader's reaction are ___________. I think the reader would react to this argument by ___________. I think that the author's ___________ is effective. ___________ is less effective because ___________ includes ___________. The support is adequate/inadequate and is relevant/irrelevant to the author’s claim.

How do you write your papers?

  • Brainstorm a lot, then start writing.
  • Make an outline before writing.
  • Just start writing, then revise
  • Pre-write, outline, write, revise.
  • I just write one draft and turn it in!
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Response answers:

What do you think?

Does this article persuade you?

How to Write a Response

Generally, your response will be the end of your essay, but you may include your response throughout the paper as you select what to summarize and analyze. Your response will also be evident to the reader by the tone that you use and the words you select to talk about the article and writer. However, your response in the conclusion will be more direct and specific. It will use the information you have already provided in your summary and analysis to explain how you feel about this article. Most of the time, your response will fall into one of the following categories:

  • You will agree with the author and back your agreement up with logic or personal experience.
  • You will disagree with the author because of your experience or knowledge (although you may have sympathy with the author's position).
  • You will agree with part of the author's points and disagree with others.
  • You will agree or disagree with the author but feel that there is a more important or different point which needs to be discussed in addition to what is in the article.

How will this article fit into your own paper? How will you be able to use it?

Questions to Help You

Here are some questions you can answer to help you think about your response:

  1. What is your personal reaction to the essay?
  2. What common ground do you have with the author? How are your experiences the same or different from the author's and how has your experience influenced your view?
  3. What in the essay is new to you? Do you know of any information the article left out that is relevant to the topic?
  4. What in this essay made you re-think your own view?
  5. What does this essay make you think about? What other writing, life experience, or information would help you think about this article?
  6. What do you like or dislike about the essay and/or the ideas in the essay?
  7. How much of your response is related to your personal experience? How much is related to your own worldview? How is this feeling related to the information you know?
  8. How will this information be useful for you in writing your own essay? What position does this essay support? Or where might you use this article in your essay?

Sample Format

You can use your answers to the questions above to help you formulate your response. Here is a sample of how you can put this together into your own essay (for more sample essays, see the links above):

Before reading this article, my understanding of this topic was ___________. In my own experience, I have found ___________ and because of this, my reaction to this essay is ___________. Interestingly, I have ___________ as common ground with the author/audience. What was new to me is ___________. This essay makes me think ___________. I like/dislike ___________ in the essay. I will use this article in my research essay for ___________.

© 2011 VirginiaLynne

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Comments 34 comments

L.M. H. 4 weeks ago

Very good insight on "analysis" description.

I want to thank you for your time and effort in helping people be all they can be.

Keep up the great work

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VirginiaLynne 4 weeks ago from United States Author

Thanks Singapore! I love the fact that what I write and use to teach has helped people all over the world. I'm approaching 8 million views now!

Singapore 4 weeks ago

Thanks from Singapore! It's for literature :)

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VirginiaLynne 6 weeks ago from United States Author

Thanks Simon! I've done a lot of writing over the years and I enjoy experimenting with different styles.

Simon 6 weeks ago

I like the style of your post writing. It's very rare to find something like this

Abdullah 6 weeks ago


This my second semester in the university and I have to write. Analysis essay I find your site very helpful for me. Really thank you

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VirginiaLynne 5 months ago from United States Author

Hi Ercan! Since I started writing online in 2008, I've been amazed to see people from all over the world reading my work and being helped by the information I've developed for my students at college here in the United States. Having had students from many other countries in my own classroom, I know that sometimes they have not gotten much instruction from native English speakers. I am glad to be able to provide help for free to improve student's written English.

Ercan Öztoktay 5 months ago

Thanks so much from turkey

John 7 months ago

My first time to write a summary of a 4-page research paper, this useful article really helped me, thanks :)

Bruk 8 months ago

I don't know why I should go to school. This is the right place. It's helping me in my English composition 2 class.thank you.

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VirginiaLynne 11 months ago from United States Author

Hi Ed, I'm not sure what your instructor means by writing with authority. They may mean they want you to quote reliable, authoritative sources. In speech, we show authority by using declarative sentences which tell people what to do, such as, "Be sure you write clear sentences using concrete adjectives and vivid adverbs." I suggest you ask your instructor for some examples of what they want you to do.

Ed 11 months ago

Hello Professor Lynne. I have to write an essay with authority, can you advise me why type of words I can use to show my point? By the way the topic is dealing Information Technology.

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VirginiaLynne 17 months ago from United States Author

Thanks yakul for your comment. As a writer, I know I am always learning and improving too!

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Matty Fernandez 20 months ago from Passaic, NJ

I have to turn in a summary page for Critical Thinking. You've helped me lots!

Thank you!

Please follow me.

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Christy Maria 21 months ago

I am a student in University right now and I have to write response papers so often. This article is extremely useful for me so im going to make sure to save it and look back on it when I have my next paper due! Thankyou

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hijama 24 months ago from Rottherdam - NL

i like your hub, great sharing, i love the instructions

well done.

greeting from Hijama

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VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States Author

Aesta--glad to know this helped you. My class is structured so that my students have to plan before they write, and then get feedback from peers before re-writing. Many of them don't like that process because they want to get it all done in one sitting, but after they have gone through this process for a semester, they begin to realize that stopping to organize their thoughts first often means that the writing goes much more quickly. In the end, it takes less time!

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aesta1 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Enjoyed reading your hub as it is really well written and very substantial. I need to digest this information and start applying this in my work. I often just write spontaneously, no outline, and I organize this after. Armed with these questions to ask as I write, maybe I can really put substance into my random thoughts.

Lloyd Jenkins 2 years ago

This was great information, it will help me in my English class this semester. Organization is key in writing a good summary and response.

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VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States Author

Organised Kaos--do you really live in Tasmania? That seems like a fairy tale place to me. Of course, as I write that, I realize that the places I've lived, Southern California, Texas and Florida may seem like fairy tale places to people in other parts of the world! Good luck on your college career. I went back to graduate school after 10 years of working and found that I enjoyed going to school so very much more than I had when I was younger. I actually enjoyed the chance to learn things. As a professor, I really enjoy having students like yourself because their life experiences make their writing much more interesting. Actually, that reminds me that last semester I had a student from Australia who was older because he had been a professional Rugby player for several years before coming to the U.S. to go to college and play American football. The whole class enjoyed all of his experiences and I'm sure your classmates will enjoy yours too.

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Organised Kaos 2 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

Thanks for a great hub. Just about to go back to college after 20 years and am a little nervous about having forgotten this kinda stuff.

Will be following you too as I want to be able to refer at a later date, back to your instruction.

Many thanks.


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VirginiaLynne 3 years ago from United States Author

How interesting Maddie--thanks for letting me know. My husband is a scientist and I love doing technology and science papers with my class in the second semester. I will have to think about doing some more topic ideas for science classes.

Maddie (: 3 years ago

I'm doing this for science

Anarkali Suits 3 years ago

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

Avafdree 4 years ago

This page is a great method to connect to others. Congratulations on a job well achieved. I am anticipating your next

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VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

B. Leekley--absolutely! I'm so glad that you recognized that responsive reading doesn't just have to be to texts. Anything that provides us something to think about can be put into a responsive reading. You've reminded me that I need to add my own Hub which responded to a Harvard Study on the effect of going to 4th of July celebrations to my links.

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B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Thank you for this interesting and helpful hub. I have bookmarked it. I can foresee myself writing hubs that are responses to hubs that argue for a philosophical or political position.

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VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

I'm glad! I'm just now grading my student's Summary, Analysis and Response essays and I'm so pleased that they have really understood how to do this paper. I'm hoping my directions this semester have been clearer. We did two days of peer editing, which I think helped. This paper is similar to the Reading Response paper, and both of these Hubs are are the very top in number of hits, so I think that many people have trouble on these essays and the textbooks don't always describe them well.

mlc816 4 years ago

Many thanks made things a lot simpler for me!

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VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

johnsdfd--good question. Yes--I should add that to the hub. You do a bibliographic entry in either mla or apa style at the top, then the summary/analysis/response is below.

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htodd 4 years ago from United States

Great post virginialynne..Thanks

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VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Glad I helped you nico! My class is just starting on this essay now and so I was looking at my Hubviews and very surprised to find this one had over 3,000! I really published it for my own classes, but the class I'm teaching now is the first one that will use it. Guess there are a lot of other people out there needing help!

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VirginiaLynne 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks! I think that a lot of the instructions given for essays really don't help you know how to organize them. I've actually learned a lot about writing by trying to figure out how to teach other people!

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randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Well written. I like how you break everything down.

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

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