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How to Write a Summary of an Article: Brevity in Brilliance

Last update date: February 5, 2024
5 min read

Writing a review or a critique is often more difficult than it seems, so students and writers alike are often wondering about how to summarize an article. We know how challenging a task this can be, so this guide will give you a clear perspective and the main points on how to write a summary of an article.

Here’s a brief overview of the main points the article will cover before we start:

  • The essence of an article summary and how to approach writing it;
  • Three main steps for a successful research summary;
  • Tips and strategies for outlining the main idea;
  • Examples of good and bad short summaries for inspiration;
  • Common mistakes to avoid when writing a research article summary.

The steps outlined in this post will help you summarize an article in your own words without sacrificing the original text message and ideas.


What Is an Article Summary?

An article summary is a concise and condensed version of a longer piece of writing, often an article, research paper, or news report. Its purpose is to capture the main ideas, crucial points, and key arguments found in the original text, providing a brief and easily understandable overview.

These summaries are composed in the author’s own words, distilling the essential information to help readers quickly grasp the content without having to read the entire article. They serve as a helpful tool to offer a snapshot of the most important aspects of the content, making it simpler for readers to decide whether they wish to delve into the complete article.

A common goal of academic summary writing is to improve critical thinking skills, and they serve as great practice for academic writers to improve their own writing skills. There are several main goals of writing a synopsis of an article:

  • This paper’s main goal is to provide a comprehensive yet brief descriptive comment on a particular article, telling your readers about the author’s topic sentence and important points in his work and the key points of it.
  • It serves to outline a laconic reader’s perspective on the paper while keeping the main point.
  • Identifies all the crucial segments from each of the paper’s sections.

A proper article summary can help do your college essays the right way because it provides a great, concise view of the source article. Especially if you are often facing writing tasks like academic papers, knowing how to write a good synopsis can upgrade your writing skills.

Difference Between Abstract and Research Summary Writing

Things get confusing when someone wants to define their place and purpose inside the text. To be more precise, the abstract appears first in the academic article, whereas the summary appears last.

Many students cannot distinguish between a summary and an abstract of a research paper. While these have certain similarities, they are not the same. Therefore, you must be aware of the subtleties before beginning a research article.

On the one hand, both components have a limited scope. Their goal is to provide a thorough literature assessment of the research paper’s main ideas. When you write a research summary, focus on your topic, methods, and findings.

Below you can find more differences between the abstract and research article summary for your project:

  • Abstracts provide a succinct synopsis of your work and showcase your writing style.
  • Abstracts lay out the background information and clarify the primary hypothesis thesis statement, while the summary emphasizes your research methodology, highlighting the important elements.

Finally, you must submit the abstract before actual publication. On the other hand, article summaries come with the finished piece of paper.

Steps to Write a Summary for an Article

In the world of effective communication, the skill of crafting short yet informative summaries is invaluable. Whether you’re a student dealing with academic articles, a professional simplifying complex reports, or simply someone looking to grasp the essence of an interesting read, mastering the art of summarization is crucial. This summarizing guidelines will lead you through the steps to write a compelling piece.

These steps will empower you to extract core ideas and key takeaways, making it easier to understand and share information efficiently.

Preparing for Summarizing

Before you start writing your summary of the article, you’ll have to read the piece a few times first as a base for further understanding. It’s recommended that you read the paper without taking any notes first because this gives you some room to create your own perspective of the work.

After the first reading, you should be able to tell the author’s perspective and the type of audience they are focusing on. Subsequently, you should get ready for the second read with a paper to write notes on as you get into the arguments of the post.

Identifying Main Ideas

As you come to the second read of the article, you should focus on the thesis statement, main ideas, and important details laid out in the piece. If you look at the headings and sections individually, you should be able to get some material for the summarizing by taking out the crucial events or a topic sentence from each part.

While writing down the main arguments of the post, make sure to ask the five “W” questions. If you think about the “Who”, “Why”, “When”, “Where”, and “What”, you should be able to construct a layout for the summary based on the main ideas.

Writing The Summary

Once you lay down the article’s main ideas and answer the key questions about it, you’ll have an outline for writing. The next move is to keep an eye out on the structure of the summary and use the material in your notes to write your short take on these essential points.

The steps for writing article summaries can be similar to the main steps of article review writing. Therefore, it’s necessary to discuss the structure next so we can set you in the right direction with summary-specific format tips.

Outline Your Research Summary

To summarize research papers, you must be aware of the basic structure. You may know how to cite sources and filter the ideas, but you’ll also have to organize your findings in a concise academic structure.

The following components are essential for a summary paper format:

Introduction

Your research article’s introduction is a brief overview of your work. Outlining important ideas or presenting the state of the topic under research seeks to make the issue easier for your audience to comprehend.

Methods

The Methods section includes tests, databases, experiments, surveys, questionnaires, sampling, or statistical analysis, used to conduct a research study. However, for a solid research paper summary example, you should avoid getting bogged down in the specifics and just discuss the tools you utilized and how you conducted your study.

Results

This part the summary of research, presents all of the data you gathered from your investigations and analysis. Therefore, incorporate any information you learned by watching your target and the supporting theories.

Discussion

This stage requires you to summarize research paper, evaluate the result in light of the pertinent background, and determine how it reacts to the prevailing trends. You need to identify the subject’s advantages and disadvantages once you have provided an explanation using theoretical models. You may also recommend more research in the area.

Conclusion

Use this last part to support or refute your theories in light of the data collection and analysis, though, if your mentor insists on it being in a separate paragraph.

Here’s a research summary example outlining the topic “The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health Among Adolescents”:

I. Introduction.

  • Background.
    • Brief overview of the rise of social media.
    • Importance of studying its impact on mental health.
  • Research question.
    • Statement of the problem.
    • Purpose of the study.

II. Literature Review.

  • Overview of social media usage among adolescents.
    • Statistics on social media penetration.
    • Common platforms and their features.
  • Previous research on the relationship between social media and mental health.
    • Studies supporting a negative and/or a positive impact.
    • Gaps and inconsistencies in existing literature.

III. Methodology.

  • Research design.
    • Quantitative approach.
    • Cross-sectional survey.
  • Data collection.
    • Survey instrument details.
    • Ethical considerations.

IV. Data Analysis.

  • Statistical methods.
    • Descriptive statistics.
    • Inferential statistics (e.g., regression analysis).
  • Presentation of results.
    • Tables and figures.
    • Key findings.

V. Discussion.

  • Interpretation of results.
    • Correlation between social media usage and mental health.
    • Identification of patterns and trends.
  • Implications.
    • Practical implications for parents, educators, and policymakers.
    • Suggestions for future research.

VI. Conclusion.

  • Summary of key findings.
  • Final remarks on the study’s contribution to the field.

The given research article summary example depicts how the text can be structured in a laconic and effective way.

Structure Types  

So, now you can see the best practices and structure types for writing both empirical and argumentative summaries. The only thing left to discuss is to go through our example outlined above and divide its structure into distinctive parts, which you could use when writing your own summary.

The best way to start is by mentioning the title and the author of the article. It’s best to keep it straightforward: “In “Who Will Be In Cyberspace”, author Langdon Winner takes a philosophical approach…”

The next part is critical for writing a good summary since you’ll want to captivate the reader with a short and concise one-point thesis. If you look at our example, you’ll see that the first sentence or two contains the main point, along with the title and the author’s name.

So, that’s an easy way to get straight to the point while also sounding professional, and this works for all the essay structure types. You should briefly point out the main supportive points as well – “He supports this through the claims that people working in the information industry should be more careful about newly developed technologies…”  

The key is to keep it neutral and not overcomplicate things with supportive claims. Try to make them as precise as possible and provide examples that directly support the main thesis.

Unless it’s a scientific article summary where you are requested to provide your take as a researcher, it’s also best to avoid using personal opinions. You can conclude the summary by once again mentioning the main thought of the article, and this time you can make the connection between the main thesis and supporting points to wrap up.

Summary Writing Tips and Best Practices

The way in which you’ll approach writing a summary depends on the type and topic of the original article, but there are some common points to keep in mind. Whether you are trying to summarize a research article or a journal piece, these tips can help you stay on topic:

  1. Be concise – The best way to summarize an article quickly is to be straightforward. In practice, it means making it all in a few sentences and no longer than one-fourth of the size of the original article.
  2. Highlight the study’s most significant findings – For your summary paper, prioritize presenting results that have the most substantial impact or contribute significantly to the field.
  3. Create a reverse outline – On the other hand, you can also remove the supporting writing to end up with a reverse essay outline and these are the ideas you can expand on through your summary.
  4. Use your own words – In most cases, a paper summary will be scanned for plagiarism, so you need to make sure you are using your words to express the main point uniquely. This doesn’t mean you have to provide your perspective on the topic. It just means your summary needs to be original.
  5. Make sure to follow the tone – Summarizing an article means you’ll also need to reflect on the tone of the original piece. To properly summarize an article, you should address the same tone in which the author is addressing the audience.
  6. Use author tags – Along with the thesis statement, you also have to express the author’s take through author tags. This means you need to state the name of the author and piece title at the beginning, and keep adding these “tags” like “he” or “she” or simply refer to the author by name when expressing their ideas.
  7. Avoid minor details – To ensure you stay on topic, it’s recommended that you avoid repetition, any minor details, or descriptive elements. Try to keep the focus on key points, main statements and ideas without being carried away in thought.
  8. Steer clear of interpretations or personal opinions – Avoid personal interpretations or opinions when you write a summary for a research paper. Remember to stick to presenting facts and findings without injecting subjective views.
  9. Highlight the research context – Focus on explaining to the readers why research is important. Your summary of research paper must not repeat the previous studies. Find the gap in the existing literature it could fill. When you write a summary of a research article, try to help readers understand the significance of your study within the broader academic or practical context. Use a paraphraser if you need a fresh perspective on your writing style.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Just like it’s important to avoid plagiarism in your text, there are a few other mistakes that commonly occur. The whole point is to summarize article pieces genuinely, with a focus on the author’s argument and writing in your own words.

We’ve often seen college graduates do an article summary and misrepresent the author’s idea or take, so that’s an important piece of advice. You should avoid drifting away from the author’s main idea throughout the summary and keep it precise but not too short.

Quotes shouldn’t be used directly within the piece, and by that, we mean both quotes from the author and quotes from other summaries on the same topic since it would qualify as plagiarism. Finally, you shouldn’t state your opinion unless you are doing a summary of a novel or short story with a specific academic goal of writing from your perspective.

Examples of Article Summaries

While our guide and tips can be used for a variety of different types of written pieces, there are various types of articles. From professional essay writing to informative article synopsis, options can vary.

We will give you an example of a summary of the different article types that you may run upon, so you can see exactly what we mean by those standardized instructions and tips:

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Our Take

The question of how to summarize an article isn’t new to students or even writers with more experience, so we hope this guide will shed some light on the process. The most important piece of advice we can give you is to stay true to the main statement and key points of the article and express the synopsis in your original way to avoid plagiarism.

As for the structure, we are certain you’ll be able to use our examples and layouts for different types of summaries, so make sure to pay extra attention to the structure, quotes, and author tags.

FAQ

What is a good way to start a summary?

To begin a summary effectively, start by briefly introducing the article’s topic and the main points the author discusses. Capture the reader’s attention with a concise yet engaging opening sentence. Provide context and mention the author’s name and the article’s title. Convey the essence of the article’s content, highlighting its significance or relevance to the reader. This initial context-setting sentence lays the foundation for a clear and engaging summary that draws the reader in.

What is the difference between summarizing and criticizing an article?

Summarizing an article entails condensing its main points objectively and neutrally, presenting the essential information to readers. In contrast, critiquing an article involves a more in-depth evaluation, assessing its strengths and weaknesses, methodology, and overall quality, often including the expression of personal opinions and judgments. Summarization offers a snapshot of the content, while critique delves deeper, offering a comprehensive assessment.

When summarizing a text, focus on these critical questions:

  1. “What’s the main point?” Find the core message or argument.
  2. “What supports the main point?” Identify key supporting details and evidence.
  3. “Who’s the author?” Consider their qualifications and potential bias.
  4. “Who’s the intended audience?” Understand the expected reader’s knowledge level.
  5. “Why is it important?” Explain the text’s relevance and significance within its context. Addressing these questions ensures a thorough and effective summary.

How long is a summary and how many paragraphs does a summary have?

A summary typically ranges from one to three paragraphs in length, depending on the complexity and length of the original text. The goal is to concisely present the main points or essence of the source material, usually resulting in a summary that is significantly shorter than the original.

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