How to Write a Summary of an article in your essay

What Makes a Good Summary?

A summary condenses ideas into as few sentences as possible. Good summaries:

1. Tell the main idea clearly.

2. Are written in your own style.

3. Are shorter than the original document.

Summary Focuses on the Main Idea

Zero in on the most important information.
Zero in on the most important information. | Source

When do you use a summary in your essays?

  1. You summarize your own ideas in your thesis sentence and topic sentences of each paragraph.
  2. You often summarize another writer’s work to show how it supports your argument, or when you want to argue against that author’s ideas.
  3. Summaries are especially useful because you can condense a lot of information into a short space.

How to Read for Summary

In a summary, you want to identify the main idea of the article and put this information in your own words.Prepare to write a summary by underlining and writing notes as you read.The summary should include the thesis and topic sentences of the article put into your own words.

Reading Article for Summary

You should plan to read the article several times. In the first reading you want to get the main idea of the essay, and underline the important points as you read. Don't start writing the summary until you have figured out the main idea of the article.

To figure out the main 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. ideas which seem to be repeated throughout

Steps to Summarize an Article

  1. Underline the topic sentence of each paragraph.
  2. Write that sentence in your own words on the side of the page or on another piece of paper.
  3. When you finish the article, read all the topic sentences you marked or wrote down.
  4. In your own words, re-write those main ideas.
  5. Use complete sentences with good transition words.
  6. Be sure you don't use the same words, phrases or sentence structure of the original. See: How to Paraphrase.
  7. You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
  8. Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.

Summary Thesis is Like Photo Caption

Think of the thesis of a summary as a caption on a picture.  Caption for this photo: The star athlete beat his high bar score and won the meet.
Think of the thesis of a summary as a caption on a picture. Caption for this photo: The star athlete beat his high bar score and won the meet. | Source

Summarizing Paragraphs

  1. Find the topic sentence in each paragraph and underline.
  2. If no one sentence states the topic (or if the author is being ironic) then write a sentence which does in the margin.

Writing your Summary

1. Your summary should start with the author’s name and the title of the work. Here are two ways:

  • 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 seems 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.

  • Summary 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 main ideas which are used to support the thesis. Be sure to re-state 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.

Funny Summary of Macbeth

Author Tags Verb List

helps us understand
presents the idea
creates the impression
points out

Author Tags

In writing your summary, you need to clearly explain the name of the author and the name of the article, essay, book or another source. You also need to be sure to continue to make it clear to the reader when you are still talking about the ideas in that author's work by using "author tags" which are either the last name of the author or a pronoun (he or she) to show you are still discussing that person's ideas.

Example of Author Tags

Example: According to Mary Johnson in her essay, "Cats Make Good Pets, " the feline domestic companion is far superior to the canine one.

1. When you refer to the author later, 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 by the tone you use. See the tables for ideas 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


Use Hard Copy of Article You Summarize

While you can prepare for summary by using underlining on a computer, often it helps to be able to use a hard copy for highlighting, making notes and making an outline.
While you can prepare for summary by using underlining on a computer, often it helps to be able to use a hard copy for highlighting, making notes and making an outline. | Source

Template for Writing a Summary

1. Start with an author tag which 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.

Sample Summary 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.

How to Summarize Video

© 2011 Virginia Kearney

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Comments 12 comments

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 16 months ago from United States Author

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.

Edu 16 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?

Sourat 3 years ago

I love it very very satisfied

unverm profile image

unverm 3 years ago

Thanks a lot...

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.

Eldar 4 years ago

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

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

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

xstatic 4 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

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

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

donnaisabella 4 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

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

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!

Asmaa 4 years ago

Thank you so much!!!!

You helped me a lot!

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