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
When do you use a summary in your essays?
- You summarize your own ideas in your thesis sentence and topic sentences of each paragraph.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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
- ideas which seem to be repeated throughout
Steps to Summarize an Article
- Underline the topic sentence of each paragraph.
- 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, re-write 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. See: How to Paraphrase.
- You may find you need to leave out some of the unimportant details.
- Your summary should be as short and concise as possible.
Summary Thesis is Like Photo Caption
- Find the topic sentence in each paragraph and underline.
- 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
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
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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