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Writing: Research Article Summary


Research articles use a standard format to clearly communicate information about an experiment. A research article usually has seven major sections: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, and References.  

The first thing you should do is to decide why you need to summarize the article.

  • If the purpose of the summary is to take notes to later remind yourself about the article, you may want to write a longer summary.
  • If you are writing a paper that asks you to summarize the article as part of the paper,  the summary should focus on how the article relates specifically to your paper.  
  • If you are tasked with summarizing several articles and preparing a synthesis, consult the CORE Library's Guide to Synthesis.
  • If you are writing a summary of a single article and nothing more, follow the instructions below.

Writing Starts with Reading

Allow enough time to read the article at least twice.

  • The first time through, read to get the gist -- the overall meaning and core ideas.
  • The second reading is a close reading.  Break up the article into short chunks to read.  Then reread those chunks.  Highlight key sentences; make margin notes.  Try to write one statement for each paragraph that sums up its main idea in the margin of that paragraph.

For more information on how to closely read an article, visit the CORE Library's Guide to Close Reading.

Guide for Writing a Summary

The purpose of a summary is to give the reader a clear, objective picture of the original text. Most importantly, the summary restates only the main points of a text or an article without giving examples or details, such as dates, numbers or statistics.

Guidelines for writing a summary of an article:
• State the main ideas of the article.
• Identify the most important details that support the main ideas.
• Write your summary in your own words; avoid copying phrases and sentences from the article unless they’re direct quotations.
• Express the underlying meaning of the article, not just the superficial details.
• Your summary should be about one third of the length of the original article; however, you should always defer to your instructor's requirements.

Your summary should include:

• Start with an overview statement which includes the author’s name and the title of the article.
• Finish with a thesis statement that states the main idea of the article.

Body Paragraphs
• The number of paragraphs in your summary depends on the length of the original article.
• Your summary should be about one third the length of the original article, unless the instructor has specified other requirements. For a one-paragraph summary, discuss each supporting point in a separate sentence. Give 1-2 explanations for each supporting point. For a multi-paragraph summary, discuss each supporting point in a separate paragraph.
• Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence.
• Each paragraph focuses on a separate main idea and just the most important details from the article.
• Put the ideas from the essay into your own words. Avoid copying phrases and sentences from the article.
• Use transitional words and phrases to connect ideas.

Concluding Paragraph
• Summarize the main idea and the underlying meaning of the article.