You probably found this article because you want to know how to summarize an article. There are many reasons why you’ll need it. Perhaps, you’re a student who needs to compile various studies for your research paper. On the other hand, you may be part of a company’s development team and you need concise versions of market research materials for a potential project.
No matter where you’ll use the information, what’s important is you effectively summarize the research articles you need. You need to identify each piece’s relevant parts and compile them into an informative, accurate, and easy-to-read text.
So, where do you begin?
How to Summarize an Article
1. Identify the Purpose of the Summary
Before anything else, you should ask yourself why you need to summarize the research article. If it’s for taking notes that you can review later, the ideal option here is a longer summary. However, if you’re writing a paper and you plan to include the article summary, you should only focus on the details that are relevant to your topic.
2. Skim Through the Article
At this point, you may be tempted to go through the entire article intently. However, before you do that, you should skim through the content first. Doing so will allow you to identify important points you can include in your summary. Scan the following sections:
Introduction – This section discusses the question that the research aims to answer. It also highlights the reason for the study.
- Hypothesis – This section talks about what was tested in the research article.
- Methodology – This section discusses how the researchers tested their hypotheses.
- Results – This section highlights the findings of the research.
- Discussion – This section interprets the findings in a format that is easier to understand.
When you’re skimming through an article with the intention of writing a summary, you must underline or highlight every key sentence. You can also write insights in the article’s margin. Of course, you can go straight to the abstract to identify important points. However, that is not enough because that section only scratches the surface of the article. It’s possible that you’ll miss certain key aspects.
3. Read the Research Article Intently
Now, it’s time to read the research article in a more active manner. This step involves taking extensive notes to capture the relevant ideas. You also need to differentiate the general and more abstract information from the concrete and more objective details. The best practice here is to use differently-colored highlighter pens to distinguish various ideas.
During this note-taking process and when you summarize an article, you should:
- Identify the general and abstract ideas of the author
- Write detailed descriptions of cases or examples that analyze or interpret the author’s abstract ideas
- Find the difference between the abstract and specific information
- Identify what connects the important ideas
- Use shorthand form to note critical ideas – keep key phrases but use your own words while translating the complex ideas into easy-to-digest information
Some Important Things to Consider Before Writing the Summary
While you’re taking notes, remember to actively sort through the text to find critical ideas that will appear in the final summary. This way, you can accurately represent the author’s ideas without bringing in excessive details that will make the summary far too long.
When you summarize an article, you should not include all the abstract ideas from the research article. It also cannot contain all the supporting materials that will interpret those abstract concepts. You can retain key terminology, but you shouldn’t include all technical lingo. Despite that, your summary should still resemble the source.
So, when writing the summary, you need to sort the ideas, connect important details, and translate complex concepts into a more concise form. In the end, you’ll have a more accessible version of a complicated and long document. When you summarize an article, you aim to produce a coherent and fully formed text. It should still represent the original article, albeit in a briefer form.
4. Write the Summary for the Research Article
Now, you’re ready to summarize an article. Instead of stressing over the length and quality of the text, you should work on a rough draft first. Here are some things to remember as you write the summary:
Determine the Goal of the Research and the Methods it Used
You should begin your summary by addressing the fundamental objective of the research article. Just like the author’s abstract, this section will contain important details like sample population, respondent behavior, and trends. Ask the following questions:
- What is the objective of the research?
- What are the methods that the author used?
- What are the potential research hindrances that the author listed?
Describe the Author’s Observations
Once you get to the experiment section of the research, you will find that it contains the “meat” of the study. Now, it is your duty to briefly describe the author’s observations during the testing phase. You can discuss how long the participants completed the directives or tasks. When you summarize an article, you can also describe their behavior and reaction to the study.
Write About the Results
For any research, the findings determine how the study met its goals. Discuss whether the tests and experiments were successful. You also need to describe if the outcome was unexpected and if there were surprising developments during the process. As you’re writing the conclusions that the author determined, you should pay close attention to detail.
5. Polish Your Summary
Once you’ve completed a rough draft of your summary, you may find it to be too long. So, you need to work on it more to condense it. You must edit the text for accuracy, which involves adding details where necessary. When you summarize an article, remember to avoid generalizations to keep the content focused and concise.
At this point, you also need to polish the summary for style to ensure that your readers will understand what you wrote. Here are some factors to consider when optimizing your content:
- Get rid of fluff or unnecessary adverbs and fillers that make the sentences difficult to read.
- Use specific and concrete language.
- Use scientifically accurate language and avoid using a subjective tone.
- Instead of quoting sources, paraphrase relevant sentences.
This part of the process shouldn’t be difficult if you managed to identify the purpose of the summary. It will be easier to polish the text when you know what to include and remove.
Best Practices in Writing Summaries for Research Articles
- Don’t come up with your own findings – When you summarize an article, you’re briefly discussing the conclusions of the author’s research. It is not your place to include your opinions. To prevent this from happening, you should use the present tense and third-person point of view.
- Improve the quality of the text – Go through the summary and check if it is accurate. You should also improve the readability of the text by using Grammarly and the Hemingway App. These tools should make the entire summary easier to read and follow.
- Make the text unique – You may be writing a summary, but it doesn’t mean that plagiarism is acceptable. So, paraphrase the text and if there’s similar wording, explain the information in your own words.
- Attribute the sources properly – Don’t quote the author directly. Instead, paraphrase the data, and then cite the sources. Include the name of the journal and/or university along with the publication year. If applicable, use the name of the society, team, or researcher along with the year of study.
When you summarize an article, make the content compelling, concise, and easy to understand. So, take time to read the source and go through your summary several times. It should represent the research without being complex and overly technical.