An article summary is a short piece condensing a scholarly text to its main points. This kind of college writing is informed by the critical reading of the text, which is why it is often used to demonstrate a student’s understanding of the assigned materials. A summary can be as short as a single paragraph or as lengthy as an entire paper. So, how do you summarize an article? Keep reading this guide to find out.

What is the First Step in Creating a Summary?

The process of writing a brief article account can be boiled down to only three essential steps:

  1. Start by identifying the key topic or idea of the article;
  2. Single out important arguments;
  3. Write the summary.

The rest of the paper provides detailed explanations for each of these steps.

Topic Identification for Article Summary

Regardless of its length or subject, the aim of any article is to convey a certain idea through the use of rhetorical instruments and logic. In summary writing, your goal is to identify this idea and present it using your own words. To this end, it might be necessary to read the text several times. When reading the article for the first time, try to get a general notion of what its author is trying to convey. Once you’ve caught the gist of the piece, note your initial impression and put it to writing. As a time-strapped student, you might want to avoid reading the article for the second or third time; however, do not neglect this step. Otherwise, you might miss an important point the author tries to make in their piece.

Here’s how to identify the main idea or topic of an article:

  1. Pick clues from the title.
  2. Identify the publication as a way to understand the intended audience.
  3. Check the date of publication.
  4. Identify the article’s type (expository, argumentative, scholarly, etc.).
  5. Notice the tone of the text.
  6. Take note of repetitions (arguments, data, notions, etc.).

How to Identify Key Arguments

The identification of key arguments calls for the second reading of the article. Read the piece closely while noting both main and supportive arguments the author puts forth. Here are basic tips to make the process easier:

  1. Print the article or use a word processor to make annotations as you read it.
  2. Underline topic sentences in each paragraph.
  3. Rewrite the topic sentences in your own words.
  4. Read the sentences out loud.
  5. Use transition words to tie all topic sentences together.
  6. Leave out unimportant details.

Put simply, you should boil the article down to its essentials. Let any unimportant detail fall away, and what you are left with is the main idea and key arguments supporting it.

Write a Balanced Summary

A great summary always starts with the identification of the author’s name and the article’s title. The proper ways to open your summary look as follows:

  • In Waking Up, Sam Harris explains…
  • Sam Harris, in Waking Up, argues…
  • According to Sam Harris in Waking Up
  • As Sam Harris vividly illustrates in Waking Up
  • Sam Harris claims in his irreverent article Waking Up that…

Then, combine the article’s thesis with its title and author in the opening of your summary. For example:

In Waking Up, Sam Harris argues that the search for a deeper meaning in life can and should be divorced from the irrational dogma of religion.

Whenever possible, try to summarize the article’s main idea in your first sentence. The rest of your summary should revolve around the explanation of the supporting arguments. It is important to restate those arguments using your own words. Otherwise, you will have to deal with the accusations of plagiarism.

What Does a Summary Include?

To properly summarize an article, think about the process as the creation of a reverse outline. This approach is especially effective in crafting an abstract, which is an article summary commonly found in APA format. The reverse outline you create is an article template. By having a good template, you won’t miss a single component key to your summary. To write the outline, read the article and summarize its main questions and theses. Also, carefully read the findings section of the article and condense them to several brief sentences. Furthermore, make a note of subheadings and topic sentences. Thus, you will have a better understanding of how the article’s parts relate to each other.

Consider the following outline for an article summary:

    1. Introduction
      • The main idea of the article
      • The research question or the problem
    2. Article’s thesis
    3. Key points
      • Identify key points and how they relate to the thesis
      • Provide several examples of the author’s use of evidence to support the thesis
    4. Conclusion
      • Discuss whether or not the key points help to support the thesis
      • Discuss whether or not the author is successful in showing the significance of their article

Writing a Summary of an Article

The main challenge in writing the summary is to decide what information should be included. Given that the summaries are usually two to three paragraphs long, you should concentrate on the most important details of the article. There is no space for explaining every piece of argument the author presents in the article. Just find a few examples you like the most and include them in your summary.

It is also worth repeating that the summary must be written in your own words. Scholars tend to write using complex terminology and long-winded sentences. If you absolutely need to bring a complex idea into your summary and do not know how to paraphrase it, use a direct quotation. However, do not be overzealous when quoting the author. After all, you aim to summarize their ideas, not to present them as they are.

In case you decide to introduce the author’s idea with a direct quotation, you can do it using their full name:

According to Sam Harris,…

As Sam Harris implies in his article…

However, when you refer to the author after the first mentioning, you no longer have to use their full name:

Harris criticizes…

If you want to underscore that the author is an authoritative source, you can use their title (Dr., Professor, Mr., Mrs., etc.).

In Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, states that…

Example of a Summary of an Article

Use the following example of a short article summary to produce your own piece:

Haraldsson and Wangnerud’s (2018) study explored the influence of media sexism on women’s desire to seek a career in politics. While the authors cited several scholars who have explored the relationship between sexism in media and a share of female candidates in national parliaments, they stated that the previous studies focused solely on unidirectional correlations. In contrast, Haraldsson and Wangnerud (2018) explored whether there was a bidirectional association between the above-mentioned variables. The longitudinal study was conducted over a period of two years in 25 countries with varying electoral systems, gender quotas, and levels of women’s rights. The authors hypothesized that sexist depictions of women in media reduce their ambition to stand as political candidates. The study’s findings showed that “the higher the level of media sexism, the lower the share of women candidates (Haraldsson & Wangnerud, 2018, p. 14). The authors also argued against under-or misrepresentation of women in media and called for the increase of the share of women politicians across the globe.