Home > Education > How to write summary.

How to write summary.

1. Read the passage carefully.

2. On a piece of paper, write down these questions in list form: Who? What?  When? Where? Why? and How?  Try to answer all these questions about the article.  For example, who is the article about?  What happens in the story?  When did it happen?  Where did it happen?  Why did this event take place?  How did the event take place?

3. Reread the article. This time divide the passage into sections or stages of thought. Label, on the passage itself, each section or stage of thought. Underline key ideas and  terms.

4. Write one-sentence summaries, on a separate sheet of paper, of each stage of thought or, if appropriate, of each paragraph.

5. Write a topic sentence–a one-sentence summary of the entire passage. The  topic sentence should express the central idea of the passage, as you have  determined it from the above steps. You may find it useful to keep in mind the  information contained in the lead sentence or paragraph of most newspaper  articles–the what, who, why, where, when, and how of the matter. In the case of persuasive passages, summarize in a sentence the author’s conclusion. In the case of descriptive passages, indicate the subject of the description and its key feature(s).

Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the essay (or passage) being summarized in your first sentence. Example:

In her article “Home in West Virginia,” Mary Smith
argues that West Virginia is the  best place to live.

6. Write the first draft of your summary by combining the topic sentence with the information from steps 2 and 4. Eliminate repetition and combine sentences for a  smooth and logical flow of ideas, NOTE: You need not include sentences “in  order.”

7. Revise your summary, inserting transitional words and phrases where necessary  to ensure coherence. Check for style. Avoid series of short, choppy sentences.

8. Edit your summary. Check for grammatical correctness, punctuation, spelling.   Completed magazine summaries are often between 1/2 and 1 page in length when handwritten on notebook paper.


Guidelines for writing a SUMMARY with IN-TEXT CITATIONS

The purpose of a summary is to give the reader, in a about 1/3 of the original length of an article/lecture, a clear, objective picture of the original lecture or text.  Most importantly, the summary restates only the main points of a text or a lecture without giving examples or details, such as dates, numbers or statistics.

Skills practiced: note-taking, paraphrasing (using your own words and sentence structure), condensing
Examples of acceptable paraphrases and unacceptable paraphrases (= plagiarism):

Before writing the summary:

  1. For a text, read, mark, and annotate the original.  (For a lecture, work with the notes you took.)
    • highlight the topic sentence
    • highlight key points/key words/phrases
    • highlight the concluding sentence
    • outline each paragraph in the margin
  2. Take notes on the following:
    • the source (author–first/last name, title, date of publication, volume number, place of publication, publisher, URL, etc.)
    • the main idea of the original (paraphrased)
    • the major supporting points (in outline form)
    • major supporting explanations (e.g. reasons/causes or effects)

Writing your summary–Steps:

  1. Organize your notes into an outline which includes main ideas and supporting points but no examples or details (dates, numbers, statistics).
  2. Write an introductory paragraph that begins with a frame, including an in-text citation of the source and the author as well as a reporting verb to introduce the main idea.
    • ARTICLE:

         In his/her article (or lecture) “________________________,”  _____________________  (year)
(title, first letter capitalized)      (author/lecturer’s last name)

argues/claims/reports/contends/maintains/states that ____________________________.
(main idea/argument; S + V + C)

Example:  In his article “Michael Dell turns the PC world inside out,” Andrew E. Serwer (1997) describes how Michael Dell founded Dell Computers and claims that Dell’s low-cost, direct-sales strategy and high quality standards account for Dell’s enormous success.

  • BOOK:

In his book The Pearl, John Steinbeck (1945) illustrates the fight between good and evil in humankind.


In my interview with him/her (date), __________________(first name, last name) stated that ….

Reporting Verbs:


argue state  refute the claim suggest criticize
claim report argue against recommend
contend explain
maintain discuss
insist illustrate

Other examples of frames:

  • According to ___________________ (year), ________________________________________.
    (author’s last name)                      (main idea; S + V + C)
  • ___________’s  article on ______________ (year) discusses the ____________________.
    (author’s last name)                    (topic)                                         (main idea; Noun Phrase)
  • __________________, in his/her article, “________________” argues that _______________________.
    (author’s last name, year)                               (title of article)                        (main idea; S + V + C)
  1. The main idea or argument needs to be included in this first sentence.  Then mention the major aspects/factors/reasons that are discussed in the article/lecture.  Give a full reference for this citation at the end of the summary (see #6. below).
    1.  For a one-paragraph summary, discuss each supporting point in a separate sentence.  Give 1-2 explanations for each supporting point, summarizing the information from the original.
    2. For a multi-paragraph summary, discuss each supporting point in a separate paragraph.  Introduce it in the first sentence (topic sentence).

         Example:   The first major area in which women have become a powerful force is politics.

  1.  Support your topic sentence with the necessary reasons or arguments raised by the author/lecturer but omit all references to details, such as dates or statistics.
  2. Use discourse markers that reflect the organization and controlling idea of the original, for example cause-effect, comparison-contrast, classification, process, chronological order, persuasive argument, etc.
  3. In a longer summary, remind your reader that you are paraphrasing by using “reminder phrases,” such as
    • The author goes on to say that …
    • The article (author) further states that …
    • (Author’s last name) also states/maintains/argues that …
    • (Author’s last name) also believes that …
    • (Author’s last name) concludes that
  4. Restate the article’s/lecturer’s conclusion in one sentence.
  5. Give a full reference for the citation

Signal Phrases

Author is neutral

Author implies or suggests

Author argues claims

Author is uneasy or disagrees

Author agrees






























points out

















Here are a list of summary writing exercises that may be useful for you to review.

1)  You read the passage first, and

2)  Attempt to write a summary of your own.Then,

3)  Check your written summary against the model answer that they have provided.

Here are the summary exercises:

Exercise 1                                       Exercise 2                                                       Exercise 3

Exercise 4                                       Exercise 5                                                       Exercise 6

Exercise 7                                       Exercise 8                                                       Exercise 9

Exercise 10                                     Exercise 11                                                     Exercise 12

Exercise 13                                     Exercise 14                                                     Exercise 15

Exercise 16                                     Exercise 17                                                     Exercise 18

Exercise 19                                     Exercise 20                                                     Exercise 21

Exercise 22                                     Exercise 23                                                     Exercise 24

Exercise 25                                     Exercise 26                                                     Exercise 27


Useful links:

http://writingwithkata.wordpress.com/ (Kata is my writing teacher)

Writing Sources* The OWL (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/)
* Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/)
* Guide to Grammar & Writing (http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/)
* English Grammar 101 (http://www.dailywritingtips.com/english-grammar-101-all-you-need-to-know/)

  1. May 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    This is the perfect web site for anyone who would like to understand this topic.
    You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally will need to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been discussed
    for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

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