How to Successfully Summarize an Academic Article

How to Successfully Summarize an Academic Article
  • Opening Intro -

    There is never a dull moment in college, right?

    Well, some of the lectures can challenge your wakefulness and your anthropology textbook can seem beyond comprehension.


You can write a winning article summary.

Just wait until your professor hands you a 10-page white paper about small business development in an urban setting — you’ll soon be challenged with deciphering what the author has said. Moreover, your professor will require you rehash the author’s finer points in your own essay, without plagiarizing, of course. You can successfully summarize an academic article and learn something new in the process.

1. Assemble your tools. There are two items you should have at your disposal when reading a printed document: a pen and a highlighter. Use these editing tools to highlight, underscore and to check off key points. This will make it easier for you to find the essential points as you summarize. For an online document, use an annotation tool to achieve similar results.

2. Read without distraction. Longer papers are typically read during your study time, but your professor may require you to read the paper in class and hand in your assignment at the end of class. In either case, you will want to have your complete focus on the paper only when you edit. In quiet study, such as a library, you should be able to read through the article in one sitting, marking and highlighting as you go. Similarly, if you are in the classroom, the only noise you should hear is the turning of pages and the mark ups of your classmates.

3. Pull out the finer points. You may need to read the article two or three times to understand what the author has said and what main points are being articulated. Look for these points and then write in your own words what the author said. Use your own verbiage, focusing on his key points.

4. Write up a draft. The article’s author laid out several points and you should use his order for your own paper. You should state the research question and why it is interesting advises the Writing Center at the University of Connecticut. Follow through with the hypothesis tested, the methods used, the results offered and the key implications of the article. Don’t worry about your draft coming in too long — you will edit it for brevity and clarity later.

5. Clean up your draft. Review your draft and compare it with the article. At this point you will need to verify and support each point you made, and compare that with what the author said. Your words must be your own and your information must be complete, accurate and persuasive. Extraneous phrases need to be addressed as should spelling and grammatical mistakes. Where possible, avoid a passive voice; an active voice is clear, to the point and simply easier to read. Active voice writing begins each sentence with an action verb — an example of that is found in this article with each of the six points made.

6. Write your final copy. Once your edits are complete, it is time for you to write your final copy or what you will submit to your professor. Follow your professor’s style guideline and be on a sharp lookout for wordiness and muddled thinking. If you have a few days before your paper must be submitted, put it to the side and get to it the next day. With fresh eyes you will spot mistakes and may end up writing a much improved copy.

Writing Considerations

Keep in mind that your professor may want you to use quotations sparingly and to paraphrase generously, while summarizing with abandon. Get these points right and you are on your way to submitting a superior article summary.

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