Guidelines for writing a SUMMARY with IN-TEXT CITATIONS
Christine Bauer-Ramazani 

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): Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It

Before writing the summary:

  1. For a text, read, mark, and annotate the original.  (For a lecture, work with the notes you took.)

  2. Take notes on the following:

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. The reporting verb is generally in present tense.

  3. At the end of your summary, double-space and write a reference for the in-text citation (see #8 below).

         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.

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      
posit observe      

Other examples of frames:

  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

  4. Restate the article’s/lecturer’s conclusion in one sentence.

  5. Give a full reference for the citation (see the example below for the in-text citations in #2).  For citing electronic sources, please see Citation of Electronic Resources.

Further illustrations: Please see the video Tips on Summarizing on the Ohio State Flipped ESL YouTube channel. This video investigates the basic elements needed to create an effective one sentence summary and a summary paragraph.


Serwer, A. (1997, Sept. 8).  Michael Dell turns the PC world inside out. Fortune, 76-86.

Steinbeck, J. (1945).  The pearl.  New York: Penguin Books.

© 2006  Christine Bauer-Ramazani, Saint Michael's College. Last updated: September 22, 2016