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.)

    • 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. 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), following APA guidelines.

    1. ARTICLE:

                In the article, ____________(author's last name) (year) argues (claims/reports/contends/maintains/states) that  ___________________________ (main idea/argument;
       S + V + C).                                                          

         Example:  In his article, Serwer (1997) describes how Michael Dell founded Dell Computers and claims that Dellís low-cost, direct-sales strategy and high quality standards accounted for Dellís enormous success.

  1. BOOK:

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


In an interview __________________  (first name last name) stated that ________________________________ (main idea/argument; S + V + C) (personal communication, month day, year).

Reporting Verbs:

argue state show  refute the claim suggest criticize
assert note demonstrate argue against recommend  
claim report illustrate      
contend explain indicate      
maintain discuss point out      
insist illustrate (studies/authors) prove      
posit observe (studies/authors) found      

Other examples of frames:

  1. According to ___________________ (author's last name) (year), ____________________________________  (main idea; S + V + C).

  2. _______________ (author's last name) (year) argues that ___________________________________________  (main idea; S + V + C).    

  3. If no author is given, use the title of the article:
    According to "_____________________" (Title of the Article) (year), _________________________________ (main idea; S+V+C).

  4. _________________ (topic/NP) has had a major impact on the_________________ (NP) of _________________ (main idea; NP) (author's last name, year).

  5. ________________'s (author's last name) article on __________________ (topic/NP) (year) discusses the _____________ (main idea; Noun Phrase) of    _____________ (NP).                                                                                     

  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 articleís/lecturerís 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: June 21, 2018