Image Map Skip to Main Content

Researching and Writing a Paper: Summarizing

This guide is about how to start, research, write, and format, a paper.


Writing an Article Summary:
A summary is a short and objective overview or description of the original article (text, chapter, book, etc.). When you are preparing to write you summarize a source to help you understand that source. You summarize sources in your paper so you can then analyze, critique, or synthesize, the ideas/facts presented by the original author. The summary itself should focus only on the article's main ideas and important details that support those ideas.


# When you are summarizing a source in preparation for writing a paper your summary can be any collection of sentences that helps you understand the source and how you can use it in your paper. In general you should include:

  • The citation (title, author(s), date, etc.) and a short description of the main ideas of the text (note page numbers).
  • Identify the most important details that support the main ideas.
  • Briefly describe the most important details in your own words (note page numbers for each of those details).
  • Do not copy phrases or sentences unless they are being used as direct quotations (include the page number for each quote).
  • Describe the meaning of the article, but do not critique or analyze
    (if your summary is part of preparing to write a paper you should write all questions and thoughts about what you are summarizing separately from your summary [in Outline note-taking this is a separate line, in a Mind Map it is a separate branch - anything that keeps you from mixing your description of the article with your thoughts, views, opinions, questions, etc., about the article is good]).
  • A summary is shorter than the original article – sometimes it is just a few sentences, sometimes it is several paragraphs.


# When you are summarizing a source in your paper your summary should include:

  • An overview of the article, including the article title and the name of the author (and include the citation in your bibliography).
  • Write a sentence that states the main ideas of the article. Do Not critique or analyze those ideas, your analysis of the article is not part of the summary of the article (analyzing, critiquing, or synthesizing, what you have summarized occurs after your summary).
  • Explain the supporting ideas and facts in the article (include in-text citations for these paraphrases). Use quotes only as needed, make sure they are in quote marks and correctly cited.
  • The number of sentences or paragraphs you write will depend on the length of the original article, how important the ideas and facts in the article are, and the amount of space in your paper you have for each summary.
    • One-paragraph summary - usually one sentence per supporting detail or idea.
    • Multi-paragraph summary - often one paragraph per supporting detail or idea.
    • Many summaries in a paper are longer than a paragraph, but often not a lot longer.
  • Look back over both the article and what you have just written, make sure you have accurately stated the main idea and any additional meaning(s) of the article.


Note: There are more and more Summarizing Tools based on machine learning (often mislabeled 'AI') that are available for free or for fee.  Much of the time the results are pretty good - but not always.  If you use a Summarizing Tool you absolutely must then read the article, compare what it says to what appears in the summary, and then correct the summary. The summary will always need correcting, sometimes a little correction, sometimes some very important corrections.  If you read the article, and then correct the summary the tool created, you may find that the free version of a Summarizing Tool is a useful time-saver and helps you to relax and enjoy the assignment. However, our opinion is that none of the Summarizing Tools are currently good enough to pay for - use the free version only.  A simple search for 'free summarizing tools' will produce several options for your consideration. If you don't want to decide among the search results you might try the free version of 'Wordtune'.

*** Questions or confusions about anything on this page, in this LibGuide, or anything else? You can Ask Us Questions! ***