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How to Summarize an Article: Techniques & Tips

Updated on March 22, 2024StudentsWriting Tips

When you don’t have time to read a full article, an article summary can give you the information you’re looking for. You’ve probably read lots of article summaries, but have you ever tried your hand at writing one? If not, don’t fret. Read on to learn how to summarize an article like a pro.

What is an article summary?

An article summary is an overview of an article that highlights its key points. An effective summary does not include all of the article’s specific details; it simply acts as a preview that can help readers decide whether to read the full version.

Learning how to summarize an article is crucial because it helps you handle texts more effectively. For instance, imagine you’re writing an essay and need to refer to three academic articles. By including short summaries of these articles, you can clearly explain why they’re important without getting lost in unnecessary details. In other words, summarizing saves time and helps you convey the main ideas concisely.

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Steps to summarize an article effectively

Read the article

You need to understand an article in order to summarize it effectively. Read the original text and take notes about its key points, thesis statement, most important details, and overall position.

Identify the main points and/or supporting arguments

With the notes you took as you read the article, write an outline that notes its main points and supporting arguments. This outline doesn’t need to be as detailed as an outline for an essay—it’s just a sketch you can use to make sure you cover all the necessary points when you write your summary.

Then determine the article’s main idea by identifying the central theme or argument the author presents and supports throughout the article. This typically appears near the beginning of the article, often in the introduction or early paragraphs. From here, determine any other “big picture” points the article makes and identify the details that support these points. Anything that isn’t a main idea or supporting argument can be left aside, as these aren’t important enough to be included in your summary.

Write the summary in your own words

Next, write a summary. Don’t worry about making it perfect; this is just the first draft. Aim to write no more than 250 words, or about a paragraph or two.

When you write a summary, you’re not copying the original article’s text verbatim. Rather, you’re writing a shortened version that skips to the main idea. You can do this by starting your summary with a shortened version of the article’s thesis statement, put into your own words. You can also start with a brief statement of the original’s position, then follow it with the most important supporting argument. To avoid plagiarism issues, be sure to cite the article’s title and author in your summary.

Keep it objective

A summary isn’t your opinion about the original article. To write an effective summary, keep your tone neutral and objective. Save your interpretations and analysis of the text for an analytical essay.

Revise and edit your summary

After you’ve written an article summary, take a moment to read it with a critical eye. As you read, note any grammatical mistakes you’ve made or places in your writing where you can improve its clarity and/or flow. Then, make the necessary edits to polish it into a sparkling second draft.

Grammarly can help you with this part. With Grammarly’s AI summarizing tool, summarizing an article is fast and easy. It’s also a great complement to Grammarly’s plagiarism and grammar checkers. Remember, though, that tools like these exist to help with your writing, not do the work for you—to get the best results, summarize an article yourself, then use AI to catch mistakes and show you places where you can strengthen your writing.

Tips for effective summarization

When you’re taking notes for a summary, bulleted lists can be extremely helpful. Jot down a bulleted list of the article’s main points and the supporting arguments for each of these points.

If you find yourself having a difficult time identifying the article’s main points and supporting arguments, write down the following questions:

  • What goal is this article trying to achieve? For example, is it trying to inform, persuade, or entertain the reader?
  • How does the article achieve this goal?
  • What is the article’s topic?
  • What is the author’s position regarding the article’s topic?

Then read the article again, carefully looking for answers to these questions. Be sure to answer these questions using the text, rather than attempting to fill in the blanks with your own interpretations.

Another important tip is to write your summary with your reader in mind. If your summary is intended for an academic audience, you have more leeway to use complex and subject-specific vocabulary than if you were writing for a general audience.

Common mistakes to avoid in article summarization

As you learn how to summarize a news article, familiarizing yourself with common mistakes can help you avoid them. Important mistakes to avoid include:

  • Restating the original article’s text word-for-word. This is plagiarism, which can lead to professional and/or academic consequences.
  • Forgetting to cite the original article’s title and author. This, too, is plagiarism. Make sure to always cite your source.
  • Including irrelevant details. In a summary of an article on changing bird migration patterns, the color of the birds’ feathers isn’t relevant. Stick to the article’s main idea and supporting evidence in your summary.
  • Oversimplifying complex topics. A summary is a concise overview of an article, not a watered-down version. Your summary’s job isn’t to make the article more accessible to readers; its purpose is to help them decide whether or not to read the original.
  • Omitting key points from the original. A strong summary captures its source’s thesis statement and all relevant points and communicates them clearly.

Examples of summarized articles

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the Eiffel Tower was closed due to a strike over poor financial management. The landmark has seen a surge in visitors ahead of the Summer Olympics in Paris. Visitors were advised of disruptions on the website, and electronic ticket owners were told to check their inboxes beforehand. The CGT union, representing many of the tower’s employees, said the strike aimed to increase salaries proportionally to ticket sales and to improve maintenance. The operator’s business model was criticized for prioritizing short-term benefits over long-term conservation. This is the second closure in two months due to strikes.

Original article:

The Associated Press reported that a strong storm hit Northern California on Sunday, with strong winds and heavy rainfall expected to move south over the next few days. There is a risk of flooding, hail, and brief tornadoes in some areas, with up to five inches of rain predicted for many areas and isolated rain totals of up to ten inches in some mountain ranges. The storm is expected to move through more quickly than the previous one that caused severe damage earlier this month. Flood watches and warnings have been issued along the coast and in mountainous regions, and motorists are advised to avoid mountain routes. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has activated its operations center and positioned personnel and equipment in high-risk areas.

Original article:

Article summarization FAQs

What is article summarization?

Article summarization is the method of writing a shortened, simplified overview of an article. Generally, an article summary is about 250 words.

How do I ensure my article summarization is unbiased and objective?

To ensure your article summary is unbiased and objective, simply state the original article’s main idea and supporting points, rather than comment on or interpret them. Use neutral, academic language and avoid mentioning your agreement (or disagreement) with its author.

How can I avoid plagiarism when summarizing?

Here are two important ways to avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article:

  • Cite the article in your summary and, if you use AI to generate your summary, acknowledge your use of AI. Grammarly’s citation generator makes this easy.
  • Don’t repeat the original article’s text verbatim. Instead, summarize it in your own words. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker to detect plagiarism in your text.

How can I make my article summary stand out?

Make your article summary stand out by getting straight to the original article’s point, hooking the reader with an intriguing concept or perspective without giving away all its details.

How can I use AI to summarize articles?

Grammarly’s AI summarization tool can make it easy to summarize an article, letting you highlight its key points in a concise paragraph with just a few clicks.

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