Writing Article Summaries
- Understanding Article Summaries
Common Problems in Article Summaries
Read carefully and closely, structure of the summary, writing the summary.
- Sample Outlines and Paragraphs
Understanding Article Summaries
An article summary is a short, focused paper about one scholarly article that is informed by a critical reading of that article. For argumentative articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the thesis and supporting arguments; for empirical articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the research questions, methods, findings, and implications of the study.
Although article summaries are often short and rarely account for a large portion of your grade, they are a strong indicator of your reading and writing skills. Professors ask you to write article summaries to help you to develop essential skills in critical reading, summarizing, and clear, organized writing. Furthermore, an article summary requires you to read a scholarly article quite closely, which provides a useful introduction to the conventions of writing in your discipline (e.g. Political Studies, Biology, or Anthropology).
The most common problem that students have when writing an article summary is that they misunderstand the goal of the assignment. In an article summary, your job is to write about the article, not about the actual topic of the article. For example, if you are summarizing Smith’s article about the causes of the Bubonic plague in Europe, your summary should be about Smith’s article: What does she want to find out about the plague? What evidence does she use? What is her argument? You are not writing a paper about the actual causes of Bubonic plague in Europe.
Further, as a part of critical reading, you will often consider your own position on a topic or an argument; it is tempting to include an assessment or opinion about the thesis or findings, but this is not the goal of an article summary. Rather, you must identify, explain, and analyse the main point and how it is supported.
Your key to success in writing an article summary is your understanding of the article; therefore, it is essential to read carefully and closely. The Academic Skills Centre offers helpful instruction on the steps for critical reading: pre-reading, active and analytical reading, and reflection.
As you read an argumentative article, consider the following questions:
- What is the topic?
- What is the research question? In other words, what is the author trying to find out about that topic?
- How does the author position his/her article in relation to other studies of the topic?
- What is the thesis or position? What are the supporting arguments?
- How are supporting arguments developed? What kind of evidence is used?
- What is the significance of the author’s thesis? What does it help you to understand about the topic?
As you read an empirical article, consider the following questions:
- What is the research question?
- What are the predictions and the rationale for these predictions?
- What methods were used (participants, sampling, materials, procedure)? What were the variables and controls?
- What were the main results?
- Are the findings supported by previous research?
- What are the limitations of the study?
- What are the implications or applications of the findings?
Create a Reverse Outline
Creating a reverse outline is one way to ensure that you fully understand the article. Pre-read the article (read the abstract, introduction, and/or conclusion). Summarize the main question(s) and thesis or findings. Skim subheadings and topic sentences to understand the organization; make notes in the margins about each section. Read each paragraph within a section; make short notes about the main idea or purpose of each paragraph. This strategy will help you to see how parts of the article connect to the main idea or the whole of the article.
A summary is written in paragraph form and generally does not include subheadings. An introduction is important to clearly identify the article, the topic, the question or purpose of the article, and its thesis or findings. The body paragraphs for a summary of an argumentative article will explain how arguments and evidence support the thesis. Alternatively, the body paragraphs of an empirical article summary may explain the methods and findings, making connections to predictions. The conclusion explains the significance of the argument or implications of the findings. This structure ensures that your summary is focused and clear.
Professors will often give you a list of required topics to include in your summary and/or explain how they want you to organize your summary. Make sure you read the assignment sheet with care and adapt the sample outlines below accordingly.
One significant challenge in writing an article summary is deciding what information or examples from the article to include. Remember, article summaries are much shorter than the article itself. You do not have the space to explain every point the author makes. Instead, you will need to explain the author’s main points and find a few excellent examples that illustrate these points.
You should also keep in mind that article summaries need to be written in your own words. Scholarly writing can use complex terminology to explain complicated ideas, which makes it difficult to understand and to summarize correctly. In the face of difficult text, many students tend to use direct quotations, saving them the time and energy required to understand and reword it. However, a summary requires you to summarize, which means “to state briefly or succinctly” (Oxford English Dictionary) the main ideas presented in a text. The brevity must come from you, in your own words, which demonstrates that you understand the article.
Sample Outlines and Paragraph
Sample outline for an argumentative article summary.
- General topic of article
- Author’s research question or approach to the topic
- Author’s thesis
- Explain some key points and how they support the thesis
- Provide a key example or two that the author uses as evidence to support these points
- Review how the main points work together to support the thesis?
- How does the author explain the significance or implications of his/her article?
Sample Outline for an Empirical Article Summary
- General topic of study
- Author’s research question
- Variables and hypotheses
- Experiment design
- Materials used
- Key results
- Did the results support the hypotheses?
- Implications or applications of the study
- Major limitations of the study
The paragraph below is an example of an introductory paragraph from a summary of an empirical article:
Tavernier and Willoughby’s (2014) study explored the relationships between university students’ sleep and their intrapersonal, interpersonal, and educational development. While the authors cited many scholars who have explored these relationships, they pointed out that most of these studies focused on unidirectional correlations over a short period of time. In contrast, Tavernier and Willoughby tested whether there was a bidirectional or unidirectional association between participants’ sleep quality and duration and several psychosocial factors including intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement. Further they conducted a longitudinal study over a period of three years in order to determine whether there were changes in the strength or direction of these associations over time. They predicted that sleep quality would correlate with measures of intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement; they further hypothesized that this correlation would be bidirectional: sleep quality would predict psychosocial measures and at the same time, psychosocial measures would predict sleep quality.
Get insightful educational articles from the world of academia for researchers, students and authors. Visit Editage Blog for helpful content and tips on getting published and writing articles that are up to international journal publication standards. Click here to find out more!
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How to Write a Summary of a Research Paper and Scientific Articles
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Against the backdrop of a rapidly growing number of research papers being published, it is becoming increasingly important for researchers to know how to summarize a research paper effectively to make their work stand out among the noise. Writing a research paper summary is an important skill that will be put to use time and again in one’s academic career.
What is a research summary and why is it important?
A research article summary is a concise and comprehensive overview of a research paper. A summary briefly restates the purpose, methods, findings, conclusions, and relevance of a study, faithfully recapitulating the major points of the work.
Summaries are useful because they inform readers of the key points of the original sources. Further, research paper summaries can be used to guide funding or policy decisions. Summaries are also important to promote one’s research to a wide audience; boiling down one’s work for a blog post is a good way to do this.
Most importantly, a well-written summary gives a good impression of the author’s understanding of the work: the quote “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough” rings true!
Structure and qualities of a good summary
A summary must be coherent and cogent and should make sense as a stand-alone piece of writing. It is typically 5% to 10% of the length of the original paper; however, the length depends on the length and complexity of the article and the purpose of the summary. Accordingly, a summary can be several paragraphs or pages, a single paragraph, or even just a sentence.
One-sentence summaries are becoming popular for promoting one’s research via social media. A one-sentence summary should be engaging, include the key points, and be within the recommended character/word limit (e.g., 280 characters for Twitter).
In a one-paragraph summary, each supporting point is addressed in a separate sentence (see Fig. 1).
In a multi-paragraph summary, each point is described in a separate paragraph. Such summaries generally have the following structure (the headings may vary):
- Introduction: This begins with an overview of the article and ends with the main idea and hypothesis statement.
- Body paragraphs: The number of paragraphs in the summary depends on the length of the original article. Each paragraph focuses on a separate main idea and the most important aspects of the study.
- Concluding paragraph: This distils the main idea and the overarching significance of the article.
How to summarize a research paper
The approach for writing a full-scale research article is quite different from that for creating a succinct, digestible version of that very article. A summary should be written objectively and in a way that covers the article in sufficient detail—accurately yet briefly—to allow a reader to quickly absorb its significance.
3.1 Do some groundwork
- Skim the article to get a rough idea of each section and the significance of the content.
- Read the paper in more depth. Annotate the paper, marking or underlining key points, important phrases, and major headings and subheadings.
- Jot down notes on the major points and explanations (these notes should be in your voice; avoid lifting exact sentences from the article, even when taking rough notes).
- Organize your notes into an outline that includes main points but excludes examples or details like numbers and statistics.
- Assemble a skeleton draft by bringing together key evidence and notes from each paragraph/section.
3.2 Put it together Start with an introductory paragraph that introduces the main idea. Put together similar ideas/concepts/findings in separate paragraphs. Use transition words and phrases for a smooth flow and to connect similar ideas. Make logical connections when dealing with cause and effect, comparison and contrast, and sequential order. Remember to use your own words. If you realize you are inadvertently using text from the original, go back to the notes you took in the previous step and build on them.
Sentences might be of the following tone and structure:
“In this study, we report (argue/demonstrate) that ____ (main idea).” “A survey on ____ revealed ____.” “_________________ (the topic) has major implications for ____.”
In the end, the article’s conclusion should appear in one sentence, e.g., “Our results emphasize that…” or “This study unravels …”
Once the summary is drafted, it should be checked against the original article to ensure that no essential information has been left out.
Dos and Don’t of Summary Writing
- Respect word limits provided.
- Make sure you are not deviating from the overall picture.
- Use an objective and impersonal tone.
- Be concise. Avoid using padding phrases like “in other words.”
- Revise your final draft thoroughly and proofread it carefully.
- Use the same sentences from the paper. Instead use your own voice and paraphrase carefully.
- Use too much technical jargon.
- Add anything new. Findings that do not appear in the main text should not make their way into the summary.
- Be afraid to use the first person and/or active voice.
Practice makes perfect
Mastering the skill of summarizing articles has other benefits too. Writing research paper summaries need not be limited to one’s own work. A researcher might be asked to write a summary of someone else’s paper as part of a critique. It is a good practice to write summaries of articles in the literature survey and research planning stages. These summaries can serve as condensed versions of a wealth of information on a particular topic to help one understand studies dealing with the same subject. Writing such summaries for yourself will help you hone the technique and soon, you will be summarizing your own work effortlessly!
Would you like guidance from an expert statistician on how to define your study variables and conduct your analysis? Check out Editage’s Statistical Analysis & Review Services !
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Home » Research Summary – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide
Research Summary – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide
Table of Contents
A research summary is a brief and concise overview of a research project or study that highlights its key findings, main points, and conclusions. It typically includes a description of the research problem, the research methods used, the results obtained, and the implications or significance of the findings. It is often used as a tool to quickly communicate the main findings of a study to other researchers, stakeholders, or decision-makers.
Structure of Research Summary
The Structure of a Research Summary typically include:
- Introduction : This section provides a brief background of the research problem or question, explains the purpose of the study, and outlines the research objectives.
- Methodology : This section explains the research design, methods, and procedures used to conduct the study. It describes the sample size, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
- Results : This section presents the main findings of the study, including statistical analysis if applicable. It may include tables, charts, or graphs to visually represent the data.
- Discussion : This section interprets the results and explains their implications. It discusses the significance of the findings, compares them to previous research, and identifies any limitations or future directions for research.
- Conclusion : This section summarizes the main points of the research and provides a conclusion based on the findings. It may also suggest implications for future research or practical applications of the results.
- References : This section lists the sources cited in the research summary, following the appropriate citation style.
How to Write Research Summary
Here are the steps you can follow to write a research summary:
- Read the research article or study thoroughly: To write a summary, you must understand the research article or study you are summarizing. Therefore, read the article or study carefully to understand its purpose, research design, methodology, results, and conclusions.
- Identify the main points : Once you have read the research article or study, identify the main points, key findings, and research question. You can highlight or take notes of the essential points and findings to use as a reference when writing your summary.
- Write the introduction: Start your summary by introducing the research problem, research question, and purpose of the study. Briefly explain why the research is important and its significance.
- Summarize the methodology : In this section, summarize the research design, methods, and procedures used to conduct the study. Explain the sample size, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
- Present the results: Summarize the main findings of the study. Use tables, charts, or graphs to visually represent the data if necessary.
- Interpret the results: In this section, interpret the results and explain their implications. Discuss the significance of the findings, compare them to previous research, and identify any limitations or future directions for research.
- Conclude the summary : Summarize the main points of the research and provide a conclusion based on the findings. Suggest implications for future research or practical applications of the results.
- Revise and edit : Once you have written the summary, revise and edit it to ensure that it is clear, concise, and free of errors. Make sure that your summary accurately represents the research article or study.
- Add references: Include a list of references cited in the research summary, following the appropriate citation style.
Example of Research Summary
Here is an example of a research summary:
Title: The Effects of Yoga on Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis
Introduction: This meta-analysis examines the effects of yoga on mental health. The study aimed to investigate whether yoga practice can improve mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, stress, and quality of life.
Methodology : The study analyzed data from 14 randomized controlled trials that investigated the effects of yoga on mental health outcomes. The sample included a total of 862 participants. The yoga interventions varied in length and frequency, ranging from four to twelve weeks, with sessions lasting from 45 to 90 minutes.
Results : The meta-analysis found that yoga practice significantly improved mental health outcomes. Participants who practiced yoga showed a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as stress levels. Quality of life also improved in those who practiced yoga.
Discussion : The findings of this study suggest that yoga can be an effective intervention for improving mental health outcomes. The study supports the growing body of evidence that suggests that yoga can have a positive impact on mental health. Limitations of the study include the variability of the yoga interventions, which may affect the generalizability of the findings.
Conclusion : Overall, the findings of this meta-analysis support the use of yoga as an effective intervention for improving mental health outcomes. Further research is needed to determine the optimal length and frequency of yoga interventions for different populations.
- Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Langhorst, J., Dobos, G., & Berger, B. (2013). Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Depression and anxiety, 30(11), 1068-1083.
- Khalsa, S. B. (2004). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: a bibliometric analysis of published research studies. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 48(3), 269-285.
- Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3-12.
Purpose of Research Summary
The purpose of a research summary is to provide a brief overview of a research project or study, including its main points, findings, and conclusions. The summary allows readers to quickly understand the essential aspects of the research without having to read the entire article or study.
Research summaries serve several purposes, including:
- Facilitating comprehension: A research summary allows readers to quickly understand the main points and findings of a research project or study without having to read the entire article or study. This makes it easier for readers to comprehend the research and its significance.
- Communicating research findings: Research summaries are often used to communicate research findings to a wider audience, such as policymakers, practitioners, or the general public. The summary presents the essential aspects of the research in a clear and concise manner, making it easier for non-experts to understand.
- Supporting decision-making: Research summaries can be used to support decision-making processes by providing a summary of the research evidence on a particular topic. This information can be used by policymakers or practitioners to make informed decisions about interventions, programs, or policies.
- Saving time: Research summaries save time for researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders who need to review multiple research studies. Rather than having to read the entire article or study, they can quickly review the summary to determine whether the research is relevant to their needs.
Characteristics of Research Summary
The following are some of the key characteristics of a research summary:
- Concise : A research summary should be brief and to the point, providing a clear and concise overview of the main points of the research.
- Objective : A research summary should be written in an objective tone, presenting the research findings without bias or personal opinion.
- Comprehensive : A research summary should cover all the essential aspects of the research, including the research question, methodology, results, and conclusions.
- Accurate : A research summary should accurately reflect the key findings and conclusions of the research.
- Clear and well-organized: A research summary should be easy to read and understand, with a clear structure and logical flow.
- Relevant : A research summary should focus on the most important and relevant aspects of the research, highlighting the key findings and their implications.
- Audience-specific: A research summary should be tailored to the intended audience, using language and terminology that is appropriate and accessible to the reader.
- Citations : A research summary should include citations to the original research articles or studies, allowing readers to access the full text of the research if desired.
When to write Research Summary
Here are some situations when it may be appropriate to write a research summary:
- Proposal stage: A research summary can be included in a research proposal to provide a brief overview of the research aims, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes.
- Conference presentation: A research summary can be prepared for a conference presentation to summarize the main findings of a study or research project.
- Journal submission: Many academic journals require authors to submit a research summary along with their research article or study. The summary provides a brief overview of the study’s main points, findings, and conclusions and helps readers quickly understand the research.
- Funding application: A research summary can be included in a funding application to provide a brief summary of the research aims, objectives, and expected outcomes.
- Policy brief: A research summary can be prepared as a policy brief to communicate research findings to policymakers or stakeholders in a concise and accessible manner.
Advantages of Research Summary
Research summaries offer several advantages, including:
- Time-saving: A research summary saves time for readers who need to understand the key findings and conclusions of a research project quickly. Rather than reading the entire research article or study, readers can quickly review the summary to determine whether the research is relevant to their needs.
- Clarity and accessibility: A research summary provides a clear and accessible overview of the research project’s main points, making it easier for readers to understand the research without having to be experts in the field.
- Improved comprehension: A research summary helps readers comprehend the research by providing a brief and focused overview of the key findings and conclusions, making it easier to understand the research and its significance.
- Enhanced communication: Research summaries can be used to communicate research findings to a wider audience, such as policymakers, practitioners, or the general public, in a concise and accessible manner.
- Facilitated decision-making: Research summaries can support decision-making processes by providing a summary of the research evidence on a particular topic. Policymakers or practitioners can use this information to make informed decisions about interventions, programs, or policies.
- Increased dissemination: Research summaries can be easily shared and disseminated, allowing research findings to reach a wider audience.
Limitations of Research Summary
Limitations of the Research Summary are as follows:
- Limited scope: Research summaries provide a brief overview of the research project’s main points, findings, and conclusions, which can be limiting. They may not include all the details, nuances, and complexities of the research that readers may need to fully understand the study’s implications.
- Risk of oversimplification: Research summaries can be oversimplified, reducing the complexity of the research and potentially distorting the findings or conclusions.
- Lack of context: Research summaries may not provide sufficient context to fully understand the research findings, such as the research background, methodology, or limitations. This may lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the research.
- Possible bias: Research summaries may be biased if they selectively emphasize certain findings or conclusions over others, potentially distorting the overall picture of the research.
- Format limitations: Research summaries may be constrained by the format or length requirements, making it challenging to fully convey the research’s main points, findings, and conclusions.
- Accessibility: Research summaries may not be accessible to all readers, particularly those with limited literacy skills, visual impairments, or language barriers.
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