Summarizing a Journal Article

Summarizing a Journal Article


This is a presentation of the St. Catherine university libraries, and I’m Kathi Rickert. This presentation will introduce you to the writing technique known as summarizing. There are three main ways to use information sources in academic writing. Briefly, those three techniques are: quoting which uses the exact words from a source, usually enclosed in quotation marks; paraphrasing, in which certain facts or details of a source are given in your own words; and finally, summarizing, which involves putting just the main points of an article into your own words. Other tutorials will help you learn about paraphrasing and quoting, and this one describes summarizing. In summarizing, the goal is to give the reader a very brief description or general overview of what’s relevant in the source you have read. Summarizing can be an effective writing technique for accomplishing any of the following: to help justify a claim or position you are taking; to set up the background of your research paper or research project; to demonstrate the breadth of research or lack of it on your topic; and finally, to compare research conclusions or to lay out the variety of opinions on a topic. And just how do you summarize an article? Here are the steps to follow in order to summarize. First, carefully read the article until you understand it. There’s probably no need to read the entire article in depth, but you probably do need to understand the purpose or thesis of the research being described, who the participants were, what research method was used, and the findings or conclusions that were reached in your article. You may wish to highlight or to make notes of what you feel are the most important aspects of the article. Next, write an overview of the article as clearly and concisely as you can. This should be brief, in as few as one or 2 carefully worded sentences. Always use your own words, and do not use quotations. Lastly, always include an in-text citation for the article, as well as an entry on the reference list at the end of the paper. This slide and the next give examples of what summaries can look like. In this example, just one sentence was used to briefly summarize and report on the most relevant conclusions from the study. Note that this one sentence also contains an in-text citation corresponding to an entry on the reference list at the end of the paper. In this example, I chose to use two sentences in order to give slightly more information from the article. Note again that these sentences, both of which contain information from the article, are correctly cited in APA style, with a corresponding entry in the reference list at the end of the paper. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about using one, two, or even more sentences in a summary. It’s strictly a matter of personal preference and of what you believe sounds best in the text of your paper. The important thing is that your summary be clear to the reader, concisely worded, and true to the contents of the article. Just to briefly review what was covered in this video: Summarizing is just one technique for using information sources when writing academic papers. Other writing techniques include quoting and paraphrasing. When writing a summary, use your own words to convey the gist of the article or the most relevant research findings from an information source. Remember that a summary must always include an in-text citation as well as an entry on the reference list that they have end of the paper. The writing tutors at the O’Neill Center can give you more help writing, structuring, or organizing your paper. Help is available by appointment, drop in, or chat. For more help on this topic, please speak with a librarian or visit the O’Neill Center.

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