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Important Guidelines to Follow while Summarizing an Article

Important Guidelines to Follow while Summarizing an Article
Writing a summary raises a lot of doubts and fears, seeing as one needs to correctly capture the essence of the original, without making it seem like a facsimile. This Penlighten post gives you a list of guidelines to follow while summarizing an article.
Renuka Savant

Always cite the source of origin and credit its author at the end of your summary―failing to do so amounts to plagiarism.

Summarizing involves borrowing a concept from another and phrasing it in your own words. A summary remains focused on the broad aspect(s) and aims to bring out the essence of the original work, albeit in brief. While the specific purpose of writing a summary may differ from case to case, the basic aim is to succinctly present the main aspects in a manner that it can be clearly understood by someone who has not read the original work.

Before you begin to summarize an article, it is prudent to be aware of what makes a good summary. Listed below are two crucial features:
  • Accuracy: A good summary does not beat around the bush. It gets straight to the point, and remains close to the essence of the original.
  • Brevity: If your 'summary' is as long as the original, you wouldn't really call it that―it would instead be a paraphrase. Always keep things concise in a summary.

It makes little difference whether you are looking to summarize an article from a newspaper or a journal; be it academic or otherwise, you must follow a few rules. We've described them here.

1. Read and reread the original article.

It's like stating the obvious, but before you move on to summarizing another's piece, ensure that you've thoroughly understood it yourself. Remember, a summary's focus is on the main point(s) of the original article, which is why you need to clearly understand the entire work yourself. Even if you're already familiar with it, it would do well if you reread it anyway. It is surprising how a piece of writing reveals certain aspects that you're sure weren't present previously.

2. Highlight the main points.

Before you get to drafting your summary, highlight the main points of the original. Make a list of points that you think should be covered in your version. A nicer way would be to reason out why a particular point needs to be a part of your summary, while another doesn't. This will help you gain a better understanding of the subject matter.

3. Never insert your opinion.

Well, not unless you're specifically asked to, of course. A summary is not to be written in the first person, since it does not call for the writer's opinion. Your job is to solely present an explanation of the text, and not an analysis.

4. Make use of your own words.

Although you are basically repeating the contents of the original article, you need to do so in your words. However, while you're doing so, make sure that the essence of the original does not get lost in translation. Conversely, in order to stay close to the original, do not go overboard in quoting the author.

5. Follow all the rules.

The American Psychological Association (APA) prescribes a long list of guidelines to be followed while drafting a summary, and you are recommended to peruse them. Introduce the author of the original by citing his/her name correctly. Using quotes from the original should be avoided as far as possible; you should be paraphrasing instead. In case it is inevitable, do quote the original, but remember to attribute it by using quotation marks, indicating that it has been borrowed from the text. Make use of the present tense while drafting. If you're unsure about the length of your summary, stick to the thumb rule of restricting it to about one-quarter to one-third of the total length of the original article.

Summary writing can be a bit cumbersome, considering the number of rules one needs to follow while drafting it. However, once you are clear with the basics of summary writing, it's just a matter of showcasing your understanding of the topic. Keep practicing, and you'd be sure of mastering this art.