How to Summarize an Article
1. Take a few minutes to preview the work. You can preview an article in a magazine by taking a
quick look at the following:
a. Title. A title often summarizes what an article is about. Think about the title for a minute,
and about how it may condense the meaning of the article.
b. Subtitle. A subtitle, if given, is a short summary appearing under or next to the title. For
example, in a Newsweek article titled “Growing Old, Feeling Young,” the following
caption appeared: “Not only are Americans living longer, they are staying active longer
– and their worst enemy is not nature, but the myths and prejudices about growing old.”
In short, the subtitle, the caption, or any other words in large print under or next to the
title often provide a quick insight into the meaning of an article.
c. First and last several paragraphs. In the first several paragraphs, the author may
introduce you to the subject and state the purpose of the article. In the last several
paragraphs, the writer may present conclusions or a summary. The previews or
summaries can give you a quick overview of what the entire article is about.
d. Other items. Note any headlines or subheads that appear in the article. They often
provide clues to the article’s main points and give an immediate sense of what each
section is about. Look carefully at any pictures, charts or diagrams that accompany the
article – they illustrate important points in the article. Note any words in italics or bold –
they have probably been emphasized because they deal with important points in the
2. Read the article several times until you understand it fully.
3. Look up any words you don’t understand.
4. Decide what the important ideas are.
5. Take notes – but only write key words, not complete sentences. Concentrate on getting the key
ideas and supporting points.
6. Write a draft of your summary by linking together your key words. Don’t look at the original
article while you are writing.
7. Use your own words and your own sentence structure.
8. Do not change the meaning of the original.
9. Keep the balance of the original work. If the original work devoted 70 percent of its space to
one idea and only 30 percent to another, your summary should reflect that emphasis.
10. Check your summary against the original to make sure you have not changed the meaning.
11. Polish your summary.
12. Add a citation at the end of the summary.
Omit the details. Only include important points in your summary. Reduce examples. Choose at most one or two to include; you may not need to include any. Simplify the descriptions. If there are many details, limit your summary to only one or two. Eliminate all repetitions. Use the shortest possible transition words. Use but, then, yet, for, rather than longer words like at the same time, on the other hand, etc. Often a semicolon can take the place of a transition word.