Step by step procedure for summarizing research paper, with a sample

What is an Article summary?

A summary is a concise overview of the key points in a text in one’s own words. It involves providing an accurate, objective, and clear account of the main points or ideas without duplicating the original source text. It is important to understand that a summary does not involve analyzing or critiquing the original text. As a writer you are required to identify the important information in the original text and condense it in a way that the reader can understand. This means that you need to understand the subject better to be able to provide a good brief overview.

As a student, you will be required to summarize previous work by researchers to test your understanding of the topic or develop your skills for writing research papers. You may not be required to write research papers at undergraduate level. However, nurturing the skills of research paper writing at this level better prepares you for the task at masters or PhD level. Moreover, summarizing research papers also develops and improves your research skills. In most cases, you will be required to write essays based on extensive research on different topics. Your research and development of your essay will have to be based on reliable and reputable publications. This will require you to have a better understanding of the structure and format of research papers. This article provides a step by step guide on how to go about summarizing a research paper.

Establish a purpose for the summary

The first step to summarizing a research paper or article is to determine a purpose for the summary. There are different reasons for summarizing a research paper. For students, your summary could be a stand-alone assignment assigned by the instructor to test your understanding of the topic. In that case, your summary should focus on all the parts of the research article including abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion and references. Some instructors may only require you to provide a summary of specific parts of the research paper such as the methods used and results obtained. Second, the purpose of the summary may be to include it in your research in which case the summary should focus on the sections that relate to your paper. In essence, your summary should adopt a certain format and outline based on the purpose.


Scan the research paper

Before reading the research article, it is important to briefly go through the main sections to identify the purpose of the study, the hypothesis being tested, the method applied, the results obtained and their interpretation. As you scan through, note down the key points in every section of the paper to help you focus on important parts as you read the article. Scanning is important especially when summarizing long research papers with limited time.


Read the article thoroughly

The next step after scanning is to read the article interactively to understand the context. Take time and read each and every section of the article repeatedly. As you read the article, take note of the important points or ideas of the author. The notes recorded during the scanning should guide you in this process. It is important to take note of key points in your own words to help you avoid plagiarism during your writing. This will also help you determine if you truly understand the study. Go through the article again to ensure that you understand every section and extracted key points. Start with the abstract to get a preview of what the article is about. Then focus on the headings and subheading to have an idea of what the sections are about. Some of the questions to consider when reading a research article include:

  1. Does the study design address the research question?
  2. Do the results justify the research questions?
  3. How did the research succeed in answering the research question?


Write the summary

Having read and understood the research article, it is time to condense the author’s ideas into a brief overview in your own words. Start by writing a draft of the summary following the outline of the summary determined by the initial purpose. If you are doing a stand-alone summary as an assignment, then it is advisable that you follow the order of the original article. To make your review authentic and plagiarism free, write without referring to the original article. In essence, put down what you understood from your reading. You can often refer to the short notes recorded during the reading to guide your writing.

Begin your draft with the fundamental objective of the research. This includes details such as the primary goal of the research, the methods used by the author, and potential obstacles to achieving research objectives as highlighted by the author. Second, describe the observations made by the authors in your own words. This is followed by a brief summary of the conclusions the authors drew from the observations. Focus on the implications of the results and how they respond to the research question. Finally, conclude with recommendations provided by the authors.


Edit the summary

After completing the draft, go through it carefully to ensure that it is complete in terms of covering the key points of the original article. Review each and every section of the summary and how it matches the relevant sections of the original article. This is the stage where you remove or add text to ensure that it meets the required length and remains concise and accurate.

Proofread your summary for style

This is the last stage of your summary writing where you ensure that your audience can read and understand the contents. Go through the summary to ensure that it is less wordy and uses precise and concrete language. Ensure that you give specific examples and avoid vague references. For instance, in the case where your audience is your classmates or the instructor, they probably have an idea of the contents of the research article and giving vague references will only invalidate your summary. It is advisable that you limit direct quotes and rely on paraphrasing with accurate citations.

A sample of research summary

 Here is a SAMPLE OF A RESEARCH PAPER SUMMARY for further guidance


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275 words/pages.