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Summarizing A Research Paper Example

Tips on Summarizing

In academic writing, there are a few things to keep in mind when summarizing outside sources:
  • Use your own words
  • Include the key relevant elements of the original and keep it brief - you're just going for the original's essence
  • Do not include your interpretation/analysis within the summary - make a clear distinction between your thoughts and someone else's
  • Vary how you introduce or attribute your sources, like "according to" or "so-and-so concludes that" so your readers don't get bored
  • Always include a citation
Here's an example of a good summary from Mizuki's paper:


Despite decades of research into the sociocultural model of eating disorders, we still do not understand how such sociocultural influences produce disordered eating in any given individual (or why a similar person in the same cultural milieu does not become disordered). Clearly, though, one source of vulnerability lies in a woman's body image. To the extent that a woman's self-image is challenged or threatened by an unattainable ideal of an impossibly thin female physique, she may well become susceptible to disruption of her self-regard, and may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. In short, the sociocultural model argues that exposure to idealized media images (a) makes women feel bad about themselves and (b) impels women to undertake the sort of "remedial" eating patterns that easily and often deteriorate into eating disorders.

Summary in Paper (APA)

Polivy and Herman () noted that we still do not know how or why sociocultural influences like the media contribute to some individuals developing eating disorders while others do not. In some cases, the ubiquitous message of thinness and ideal beauty broadcast by the media can challenge a woman's self-image, disrupting her sense of self-esteem. However, not all women are influenced by the same media messages in the same way. The sociocultural model explores the ways women internalize the media's ideal of unattainable thinness and beauty, and how that internalization in turn can result in disordered eating and a distorted sense of body image (pp. ).

Note: APA does not require a page number reference for summaries, but you are encouraged to include it when it would help the reader find the relevant information in a long text. Be sure to ask your professor whether page numbers are needed for summaries in papers written for his/her class.

This complete citation appears in Mizuki's reference list:

Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (). Sociocultural idealization of thin female body shapes: An introduction to the special issue on body image and eating disorders. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 23, doi/

Research articles usually use standard formats to communicate in a clear manner any kind of information regarding an experiment. A good research article would usually contain a title, an abstract, an introduction, the methodology, the results, a discussion and some references.

When you have to write a summary for research paper, you will need to know how to proceed from start to finish. Every detail is important if you want to come up with a good article summary in a due course.

1. Determine the Focus of Your Summary

You will first need to determine why you’re writing that certain summary. If you want to make a review that you can, later on, read again and remind yourself of the content of the article, you may want to make your summary a slighter longer one. However, if the summary was written with the purpose of being included in a paper that you are currently writing, you may want to stick to how that certain article relates to your paper.

2. Scan the Article

Before you start reading the entire article, you need to scan it for content first. Briefly, go over the article and look at each of its sections to find:

  • The reason for doing the research and the question stated (usually found in the introduction)
  • The hypothesis (or hypotheses) that were tested in the article (also in the introduction)
  • How they tested the hypothesis (found in the methodology)
  • What the findings were (look for them in the results)
  • How those findings were interpreted (found in the discussion)

When scanning with the purpose of writing summary papers, each key sentence should be underlined or written in the margin of the article. The abstract may be able to help identify some of the points; still, you cannot rely solely on it since the information is very condensed and you can miss certain key aspects.

3. Read the Article

Once you finished scanning your article, you need to read it thoroughly next. Take each section and read it several times, considering your highlighted notes. As you read with the purpose of writing a summary for research paper, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does the design address the issues of the research?
  • What is the contribution of this study in answering the main question?
  • Are the results convincing or surprising?
  • What aspects did they still leave unanswered?

When you feel like you can explain this study to someone else who has yet to read the article, then you are ready to start writing about it. Be careful to take notes in your own words so that you can avoid plagiarism in your summary papers. If you find yourself sticking too closely to the original language and the changes to the wording are minor, then you didn’t really understand the study.

4. Write the Summary

Just like the abstract, the purpose of a summary for research paper will be to give the audience a brief overview of what that study says. You will need to find out what information is relevant and explain it briefly but thoroughly.

All first drafts of your summary papers should follow the order of the original article. Having said that, the structure would look something like this:

  • State the question of the research and explain why it’s important.
  • State the hypotheses that were tested.
  • Describe the methods in a few paragraphs (participants, design, procedure, materials, independent and dependent variables, how they analyzed the data)
  • Talk about the results and explain why they were significant.
  • State what the key implications were and don’t overstate the importance of their findings.
  • The results and their interpretation should be directly related to the hypothesis.

This first draft of writing the summary for research paper should be focused on content rather than length. The chances are that it will need further condensing, but that will be left for the next step.

5. Edit Your Summary

Most of the time, a research summary will end up being too long, and will need further condensing. The text will need to be edited for accuracy, which means you will need to add further information where it’s necessary. Try to avoid any generalities, and keep your summary papers concise, focused.

At the same time, the paper will need to be edited for style (your readers need to be able to understand you). To make it look smart, you need to:

  • Eliminate wordiness (such as adverbs or other words that aren’t really necessary)
  • Use concrete and specific language
  • Use language that is scientifically accurate
  • Paraphrase instead of quoting other personalities

If you properly determine your focus, and then scan and read your research articles, you can definitely manage to write and edit your summary paper in a way that will come nothing short of perfection.

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