how to write a summary essay of an article
Summaries demonstrate your understanding of a text’s subject matter.
There is customarily no conclusion to a summary essay.
Every essay also requires snippets of true summary along the way to “orient” readers—to introduce them to characters or critics they haven’t yet met, to remind them of items they need to recall to understand your point. (The underlined phrase in the paragraph introducing Nash’s summary is an example of orienting information.) True summary is also necessary to establish a context for your claims, the frame of reference you create in your introduction. An essay examining the “usable past” created by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, for example, might begin by briefly summarizing the history of the idea of a usable past, or by summarizing the view of a leading theorist on the topic.
What the summary assignment requires is that you should give the gist of the argument or the story in your own words. You are bringing out the author’s major points and some supporting detail without any commentary or opinion of your own. It is an entirely objective summary of the author’s work, accurately presented for what it is, not what you imagine it to be, and with no explanation or interpretation. That is possibly the most difficult aspect of summarizing because we naturally interpret whatever we read, see, or hear.
As for the length of the summary, your assignment should state what will be required. By comparing that requirement to the length of the original, you should be able to tell how detailed your summary is expected to be. More detail is required in a summary of 1,000 words of an article of 4,000 words than in a summary of 1,500 words of a novel of 100,000 words. In this instance, the summary of the novel will be a supreme test of your comprehension and your conciseness. You have to stick to the bare bones of the plot, the main characters, and the essence of the story and not be sidetracked into any minor issues or subplot.
- Catcher in the Rye (book)
- Citizen Kane (film)
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (book)
- Captain Fantastic (film)
- Lord of the Rings (book)
- Song of Two Humans (film)
- Of Mice and Men (book)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (film)
- Moby Dick (book)
- Ben Hurr (film)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- A movie by Ingmar Bergman
- A novel by Jack London
- The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
- An article in The New York Times
- A blog post of a famous journalist
You can write a summary essay on a scientific work, an interesting article, a novel, or a research paper. This type of essay can be on any subject. For example, you might want to write a summary essay on:
The purpose of a summary is to give the reader a clear, objective picture of the original text. Most importantly, the summary restates only the main points of a text or a lecture without giving examples or details, such as dates, numbers or statistics.
• Summarize the main idea and the underlying meaning of the article.