How to Summarize a Research Paper

Writing the summary of a research paper, or any academic text, can be difficult as the essay is filled with dense terminology and ideas. Using the following tips will help you incorporate all of the information in your summary and make it easy for your reader to understand what you are trying to say.

12 Tips on How to Summarize a Research Paper


1) Start with a brief introduction: 

The first thing you should do when writing your summary introduces the topic at hand and tells your readers why it is interesting. A good introduction will help your reader understand how the paper fits into their field of study and why it is a big deal.

2) Outline the main points:

Make sure you clearly outline what your main points are and that you give a good description of each point. Make sure to use appropriate transition words like ‘mainly’ or ‘in particular to direct your reader’s attention to each point respectively.

3) Reference the paper correctly:

If you used quotes in your summary, be sure to reference those correctly using footnotes or parenthesis with page numbers. If you referenced a source in your introduction make sure to reference it in your body paragraphs as well.

4) Mention the author

If you are summarising an article or book, make sure to give credit to every author who contributed to the paper or text. You can do this by listing the full names of each author and using the first initial of each person’s last name. 

Take note that if you are referring to a book, you should use Mrs. or Ms. for married women, Miss for unmarried women, and Mr. for men. If there is no last name for an author, make sure that you have enough information about them so that a reader can be made aware of his/her significance in the research.

5) Don’t make it boring:

The content of your essay will determine how interesting it is for readers so make sure to keep it as entertaining as possible! If you are writing a summary of a book or essay written by a famous researcher, try to put in some of their humor or show them in a positive light. 

Avoid using direct quotes, but instead, write an expository summary that uses the tone of the paper. A great way to make the topic interesting is by including personal stories and anecdotes that relate to the main ideas of your research and support these claims with examples (this is called “evidence-based summary”).

6) Use your own words:

If you are using a quote in your essay, try to use it directly in your summary. Don’t change the meaning of the sentence; instead, use it to express the main idea behind your thesis.

7) Organize your points:

Try to organize your points into a logical argument and make sure that none of them contradicts each other. To do this, remember to get rid of contradictions and erroneous claims as much as possible. If you have written a book or an article on a specialized topic, summarising is an excellent way to convey its ideas and understand what people either like or don’t like about the work so far.

8) Quote selectively:

When paraphrasing a work, pick out only the most important quotes so that you do not neglect the main points of any section and completely summarise them.

9) Answer specific questions:

If a reader asks a question in your summary, be sure to answer it. If you don’t understand something in the paper, be sure to mention it and explain clearly how you came to that point of view.

10) First impressions are crucial in an academic essay:

If you are writing for an English assignment, show your readers that you have learned about and familiarized yourself with the topic at hand by summarising the main points first before writing your thesis statement or thesis sentence. If you are writing a summary of a research paper you should start by giving the conclusion and then go back to your introduction to give special attention to what supports your thesis.

11) Avoid using a dictionary or online dictionary:

Although at times dictionaries are a good resource, you should always avoid using them when writing your thesis as it will not help you to understand the meaning behind the author’s ideas or choices of words. If you don’t understand something in a work, use a dictionary to look it up and base your conclusions on this. 

12) Use an outline:

You can use an outline to structure your paper and make sure that all of the main points are accounted for in your essay while also making sure they flow well together.


The purpose of the essay is to communicate ideas succinctly and appealingly. In doing so, a good summary does not need to belong (see the final paragraph) because it should not cover every single detail, but it should be comprehensive enough that the reader can see all you have done and won’t forget any of your ideas. 

To achieve this, summaries use techniques such as listing key points and specific quotes or anecdotes to further explain their topic. Additionally, these samples also give readers an idea of what information they can find in your essay and turn them into interested readers by explaining what you researched.


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