How to Write a Summary for a Research Paper: Things You Might Not Know

Research papers follow a general format to communicate clearly information about a topic. Research papers will usually have seven components: a title, an abstract, an intro, research method, results, a discussion section and references. Familiarity with these sections will make it easier for you to write a summary.

Here are some things you might not know about summarizing a research paper:

  • Determine your focus. Before starting, you should take a few minutes to decide why it is you need to summarize the research paper. If it’s for an assignment, then you should think about what your instructor expects from you. If you aren’t sure then you should ask. Summarizing a research paper is a type of writing that requires you address specific components of a paper in order to provide your reader an idea about whether the original research paper would be helpful. Allow yourself enough time to make sure you understand the research paper.
  • First scan the entire paper. Don’t get bogged down by details by attempting to read the entire paper from start to finish. Instead, use your knowledge of research paper writing to find all of the key points. That means looking for the research paper’s thesis and topic sentences. Underline key points throughout and jot down a few notes in the margins. Just stick to the parts of the paper that are most relevant.
  • Read interactively and for depth. Read each section several times and take down some additional notes to complement your summary of the key points. As you are reading each section ask yourself a few questions to make sure you understand the paper. Does the study design fully address the research question presented in the intro? Are the writer’s findings convincing? Does the research paper contribute to the question being answered? Is there anything left unanswered and are reasons why presented in the paper?
  • Avoid plagiarism. Believe it or not, you run a greater risk of committing plagiarism when you are summarizing someone else’s work. To avoid this write down your notes in your own words, summarizing key points using short notes will force you to rewrite those same ideas in your own words when you finally get to drafting your own paper. If you notice that your words are suspiciously close to the original paper, then force yourself to rewrite sentences or paragraphs from memory.