Guidelines for Summarizing Sources
Most students do not realize that summaries require citations similar to those used for quotations. Learning how to summarize your sources properly will help you avoid "accidental" plagiarism. Moreover, you should use these guidelines when writing an Annotated Bibliography.
What is a summary?
A summary requires you to "condense an extended idea or argument into a sentence or more in your own words" (Aaron, Sole, & Martucci Lamarre, 2009, p. 298). Moreover, a summary should not change the meaning of the original source.
When is a summary useful?
You should summarize when…
- you want to give an overview of a source's main ideas/points;
- you can express a source's ideas or points in fewer words than the original text;
- you need to give a brief synopsis of more than one source;
- you want an authority on the topic to support your ideas
How is a summary written?
Before you write the summary…
- Read the text once in its entirety, paying special attention to the main ideas. Put the text down and write what you remember.
- Read the text a second time quickly, without taking any notes. Put the text down and add anything new that you might remember to the notes from the first reading.
- Read the text thoroughly a third time. This is when you can circle words/phrases you do not know, take notes in the margins, and underline phrases/sentences. Put the text down and add any new information you remember to the second reading.
- Read through your notes from the third reading, look up the words/phrases that you do not know, and make any appropriate changes to the information you jotted down.
- You are ready to write a draft of your summary! Move on to the guidelines below.
When you write the summary. . .
- Introduce the source in a signal phrase. Here is a common formula you can use: In "[name of article]," [author] writes, [State the main point of the text first.]
- Aim for a summary—in your own words and sentence structure—that is 1/10 of the original or three to seven sentences long.
- Compare your version to the original. Make sure that your summary is clear and understandable to the reader. .
- Avoid using quotations. A summary is not a paraphrase or a direct quote. If you must use the author's key words or phrases, always enclose them in quotation marks
- Include a parenthetical citation in APA format.
Pendergrast, M. (1999). Uncommon grounds: The history of coffee and how it transformed our world. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Coffee is an extraordinarily delicate commodity. Its quality is first determined by essentials such as type of plant, soil conditions, and growing altitude. It can be ruined at every step along the line, from fertilizer and pesticide application to harvesting methods to processing to shipping to roasting to packaging to brewing. A coffee bean greedily absorbs odors and flavors from a host of nauseating companions. Too much moisture produces mold. A too–light roast produces undeveloped, bitter coffee, while overroasted coffee resembles charcoal. After roasting, the bean stales quickly unless used within a week or so. Boiling or sitting on a hot plate quickly reduces the finest brew to a stale, bitter, mouth–turning cup of black bile. In addition, it can be adulterated with an astonishing array of vegetable matter, ranging from chicory to figs.
In his introduction to Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World, Mark Pendergrast (1999) explains that coffee is an easy–to–manipulate—maybe even temperamental—bean that requires special attention for the duration of its lifespan, growth to consumption (p. xvi).
- The student version is properly summarized because it does the following:
- It introduces the source in a proper signal phrase;
- It is about 1/10 the length of the original passage;
- It is clear and understandable to the reader;
- It is void of any quotations or paraphrases; √ It includes a parenthetical citation in correct APA format.