Here is a simple strategy for writing an abstract or summary:
- Make sure you have your own Xeroxed copy or printout of the article so that you can directly interact with this reading material.
- Read the entire article carefully, but do not take notes. Just read it.
- Now reread the article and, with the use of lines, underlining, circling, and labeling(s), divide the article into major sections or stages of thought.
- Take the article apart and clearly mark and label what you understand to be its different major parts. It may have three major points or divisions; it may have nine. How many stages of thought the reading has depends upon its purpose and complexity
- .On a separate sheet of paper, in one complete sentence, sum up the main point of each major division of thought. What did this particular section say? What was its "big idea"? Write out one sentence per division or stage of thought. (If, in the case of a particularly difficult section, you need two or three sentences, that is acceptable; just be sure that you capture the essence, the heart of what is said, not all the details.)
- Develop and write a thesis statement for the whole article. In one sentence, express the article's main idea or focus. But remember: there is a writer or writers behind this article; always acknowledge the presence of these writers by mentioning them in the thesis statement, beginning with something like "Williams explains," or "According to Smith and Jones," or, in the case of an uncredited group or staff of writers, "The writers argue [or suggest, or say]."
- Combine the thesis statement from #4 with all of the one-sentence summaries from #3. You now have a rough draft of your abstract.
- Revise the rough draft. Make sure the paragraph is coherent—that each sentence follows logically from the previous one. Making the paragraph coherent will be especially important, since you are joining together a group of different ideas. Also be sure that your wording is precise and clear. If you use a direct quotation from the original article, put it in quotation marks.
- When your revision is complete, ask yourself this question: Does this abstract, this summary, adequately represent the whole article? Your answer to this question will determine just how much re-working needs to be done.
Judith Halden-Sullivan is an associate professor of English at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa."Summarizing an Article." Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2010.