Summarizing an Article

plain something in your own words demonstrates that true learning has taken place. As Maruice Isserman (2003) argues, “You can read a dozen books about the cold war, but if you can't explain what you have learned to someone else in your own words, no real learning has taken place."

To be able to capture the heart of another author's book or article in a few sentences or short paragraph is also an important skill for writing research papers. A common problem in research papers is that students often go into too much detail to explain what another author has written. While it is important to build on the work of other authors, the research paper is to showcase your thoughts. Learning to summarize effectively will improve the overall quality of your research papers.

Directions for Activity

Step 1:
Learn how to Summarize

To get an overview of how to write summaries, you should read the web site:

Step 2:
Summarize an Article

Apply what you learned in "How to Avoid Plagiarism: Paraphrasing and Summarizing" to an article, book, or quality website that you need to summarize.

Step 3:
Get Feedback on Your Summary

One way to get feedback on your summary is to ask another student in the class or a trusted friend to read your summary. You can also see your instructor during his/her office hours or by appointment.

Another way to get feedback is by contacting a Writing Fellows. To take advantage of this opportunity, visit a Writing Fellow in-person at the Learning Assistance Center.

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Newspapers are often overlooked as a source for research papers. Yet, articles can be found in the Schoolcraft College Databases.

Avoiding Plagiarism

A common misconception is that if you summarize an article as part of your research paper, all you have to do is list the source in your bibliography. This is incorrect. Unless you also provide some type of internal documentation next to the summary and a proper bibliographic reference, you are guilty of plagiarism. References and Resources