Teachers use research summaries to get students acquainted with the current arguments on a topic in an academic field. So, they inform us about a topic, but they also teach students to see how researchers make arguments and give students a chance to evaluate evidence.

There are two kinds of summaries. One is a “deep” summary. Deep summaries not only outline the research in the specific book or study but contextualize the research. For example, the summary of an article on consumption in America after World War II would also include references to other historians who have studied the period for comparison.

The second kind is a light summary. These summaries focus on the information and arguments in the piece you are summarizing. These are “light” because they are shorter and do not contextualize the research. They are useful as quick reference when assembling a literature review or annotated bibliography for a final term paper.

For either type of summary, there is a common procedure in assessing the research you summarize.

First, scan the research. What is the main hypothesis or argument? What evidence did the researcher use? What are the key findings? (5 min)

Next, read the piece well and take notes on important features that may be important for a summary. (20-60 mins)

Once you are familiar with the argument, methods and conclusions, write the summary. Use the following overview to guide your writing process.

Light Research Summary Elements

  • APA style title and author info at the top
  • Introduction – offer a brief overview of the topic and its importance that leads to a concise description of the research questions or hypotheses pursued by the researchers you are summarizing. Conclude by outlining the argument/results offered by the researchers.
  • Methodology –  detail experimental methods and/or the type of primary evidence used to make the argument (e.g. types of experiments, surveys, historical sources, sampling, statistical analysis, etc.).
  • Results section – describe how the data/evidence led the researchers to their conclusions.
  • Conclusion/Discussion – interpret the results, theoretical models, the study strengths and limitations. What are the implications of the arguments made? How do the findings , conclusions, etc. Arguments and findings are revisited and validated or denied, based on how convincing the evidence is.


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