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 the methods researchers use to make arguments. It can be a lesson on evaluating evidence.
There are two kinds of summaries. One is a “deep” and one “lite.”
Deep summaries not only outline the research in a study but also 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. Book reviews are a kind of deep summary.
Lite summaries focus on the information and arguments in the study. These are “lite” 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 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 citation info as title
- Introduction – offer a brief overview of the topic and its importance; include a concise description of the research questions or hypotheses pursued by the study’s authors. Finish intro by outlining the main argument/findings.
- 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.