How do I Write a Research Paper Summary?

Felicia Dye

Several parts are required in a research paper in addition to the body of the report, such as a research paper summary. To write a summary, you first of all need to finish the report. Then, review your main ideas, and condense them into a brief document.

When finished with a research paper, review the completed paper and extract the main ideas to include in a summary.
When finished with a research paper, review the completed paper and extract the main ideas to include in a summary.

The summary should provide a concise idea of what is contained in the body of the document. For this reason, it is best not to try to write it before the paper is complete. Even if you have completed the research, you still need to wait because there may be some parts that you will not use and the summary is not the place to try to introduce other information.

A reader may lose motivation to read a full paper if too much information is provided in the summary.
A reader may lose motivation to read a full paper if too much information is provided in the summary.

The best way to begin drafting the research paper summary is by reviewing your report. As you go through it, extract the main ideas. This may be simpler if you have organized your paper with sections or headings. When you extract the information, remember to limit each point to the essence of the idea. Otherwise, you could find that you have too much information and your summary becomes too long.

Writing the summary will be similar to writing the report. You will take all of the extracted points and compose a document that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning should introduce the topic and how you plan to address it.

It is best to be clear about your angle because it informs a person of what to expect from your paper. For example, if your assignment is to write about domestic violence, there is plenty that can be written on that topic. If you have chosen to write about how men are treated unfairly in domestic violence cases, this should be communicated in the beginning.

The middle of the summary will provide the main points you use to support your argument or to disprove common perception. These should be organized in a manner similar to their placement in the report. The end of the document should summarize the conclusions your paper reaches so the reader knows what point you are trying to lead up to.

When you write the research paper summary, there are two things that you should keep in mind. The first is the importance of brevity. If you provide too much information in the summary, a reader may lose motivation to read the full paper. Second, try to avoid using terms that need to be defined or explained because this will unnecessarily lengthen your summary.

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Discussion Comments


One mistake my students always seem to make with summaries is that they put forward a thesis or claim that's different than the one they discussed in the paper. And I'm left with trying to figure out what they really want to get across.

Now, the very first class of our semester is a writing class where I basically teach them how to write papers and summaries for those papers.


@literally45- I have to write research papers a lot and most of my professors expect a one paragraph summary in the beginning. It's not easy to condense a ten page paper into one paragraph but the more you get used to writing them, the easier it becomes.

What I usually do is I include my hypothesis and the results of my research in the summary. But I shorten the information and only include the most important aspects.

Basically, if someone were to only read the beginning summary paragraph of your paper, they should still gain a general idea of what it is about.

You might want to look at some research paper examples with an abstract summary to see how writers usually construct them. You can find such articles in all scholarly journals.


My instructor is never satisfied with my summaries. He says it should be more clear. But the paper itself is so long, how am I supposed to fit all that information in a paragraph or two?!


For more research paper help, many colleges and universities have online resources, to say nothing of writing workshops for their students. Try to utilize these, as well as tutoring programs, at your education institution. If you are not a student, there might be things open to the public at these places, or even things at your local library.


When you write a research summary, make sure it does not contain all of your necessary information. While there need to be some facts and allusions to your main point, to keep it short and encourage people to read the whole paper, don't give the entire thing away. Think of it as being like a movie trailer; if it includes the best five minutes, no one will want to see the whole movie, and if they do, they will leave disappointed that you had already spoiled it for them.


When I was in college, I almost never had to write research paper summaries. For humanities subjects, professors only asked that we could present the paper with a short verbal explanation. In more scientific subjects, including the social sciences, it is more common.

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