Writing and Grammar Skills Appendix

Writing Skill: Summary and Response

by Charity Davenport and Doug Terry
Writing a summary and response essay can be a difficult task, but one you may be asked to do many times in your academic career. Summary and response papers are ways that teachers can see that you understand the materials and can think about it critically, so this is a good chance for you to show what you have learned and your creativity. The advice below will help you write a great summary and response paper: just remember EDDIE.

Step 1: Expectations of the Assignment

The first step is to make sure you understand what is expected of you concerning the assignment. For this example, we will use the following instructions, but your teacher’s requirements might be different.

“Summarize the article and give a two-paragraph response. Make sure to cite the article using MLA style citations and formatting.”

In this case, we suggest the following organization for a 5-paragraph essay:

  1. Introduction:
    1. Hook
    2. Background information about the topic
    3. Introduce the article (author, title, source) and how the author approaches its topic
    4. Give your thesis statement that refers to your responses
  2. Summary of article
  3. Response part 1: you could agree, disagree, present a problem
  4. Response part 2: You could concede, give another reason you agree or disagree, or present a solution
  5. Conclusion
    1. Restate your thesis (and the main idea of the article)
    2. Summarize your response
    3. Clean it up with SOAPY: Suggestion, opinion (not for this one, though), call to action, prediction, and/or emphasis on why this topic is important.

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Step 2: Dissecting the article or reading

Let’s say that your teacher gives you this 3-page reading to summarize and then respond to. The first and most important step is to read the article and make sure you understand it. As you read, take notes–of both important ideas (main ideas) and your thoughts and questions as you are reading.

Notice if there are any subheadings. This means that the article or reading is broken up into sections, usually by subtopic. This helps point out where important ideas might be.

Think about when you write an essay. You need a hook, thesis statement, and topic sentences for each of your subtopics. It might not be exactly the same for every article or reading, but you can keep your eye out for similar structures. You might find the main idea of the whole article right before the first subheading, and each subsections main ideas near the top and end of each section. However, there may be times when there is not a clear main idea sentence, and so you will need to create your own. This is when taking notes while reading is most useful.

Highlight the main ideas that you find–but be careful–don’t go highlight crazy. For the article and each section, there should only be one or two sentences that contain the main ideas.

After identifying and highlighting the main ideas for the article and its subsections, paraphrase them and make sure they flow together to form a nice summary paragraph. For example, if the article has four sections, then your paragraph should be about five to six sentences long–one sentence for the main idea of the article, and one (or two) sentence(s) for each section.

The usual advice for paraphrase is to read your notes about the main ideas, reread the mains ideas, and then flip over the article or put it aside so that you can’t see the original, and then imagine repeating the same ideas to a classmate. However, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of using outside sources, so if you need extra help, you can check out the paraphrasing help in this article: https://iagtm.pressbooks.com/chapter/writing-skills-avoiding-plagiarism/#parahelp 
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Step 3: Deciding the summary’s thesis statement

Only after reading the whole article and taking note of all the main ideas can you start to write about the main idea of the whole article. In fact, your summary’s thesis statement should be right before your response thesis statement. In this sentence, you should mention the article, the author’s last name, the title of the article, the author’s purpose, and the main topic of the article.

Think about what we have asked before reading every article or reading from this textbook: was the purpose of the article or reading to inform, persuade, or entertain? Use the following reporting verbs to help show the author’s purpose:

REPORTING VERB FUNCTION
Consider, Discuss, Emphasize, State that, explain TO INFORM
Assert, claim, argue, suggest, propose TO PERSUADE

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Step 4: Identifying your opinions and thoughts after reading

This step is why it’s so important to take notes on what you are thinking and any questions you have while reading the article. Identify the big questions and thoughts you had while reading and see if there’s a theme. Do you disagree with some points in the article? Do you agree with some points in the article? Both? Did the article present any problem and could you write about possible solutions? Do they offer solutions you think are good? Are there any solutions you could think of not offered in the article? Did something in the article remind you of something else you learned about before? Or a previous experience? It always depends on the type of reading, but all of these could help you build a good response section of your paper.
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Step 5: Evaluating points to use to support your ideas

Of course, you can’t just give your opinion and response without using some of the information from the article.

Go back to your notes where you wrote down your reactions to the reading. What made you react that way? Do you agree with the article? Disagree? Connecting with personal experience? Seeing solutions to a problem? What was said in the article that made you have these thoughts? You will need these pieces of information to support your ideas in your response section.

Highlight in a different color the parts of the article you want to use to support your response. You may want to keep some of these as quotes or also paraphrase them, especially if they are long.

In your essay, you may want to reference the information in the article right before or after your response. Either way, don’t forget you will need to reference the article as well. Here is a site that can help you with different ways to reintroduce the source: https://www.ccis.edu/offices/academicresources/writingcenter/essaywritingassistance/suggestedwaystointroducequotations.aspx

If you follow these steps, you should have a great start to writing your summary and response paper!

CEFR Level: B2

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It’s All Greek to Me! by Charity Davenport is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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