How to Write Summaries and Reactions

Summarizing is a very important academic skill. It will help you become a more effective reader as it helps you remember what you have read. In addition, summaries and reactions play an important role in college writing. In essay examinations and papers, you demonstrate your understanding of material you have read by briefly summarizing its main ideas and explaining them in a condensed form. However, you often go beyond merely summarizing the material; you also respond to it. You analyze it, compare or contrast it with other material you’ve studied, agree or disagree with its ideas, or expand on them further.

The Summary…

includes an introductory sentence with the title of the article, and/or source; the author (if available); the thesis, or main idea.

includes an additional reference to the source with an appropriate reporting verb

the summary contains only the most important information (topic; main point/thesis; supporting points that explain the thesis).

paraphrases and quotes the author’s words properly and accurately (and does not copy the original writing)

The Reaction…

is subjective; you explain your opinion, perception, or insight about an idea or ideas in the article.

includes supporting information for your reaction: details, examples, etc.

varies in content: personal experience/ application/ agree-disagree/ opinion

The Writing…

is clear and comprehensible (easy to follow)

includes minimal grammatical mistakes

MLA format is used correctly and the S/R is 3-4 pages long, minimum


How to write a summary: 1. Read the text several times (if needed) to make sure you understand it clearly 2. Find the key words and main ideas in the text. Underline or highlight these sentences. 3. Write your own sentences that paraphrase the main points of the text. When you paraphrase, you use your own words and vary the grammatical structure of the author’s sentences. 4. Begin your summary with a reference to the author and the title of the article, using a signal phrase. For example,

In “Wipeout: The Dangers of Workplace Websurfing”, Pachikara reports that many companies have set policies to monitor and control personal Internet use by employees.

5. Include one or more additional signal verbs in your summary that refer back to the source. In MLA format the signal verbs are in present tense:

Pachikara observes that …

Tunceren and Benson note (emphasize, suggest, state, conclude, report) that. . .

Remember, in a summary:

• include only the main points, not the details • do not change the author’s ideas • do not include your own opinions • a summary is much shorter than the original text • do not copy exactly from the article, but you use your own words • write in the third person and include some reference to the source

How to write a reaction: Choose ideas from the text that you want to respond to. For each idea, do the following:

1. Introduce the idea with a signal phrase that identifies the author by last name (use the full name the first time that you mention the author in a signal phrase). You can paraphrase the author’s idea or directly quote it (but use direct quotes less frequently than paraphrasing).

Example: Pachikara states, “In some corner of your mind, you probably know the company is there, watching you” (5). 2. Explain in your own words what this means, to show that you understand the text.

Example: Most people are aware that companies monitor what their employees do at work.

3. Write your subjective response to the sentence. This means you explain your opinion about the sentence or tell about what the author’s ideas mean to you. You should use your own ideas, not the author’s. Also, use specific examples (supporting details) in your response.

Your subjective response should include more than one of these approaches:


• Personal Experience – Explain how something you have experienced (or someone you know has experienced) relates to, matches, or reminds you of the author’s idea(s).

– Have you, or has someone you know, worked for a company with a strict Internet

policy? What was the policy? What were the consequences of breaking the policy? – Have you, or has someone you know, been accused of inappropriate Internet use,

either in an office or in an educational setting? What happened?

• Application – Write about something that illustrates the idea in the sentence you chose. This might be something you have read or heard that applies to or supports what the author has written.

– What have you read or heard about monitoring or terminating employees due to Internet use?

– Have you read or heard about companies that have had lawsuits filed against them because of employee Internet activities?

– Which technologies have you heard that employees are using? • Agree/Disagree – Write about whether you agree or disagree with the point the

authormakes and explain why. Remember that you should not agree or disagree with facts. Agree or disagree with actions, attitudes, or opinions.

– Do you strongly agree or disagree with any of the writer’s statements? Support your

opinion with specific reasons.

• Opinion with Support – Give your opinion about the idea in your quoted sentence and explain your opinion.

– What is your opinion about personal Internet use at work? Should some types of

personal Internet use be allowed? – In your opinion, what is the best way for employers or prevent Internet abuse by