Summarizing an Article as a Research Source
Summaries and analyses and responses are often used as annotations for a list of source materials for a research project. In fact, an annotated bibliography can be comprised of a single paragraph summary, a single paragraph analysis, and a single paragraph response. We’ll look at each.
A summary should simply and clearly provide the following:
- The source information and documentation
- The intended audience
- The author’s main thesis
- The author’s main points
State the author’s name, the publication title and date, and where you obtained the source. State the author’s credibility and authority to write on the topic at hand.
Based on the source (popular magazine or academic journal; website or published book; personal interview or other direct source), you should be able to identify the intended reader of the source.
You may want to directly quote from the source, providing proper in-text citations. Direct quotes clearly identify the author’s main ideas.
Any information you provide in a summary should relate to the article itself and should not include your opinion.
Analyzing an Article as a Research Source
An analysis looks at other details of your source. In an analysis you should be able to
- Comment on the author’s use of source material
- Identify the author’s use of multiple perspectives
- Determine whether or not the article adds to the body of current knowledge on the topic
Has the author used credible authorities to support his/her ideas? Has the author used the sources fairly and accurately, not twisting source materials to suit the writer’s own ideas?
Has the author pointed out the views of others and use those various viewpoints effectively? An author may disagree with a source perspective and still use it fairly. An example would be, “Dr. H suggests that …… This view is reasonable and acceptable in the situation H describes, but in regard to the problem we are addressing, some revision should be made. We suggest instead that …..”
Finally, you should consider whether or not the source is beneficial overall to the subject being addressed. Does the author merely rehash the words of others for the sake of putting his/her name on the article, or does the author actually contribute sound reasoning for moving the body of knowledge forward? In order to determine this, you must yourself be knowledgeable of the current research. This means you must be willing to research the subject adequately and be able to discuss the current level of knowledge of the topic.
Responding to an Article as a Research Source
When you are able to understand a single source through summarizing it and analyzing it, you can then respond to the article yourself.
- You can point out that the source you are responding to agrees or disagrees with certain other sources at hand.
- You can organize your response by stating, for example, that the author has a strong first point that connects with some other particular sources’ perspectives, but that your source’s second point is the strongest, based on the criteria you may be using for your own research project
- You can identify what parts of the source material you want to use to help develop your own argument.
When you develop a brief response to a source, you are able to organize that source with your other research sources. Your own development of ideas becomes, in the end, more clearly organized and you will discover that your writing is more succinct. Your own readers will benefit by a clear understanding of your writing!