Integrity Matters
Citing and Documenting
Surviving the Semester

Tips on Summarizing

In academic writing, there are a few things to keep in mind when summarizing outside sources:
  • Use your own words
  • Include the key relevant elements of the original and keep it brief - you're just going for the original's essence
  • Do not include your interpretation/analysis within the summary - make a clear distinction between your thoughts and someone else's
  • Vary how you introduce or attribute your sources, like "according to..." or "so-and-so concludes that..." so your readers don't get bored
  • Always include a citation
Here's an example of a good summary from Mizuki's paper:


Despite decades of research into the sociocultural model of eating disorders, we still do not understand how such sociocultural influences produce disordered eating in any given individual (or why a similar person in the same cultural milieu does not become disordered). Clearly, though, one source of vulnerability lies in a woman's body image. To the extent that a woman's self-image is challenged or threatened by an unattainable ideal of an impossibly thin female physique, she may well become susceptible to disruption of her self-regard, and may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. In short, the sociocultural model argues that exposure to idealized media images (a) makes women feel bad about themselves and (b) impels women to undertake the sort of "remedial" eating patterns that easily and often deteriorate into eating disorders.
Summary in Paper (APA)

Polivy and Herman (2004) noted that we still do not know how or why sociocultural influences like the media contribute to some individuals developing eating disorders while others do not. In some cases, the ubiquitous message of thinness and ideal beauty broadcast by the media can challenge a woman's self-image, disrupting her sense of self-esteem. However, not all women are influenced by the same media messages in the same way. The sociocultural model explores the ways women internalize the media's ideal of unattainable thinness and beauty, and how that internalization in turn can result in disordered eating and a distorted sense of body image (pp. 1-2).

Note: APA does not require a page number reference for summaries, but you are encouraged to include it when it would help the reader find the relevant information in a long text. Be sure to ask your professor whether page numbers are needed for summaries in papers written for his/her class.

This complete citation appears in Mizuki's reference list:

Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2004). Sociocultural idealization of thin female body shapes: An introduction to the special issue on body image and eating disorders. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 23, 1-6. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460