How To Start A Summary

How do I start a summary? I'm trying to write a article summary but I dont know how to start.

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I were to write a summary myself, I would first make sure that I have a clear understanding of what the article is about. If you don't understand your article, you'll have no idea what to say. To start your summary, you need to write a thesis statement. This is generally the first sentence or the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. Once you have your introductory paragraph, you can follow the outline of the article, paragraph by paragraph, to summarize the important points made by the author of that paragraph.

To better understand the nature of the introductory paragraph, look at the one for Rick Reilly's article entitled, "Four of a Kind," written only days after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.

The huge rugby player, the former high school football star and the onetime college baseball player were in first class, the former national judo champ was in coach. On the morning of Sept. 11, at 32,000 feet, those four men teamed up to sacrifice their lives for those of perhaps thousands of others.

If you refer first to the title, you won't know what the article is about (until you have read the first paragraph). So read the introductory paragraph closely: for this is where Reilly gives you the most important information you need to best understand the article. (Read the entire article when you can: it's awesome. See link below.)

First, he lists different kinds of athletes. The second piece of information sets this story on September 11, 2001. That is a huge piece of his introduction. Third, the athletes "teamed up" (this phrase is not an accident) to "sacrifice their lives" for maybe "thousands of others." Wow! That's pretty impressive stuff. And he told us all of this in TWO sentences. So if I were going to summarize the article, I would be looking at what he has told us in the first paragraph. He's writing about athletes who potentially saved thousands of lives on 9-11 by giving up their own lives.

I would write something like:

When the word "athlete" is used, most people think of strong and healthy people who are really good at a sport. Hearing that four athletes were on a plane together would not surprise most people. When the reader learns that they saved lives and lost their own doing it, these athletes become more important than any sport they competed it. Finding that their actions took place on 9-11 tells the reader that they were heroes in one of the worst disasters in American history.

This is the beginning of my summary. I have summarized what the author wrote about in his first paragraph. I have included the same information, but you will notice that I did not:

  • use the word "I;"
  • use any of the phrases or sentences that Reilly used; or,
  • use the same words, making new sentences by mixing up his words.

Unless your teacher tells you it's OK, do not use "I" or "we" ("us," etc.). Write from the third-person point of view. The second two items mean that I have not plagiarized. If I use the same phrases or sentences, it is plagiarizing. If I mix them up, it's plagiarizing. If I copy the structure of Mr. Reilly's sentences (the order the words are placed in, even using different words), it is plagiarism. To avoid this, know your story really well and write it as if you were telling someone the story, rather than reading the article to him or her.

Make sure to use the link below about writing a summary. eNotes has a great deal of information to help you be successful in this assignment.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question