How does one summarize Laura Beil's article "Little by Little" using APA formatting?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To summarize any article, you first want to pick out and make note of the important details. You should always begin by noting the thesis. Any thesis is a concise statement of exactly what the author intends to argue. While articles, especially news articles, are not as similarly structured as essays, the thesis can usually be found within the first few paragraphs and also in the abstract if there is one. Just by reading the first paragraph, we learn that the article will be discussing the typical immune system's ability to process food proteins without too many problems. By the time we reach the second paragraph, we learn further that while food allergies used to be rare, there has now been a 20% increase in children developing food allergies, totaling to about 4% of American children. This dramatic increase in food allergies has lead scientists to intensify the search for food allergy treatments as well as the search for what causes food allergies to develop in the first place, which leads us to our thesis statement that can be found in the third paragraph:

Recently, though, studies have raised hope that new approaches might one day treat food allergies and perhaps even prevent the next generation from developing them.

Once you've found the thesis statement, your first step in writing your summary is to simply restate the thesis in your own words. To restate any idea in your own words, start by narrowing it down to the central idea. The central idea here is very simple: scientists are searching for new ways to treat food allergies, as well as for ways to keep other children from developing food allergies.

After you've summarized the main point of the article by summarizing the thesis, next you want to go through the article and make notes of all the important points. Since we know that one point of the article is to show us the treatments scientists are developing, you would simply go through and make a note of all of the treatments discussed. One such treatment is orally giving children miniscule doses of peanuts and cows milk or other antigens with the belief that the dose is too small to aggravate the immune system's antibodies that trigger the symptoms of allergic reactions. Another type of treatment is scientists' attempt to develop safe ways to deliver food-allergy antigens through injections because food-allergy injections in the past have endangered lives. Scientists' idea is to inject the gene that produces a peanut or other antigen protein into the body. In that way, the antigen-presenting cells may start producing the protein themselves and coax the immune system to accept the protein rather than produce antibodies.

Also, don't forget that a major point in the article is to point out any hypotheses scientists have formed to explain the sudden rise in food allergies, such as the theory that a parasite-free immune system may actually weaken the immune system and produce food allergies because parasites survive by "manipulating the immune system to grudgingly allow their presence" and not produce antibodies to fight the parasites. A second hypothesis is that when you avoid common allergens in early childhood you actually also weaken the immune system's tolerance for the allergen, which may explain why peanut allergies are uncommon among ethnicities in which infants consume peanuts.

Finally, writing your summary in APA format simply refers to a referencing style you need to use. The guidelines for formatting a manuscript according to the APA style are simply to indent all paragraphs, double space, and use a size 12 legible font. Your instructor may have specific directions for the citations, but in general, citing page numbers in in-text citations for paraphrases is optional. Also, if you are paraphrasing one long paragraph, page, or article, you only need one in-text citation. So, so long as you are only summarizing this one article, you most likely will not need any in-text citations outside of naming the author, publishing year, and title in the first sentence. The following is an example of doing the above in your first sentence:

  • In her article "Little by Little," author Laura Beil (2009) discusses scientists' new treatments for food allergies as well as possible reasons for why food allergies exist.

You would only need an in-text citation if you decided to use a direct quote, and in that in-text citation, you would only need to cite the page number on which the quote can be found if there is a page number. Outside of in-text citations, you'll need to list the citation for the entire article on a separate reference list. Below is a link to an APA style guide showing you examples of all in-text citations, reference list citations, and manuscript formatting rules.