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Summary/Response Essays: Overview

A summary/response essay may, at first, seem like a simplistic exercise for a college course. But the truth is that most academic writing requires us to successfully accomplish at least two tasks: summarizing what others have said and presenting what you have to say. Because of this, summarizing and responding are core skills that every writer should possess.

Being able to write an effective summary helps us make sense of what others have to say about a topic and how they choose to say it. As writers, we all need to make an effort to recognize, understand, and consider various perspectives about different issues. One way to do this is to accurately summarize what someone else has written, but accomplishing this requires us to first be active and engaged readers.

Along with the other methods covered in the Reading Critically chapter , writing a good summary requires taking good notes about the text. Your notes should include factual information from the text, but your notes might also capture your reactions to the text—these reactions can help you build a thoughtful and in-depth response.

Responding to a text is a crucial part of entering into an academic conversation. An effective summary proves you understand the text; your response allows you to draw on your own experiences and prior knowledge so that you can talk back to the text.

As you read, make notes, and summarize a text, you’ll undoubtedly have immediate reactions. Perhaps you agree with almost everything or find yourself frustrated by what the author writes. Taking those reactions and putting them into a piece of academic writing can be challenging because our personal reactions are based on our history, culture, opinions, and prior knowledge of the topic. However, an academic audience will expect you to have good reasons for the ways you have responded to a text, so it’s your responsibility to critically reflect on how you have reacted and why.

The ability to recognize and distinguish between types of ideas is key to successful critical reading.

Types of Ideas You Will Encounter When Reading a Text

  • Fact: an observable, verifiable idea or phenomenon
  • Opinion: a judgment based on fact
  • Belief: a conviction or judgment based on culture or values
  • Prejudice: an opinion (judgment) based on logical fallacies or on incorrect, insufficient information

After you have encountered these types of ideas when reading a text, your next job will be to consider how to respond to what you’ve read.

Four Ways to Respond to a Text

  • Reflection. Did the author teach you something new? Perhaps they made you look at something familiar in a different way.
  • Agreement. Did the author write a convincing argument? Were their claims solid, and supported by credible evidence?
  • Disagreement. Do you have personal experiences, opinions, or knowledge that lead you to different conclusions than the author? Do your opinions about the same facts differ?
  • Note Omissions. If you have experience with or prior knowledge on the topic, you may be able to identify important points that the author failed to include or fully address.

You might also analyze how the author has organized the text and what the author’s purposes might be, topics covered in the Reading Critically chapter .

Key Features

A brief summary of the text.

Include Publication Information. An effective summary includes the author’s name, the text’s title, the place of publication, and the date of publication—usually in the opening lines.

Identify Main Idea and Supporting Ideas. The main idea includes both the topic of the text and the author’s argument, claim, or perspective. Supporting ideas help the author demonstrate why their argument or claim is true. Supporting ideas may also help the audience understand the topic better, or they may be used to persuade the audience to agree with the author’s viewpoints.

Make Connections Between Ideas. Remember that a summary is not a bullet-point list of the ideas in a text. In order to give your audience a complete idea of what the author intended to say, you need to explain how ideas in the text are related to one another. Consider using transition phrases.

Be Objective and Accurate. Along with being concise, a summary should be a description of a text, not an evaluation. While you may have strong feelings about what the author wrote, your goal in a summary is to objectively capture what was written. Additionally, a summary needs to accurately represent the ideas, opinions, facts, and judgments presented in a text. Don’t misrepresent or manipulate the author’s words.

Do Not Include Quotes. Summaries are short. The purpose of a summary is for you to describe a text in your own words . For this reason, you should focus on paraphrasing rather than including direct quotes from the text in your summary.

Thoughtful and Respectful Response to the Text

Consider Your Reactions. Your response will be built on your reactions to the text, so you need to carefully consider what reactions you had and how you can capture those reactions in writing.

Organize Your Reactions. Dumping all of your reactions onto the page might be useful to just get your ideas out, but it won’t be useful for a reader. You need to organize your reactions. For example, you might develop sections that focus on where you agree with the author, where you disagree, how the author uses rhetoric, and so on.

Create a Conversation. Avoid the trap of writing a response that is too much about your ideas and not enough about the author’s ideas. Your response should remain engaged with the author’s ideas. Keep the conversation alive by making sure you regularly reference the author’s key points as you talk back to the text.

Be Respectful. We live in an age when it’s very easy to anonymously air our grievances online, and we’ve seen how Reddit boards, YouTube comments, and Twitter threads can quickly devolve into disrespectful, toxic spaces. In a summary/response essay, as in other academic writing, you are not required to agree with everything an author writes—but you should state your objections and reactions respectfully. Imagine the author is standing in front of you, and write your response as if you value and respect their ideas as much as you would like them to value and respect yours.

Distinguish Between an Author’s Ideas and Your Own

Signal Phrases. A summary/response essay, especially your response, will include a mix of an author’s ideas and your ideas. It’s important that you clearly distinguish which ideas in your essay are yours, which are the author’s, and even others’ ideas that the author might be citing. Signal phrases are how you accomplish this. Remember to use the author’s last name and an accurate verb.

Examples of Signal Phrases

Poor Signal Phrases: “They say…” “The article states…” “The author says…”

Effective Signal Phrases: “Smith argues…” “Baez believes…” “Henning references Chan Wong’s research about…”

Drafting Checklists

These questions should help guide you through the stages of drafting your summary/response essay.

  • Have you identified all the necessary publication information for the text that you will need for your summary?
  • Have you identified the text’s main ideas and supporting ideas?
  • What were your initial reactions to the text?
  • What new perspectives do you have on the topic covered in the text?
  • Do you ultimately agree or disagree with the author’s points? A little of both?
  • Has the author omitted any points or ideas they should have covered?
  • Has the author organized their text effectively for their purpose?
  • Have they used rhetoric effectively for their audience?
  • Have your reactions to the text changed since you first read it? Why or why not?

Writing and Revising

  • Does your summary clearly tell your reader the author’s name, the text’s title, the place of publication, and the publication data?
  • Has your summary effectively informed your reader about the text’s main ideas and supporting ideas? Have you made the connections between those ideas clear for your reader by using effective transition phrases?
  • Would your reader think your summary is objective and accurate?
  • You haven’t included any quotes in your summary, right?
  • Does your response present your reactions to the text in an organized way that will make sense to your reader?
  • Does your response create a conversation between you and the author by regularly referencing ideas from the text?
  • Would your reader think that your response is respectful of the author’s ideas, opinions, and beliefs?
  • Have you used signal phrases to help your reader recognize which ideas are the author’s and which ideas are yours?
  • Have you carefully proofread your essay to correct any grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and spelling errors?
  • Have you formatted your document appropriately and used citations when necessary?

Sources Used to Create this Chapter

Parts of this chapter were remixed from:

  • First-Year Composition by Leslie Davis and Kiley Miller, which was published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Starting the Journey: An Intro to College Writing Copyright © by Leonard Owens III; Tim Bishop; and Scott Ortolano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Unit 3: Summarizing and Responding to Writing

18 Combining a Summary and Response

One way to explore a topic is to read and respond to an article. Such an assignment typically begins with a summary of the article followed by a response to idea(s) in the article. The format of a summary response assignment can vary depending on the course and instructor, but it is a common type of academic assignment.

Three steps in a summary-response assignment:

  • Begin with a summary of the article. This will familiarize the audience with the context of your response.
  • Include an introduction to the response. Identify an idea by quoting the idea and then paraphrasing the idea.
  • Explain your response to the idea. Through one or more of the response techniques, explain your reaction to the idea.

Format for introducing a response: Quote + paraphrase + response

Look at the beginning of the response below. Notice the required components:

  • Citation (author’s name and page number)
  • Paraphrase of the quote
  • The start to the response

Notice that the example follows this format:

  • Last name (date) writes, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). I find this topic / idea / concept / example interesting because…

Stems for introducing a summary

The sentence stems below can help you develop your command of more complex academic language.

  • In “article title” author’s first name and last name (year) examines /discusses /claims…. main idea.

Stems for narrowing the scope in a selective summary

  • In particular, Gambino ______.
  • More specifically, Gambino ______.
  • Gambino focuses on ______.
  • In their discussion / analysis / etc., Gambino ______.

Stems to begin your response: (you are not limited to these and you can modify them):

  • Last name (date) writes, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). I find this topic/idea/concept/example interesting because…
  • The first topic I’d like to discuss is … (identify the topic). Last name (date) states, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). I was surprised with this finding…..
  • One important idea concerns … (identify the idea). Last name (date) indicates, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). In my experience…
  • Another critical issue I’d like to address is … (identify the issue). Last name (date) points out, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). This reminds me of when…
  • (Identify the topic) … is very interesting to me. Last name (date) suggests, “Exact quote here” (p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). This example can be compared to…

Note: you do NOT need to include the title in the beginning of your response because you already included the title in the summary section.

Stem for an indirect source:

  • Some people argue that … (identify the idea). X (name plus credential) said, “Exact quote here” (as cited in Name, year, p. X). In other words, … (paraphrase of this idea). I agree with them to some extent, but…

Example: Some experts point out the problems of social networking sites. Stanford University Professor Jean Anderson claims, “These sites tend to (full quote here) …” (as cited in Cook, 2019, p. 6). Anderson means here that…paraphrase…. I agree with Anderson to some extent, but…. (response).

Stems to introduce a paraphrase:

  • What Anderson means is…
  • Anderson means that…
  • This means that…
  • That is to say, …
  • Anderson’s point is that…
  • What s/he/they is/are    suggesting/implying/saying    is that…
  • What Anderson wants to express is…

Stems to show agreement:

  • I totally/completely agree with X about/that…
  • I agree with X about…
  • I find X’s perspective on …. to be quite compelling.
  • I sympathize with the author’s point about…

Stems to show concession:

  • I agree with X about … to some extent, but…
  • While I agree with X to some extent…
  • I am not entirely in agreement with X about/that…
  • My feelings on the issue are mixed. I do support X’s position on …., but I find Y’s argument about… to be equally persuasive.

Stems to show disagreement:

  • I disagree with X’s point that…
  • I strongly disagree with X about…
  • I disagree with X’s claim that…. because…
  • I disagree with X’s view that… because, as recent research has shown…
  • I find it surprising that …… . I just can’t believe that….. .

Stems to introduce examples, personal experience, and comparisons:

  • This example makes me think about…
  • Based on my experience, …
  • This reminds me of…
  • This makes me think of…

Vocabulary alternatives:

  • For topic : idea, concept, example, issue, problem, challenge, obstacle…
  • For adjectives to modify the topic: important, significant, critical, interesting, first, second, next, another

Academic Writing I Copyright © by UW-Madison ESL Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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A Guide to Effective Summary Response Essays

Table of Contents

If you’ve been tasked to write a summary response essay but are unsure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this quick guide on the basics of summary response essays. We’ll cover everything from its definition and writing tips to a sample  outline for summary response essay .

This is a less common type of essay that requires a certain style and approach that differs from other types of essays. But with the help of this guide, you’ll be able to make the writing process much easier.

What is a Summary Response Essay

Summary response essays are two-part essays that include a summary of an article, essay, chapter or report and a response to it.

It is not a formal paper or essay because it does not have an introduction, body, or conclusion like other essays. This type of essay instead consists of a summary of the reading followed by a response to the reading.

To better understand this type of essay, it’s best to look at its two parts separately in the next section.

What to Include in Your Essay

The summary is a concise round-up of all the main ideas in an essay or writing. It cites all the relevant details about the work you’re reviewing. Your summary can include the following:

  • Author and the work’s title (typically in the first sentence).
  • The thesis of the essay and its supporting ideas
  • It may use direct quotations to provide forceful or concise statements of the author’s ideas

Most summaries present the main points in the order they were made by the author and continually referred back to the article being summarized. Your summary should not exceed one-third the length of the original work.

Responses are critiques or evaluations of an author’s work. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions for the article being summarized.

This examines ideas that you agree or disagree with. It identifies the work’s strengths and weaknesses by looking at its organization and style. You should use examples and evidence to support the opinions in your response.

A good response must contain

  • Personal experiences

Depending on your stance, these can either refute or support the article you’re responding to.

Steps for Writing a Summary Response Essay

Identify the main idea of the reading .

Create a topic sentence that describes the main idea of your reading for your summary. For your response, create a separate thesis statement that states your opinion on the author’s main idea.

Add supporting details for the summary and response.

Next, identify the supporting facts of the reading. In the summary paragraph, it is important to keep the order of the supporting details. Consider how these points relate to the author’s main idea.

Develop the supporting details for the response paragraph, highlighting how your evidence or personal experience supports the thesis statement you’ve created.

Identify the author’s purpose for writing.

It’s helpful to get to know the goal that the author wants to achieve through their work.

For your summary, try to ask yourself:

  • Why did the author write this?
  • Is there anything specific that the author wants me to know?
  • Does the author want me to do something after reading this? 

And in your response, discuss whether or not the author was successful in achieving the goal of their work.

Write a summary response to the reading .

Given all the data you’ve gathered from the first three steps, you can start writing your summary and the response paragraphs. Make sure to include all the necessary information and be detailed but not flowery. 

General Outline for Summary Response Essay

Summary paragraph.

  • Provide the title and author’s name to introduce the work the essay will discuss. Additionally, state the author’s main idea.
  • Write supporting sentences that describe the supporting details of the work .
  • Let this information come together in a sentence that explains the author’s reason or goal for writing the piece.

Response Paragraph

  • Clearly state your opinions or thoughts about the author’s main idea. Use the thesis statement you created in the earlier steps. You can also ask yourself: Does my opinion regarding the reading relate to the author’s main idea?
  • Put your personal experience into a supporting sentence (or sentences) describing how your opinion or thoughts support or go against the author’s main idea.
  • Write a sentence summarizing this information and explain how your opinion or thought relates to the author’s main idea.

Wrapping Up

A summary response essay typically includes a summary of the reading followed by your thoughts and reactions. It may seem like a long and daunting task, but with a little guidance, you can be confident you’re up for the challenge.

Use the writing tips and  outline for summary response essay  sample in this essay to help you easily get started!

A Guide to Effective Summary Response Essays

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Writing a Summary-Response

LESSON In this lesson, you will learn to write a summary-response A writing that combines a summary of a reading with personal thoughts and opinions about the reading. , which combines both a summary A brief restatement of an author’s main idea and major supporting details. Summaries are factual and should be written in the third-person with an objective point of view. of a reading A piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage). with your personal thoughts and opinions Point of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true. about the reading. It is not a formal paper An academic essay that usually includes research and citations. or essay A short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. in the sense that it will not have an introduction The first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. , body The main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed. , or conclusion The end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement. . Instead, it consists of two distinct parts: a summary of the reading followed by your response A written analysis of a reading that shows understanding and fosters deep thinking about a work. to the reading. Each part is usually a paragraph A selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation. and the length of each paragraph depends on the length of the reading being addressed. For instance, if a reading is only a few paragraphs long, the summary-response would be two paragraphs, each with approximately four to five sentences.

It is important to keep in mind that the two paragraphs are distinct. The summary paragraph is a brief restatement of the author's main idea The most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. and supporting details Statements within a reading that tie directly to major details that support the main idea. These can be provided in examples, statistics, anecdotes, definitions, descriptions, or comparisons within the work. . It does not include your opinion. Your opinion goes in the response paragraph where you state your thoughts about the author A person who wrote a text. 's main idea and use supporting details from your own experience to explain your thoughts.

Summary-Response Process

Use a four-step process to write a summary-response of a reading. Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading. For the summary paragraph, create a topic sentence A sentence that contains the controlling idea for an entire paragraph and is typically the first sentence of the paragraph. that identifies the main idea of the reading. Then, for the response paragraph, create a separate thesis statement A brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? that states your opinion about the author's main idea.

Step 2: Identify the supporting details for the summary and for the response. The next step is to identify the supporting details of the reading. In the summary paragraph, it is important to maintain the order of these supporting details. Once you note these points, consider how they relate to the author's main idea. Then, develop the supporting details for the response paragraph, showing how your own personal experience supports the thesis statement created in Step 1. Step 3: Identify the author's purpose The reason the writer is writing about a topic. It is what the writer wants the reader to know, feel, or do after reading the work. for writing. As part of the summary paragraph, ask yourself, "Why did the author write this? What did the author want me to know, think, or do after reading this?" As part of the response paragraph, address whether or not the author was successful achieving his or her purpose. Step 4: Write a summary-response of the reading. Bring Steps 1, 2, and 3 together to write the summary and the response paragraphs. The following is one way you could do this:             

Summary Paragraph

Sentence 1: Introduce the reading, stating the title and the author's name. You should also state the author's main idea. This may be as simple as adding the title and author to your topic sentence from Step 1.

Sentence 2: Write supporting sentences (or sentence) describing the supporting details of the reading you noted in Step 2 in order.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence that brings this information together and states the author's reason for writing that you noted in Step 3.

Response Paragraph

Sentence 1: Clearly state your opinion or thoughts about the author's main idea. Use the thesis statement you created in Step 1. Ask yourself, "How does my own thought/opinion about the reading relate to the author's main idea?"

Sentence 2: Write supporting sentences (or a sentence) describing how your personal experience supports your opinion or thought about the author's main idea.

Sentence 3: Write a sentence that brings this information together and states how your opinion or thought relates to the author's main idea.

Writing a summary-response is a skill you can use when thinking critically about an article A non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper. in a newspaper, an editorial blog A website that hosts a series of articles, photos, and other postings, sometimes by a single writer (blogger) or by a community of contributors. , or any assigned reading in a class. In fact, it is a common assignment in many college classes. You can also use the same skills to help you write a cover letter A letter that is sent along with a resume that provides context and more information for the reader. when applying for a job where you must not only show an understanding of the job you are applying for, but also show how your experience makes you the best candidate for that position.

Read the following passage A short portion of a writing taken from a larger source, such as a book, article, speech, or poem. and see an example of how to use the Summary-Response Process to summarize and respond to a reading with complete, concise Describes writing that only uses words that are necessary for clarity, meaning, and interest. paragraphs.

Mile-High Home By Douglas Peters

There are many cities throughout the world that are alluring and exotic, but if you're looking for the best place to raise a family in the United States, Denver, Colorado is the place you want to be. From skiing in the winter to camping and hiking in the summer, there are plenty of year-round outdoor recreation activities for the entire family. It also has a strong local economy with many job sectors represented, so that even when the economy goes down elsewhere, Denver remains stable with plenty of good jobs that support the financial needs of any family. Finally, it has great public and private schools and many colleges and universities within a short drive of downtown so that people of all ages can fulfill their educational goals. All this, plus seven professional sports teams and an exciting urban nightlife—it's no wonder people from all over the world make Denver a new home for their families.

Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading.

First, create a topic sentence that identifies the main idea of the reading.

        Topic sentence: Denver is a good place to raise a family.

Now, create a separate thesis statement that states your opinion about the author's main idea.

Thesis statement: I agree with the author because I like Denver and have lived there most of my life.

Step 2: Identify the supporting details of the reading and for the response.

Next, identify the supporting details of the reading for the summary paragraph.

Supporting details of the reading for the summary: Denver has great outdoor recreation, good jobs and schools, and lots of entertainment options.

Now, develop the supporting details for the response paragraph, showing how your own personal experience supports the thesis statement created in Step 1.

Supporting details for the response paragraph: I do all the activities the author lists. I have a ski pass for the winter and try to go mountain biking every weekend. I am also a Broncos football fan. I am a graduate of the schools there and now I work as a realtor in the downtown area.

Step 3: Identify the author's purpose for writing.

In this step, answer the questions, "Why did the author write this? What did the author want me to know, think, or do after reading this?" Then, write down whether or not the author was successful achieving his purpose.

These are all good things to have for a family and the author thinks that people ought to consider moving to Denver. I think the author was successful in pointing out some good things about living in Denver.

Step 4: Write a summary-response of the reading.

Finally, bring Steps 1, 2, and 3 together and write the summary paragraph and the response paragraph. Remember to introduce the reading in the first paragraph by stating the title and the author's name.

"Mile-High Home," by Douglas Peters, describes Denver, Colorado as an ideal city for people to raise a family. The article points out that the city has great outdoor recreation, good jobs, and good schools, all of which are important to families. It makes it seem ideal and Mr. Peters seems to encourage people to move there to raise their families.

I agree with the author because I like Denver and have lived there most of my life. In fact, I do all of the things listed in the article; I have a ski pass for the winter and I try to go mountain biking every weekend. Of course, I cheer for the home team and am an avid Broncos football fan. I am also a graduate of the schools there and now work as a realtor in the downtown area. I can definitely say that Denver is a great place for families.

Read the following passage and then complete the Summary-Response Process to summarize and respond to the reading with complete, concise paragraphs.

Time in School By Douglas Peters

Choosing to go to college is a good choice, but many people fail to take into account how much time is required outside of class in order to succeed. The main confusion is found in what I like to call the 80/20 rule. In high school, 80 percent of instruction and learning is done in the classroom and 20 percent is done at home. In college, this ratio flips to where just 20 percent of instruction and learning is done in the classroom while a full 80 percent is expected to be done at home. Planning for this kind of commitment requires students to take an honest look at what they do every day and exactly where they will fit all the work into their schedules. With so many students balancing work and family with college careers, it has become even more important for students to make sure they plan accordingly so they can do their very best in college.

Sample Answer

Going to college takes more time than most people expect.

I agree with the author because I found out the hard way and fell behind my first semester.

The author points out the "80/20 rule," which states that college classes require much more homework than people are used to in high school. Since many students work and have families, the author encourages future college students to schedule time to do homework before starting classes.

I was working at a restaurant and they would not respect the time I needed for school and would even schedule me during my classes. This meant that not only did I not have time to do homework, but I would miss class often, as well. I was able to find a different restaurant to work at and I am now able to schedule my shifts to fit my school schedule, which is what the author suggests.

Students should be prepared for the time commitment of college.

"Time in School," by Douglas Peters, shows how college usually takes a greater time commitment than most people expect. The author points out the "80/20 rule," which basically states that college classes require much more homework than people are used to in high school. Since many students work and have families, the author encourages future college students to schedule time to do homework before starting classes.

I completely agree with the author because I found out the hard way that college takes more time than I thought it would and fell behind my first semester. I was working at a restaurant and they would not respect the time I needed for school and would even schedule me during my classes. This meant that not only did I not have time to do homework, but I would miss class often, as well. Luckily, I found a different restaurant to work at and I am now able to schedule my shifts to fit my school schedule, which is exactly what Mr. Peters suggests.

The topic sentence in the summary paragraph says what the author thinks about the topic. The thesis statement is what I think about the topic.

You would see book and art reviews in newspapers or culture magazines, movie and TV reviews are written by bloggers online, and album reviews can be found in magazines or online, as well.

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23 Strategy: Writing a Summary Response

Strategy: writing a summary response.

summary response essay components

A summary response summarizes the main ideas of an author’s work and also responds to the author’s essay by critiquing or evaluating the ideas presented. Note that there is an appropriate time for opinion, evaluation, and summary; take a closer look at some of the best practices in structuring your summary response.

Topic Paragraph:

  • Somewhere near the beginning of your essay include the full name of the text and author that is being discussed. Situate the issue with any relevant context or background information that might be necessary.
  • Include necessary background or contextual information about the author . Consider profession, culture, education, and so forth. Additionally, describe the author’s perspective on the issues at hand and consider the “why.”
  • Craft your thesis statement. In it, sum up what the author claims and include your opinion regarding the argument or perspective.

Subsequent Paragraphs: The Summary

  • Lay out the author’s perspective(s). Present the facts of the author’s argument. *Note–Within the summary paragraph, this is not the time to include your own opinions.
  • Discuss the context of the issue and explain the author’s overall perspective.
  • Present the major points in the order that the author made them.
  • Be sure to include the author’s concluding point(s) and any actions or recommendations that are relevant to the text.

Subsequent Paragraphs: The Response

Following the summary, you have the opportunity to respond, evaluate, and critique.

  • Briefly recap the author’s main points and perspectives. Then, include your own perspective on the issues at hand and explain why that is.
  • Include specific supporting examples and textual references to support your perspectives.

Loyola University Chicago Writing Center. (2017). How To Write A Summary Response Essay. Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/writing/lucwcowls/How to Write a Summary Response Essay.pdf

The Writing Studio at Colorado State University. (2019). Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays. Retrieved June 24, 2019 from https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/rst/pop5i.cfm

Built In Practice: Summary and Response

Use strategies to pre-read and then actively read an essay from 88 Open Essays .

Critical Literacy III Copyright © 2021 by Lori-Beth Larsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Summary From Harvard College Writing Center.
  • The Writing Process: Guidelines for Writing a Summary From Hunter College's Dr. Murray and Anna C. Rockowitz Writing Center (RWC).

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Writing modes and essay types: summary and response essays.

  • Writing a Reaction or Response Paper From Hunter College's Dr. Murray and Anna C. Rockowitz Writing Center (RWC).
  • Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays From Writing@CSU.

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summary response essay components

How To Write A Summary Response Essay

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A summary response essay is a unique type of writing that combines summarizing a piece of work and responding to it. It’s popular among students and avid readers. This essay type helps you understand texts better and express your thoughts. In a summary response essay, you first condense the content (summary) and then share your insights or reactions (response).

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In this article, we’ll explore:

  • How To Write A Good Summary Response Essay: Learn the secrets to crafting an effective summary response essay.
  • How To Write A Summary Response Of An Article: Tips for summarizing and responding to articles.
  • How To Write A Summary And Response Paper: Step-by-step guide to handle various texts.
  • How To Write A Summary Response Essay Example: Real-world examples to illustrate key points.
  • Conclusion: How Mindgrasp can streamline this process for students and professionals.

Whether you’re a student, an avid reader, or just looking to sharpen your writing skills, this guide will help you create impactful summary response essays with ease.

how to write a summary response essay

how to write a summary response essay

  • To know more about our suite of resources for students, read our other articles:
  • What is the Difference Between Summarizing and Paraphrasing?
  • Tips to Improve Memorization on Exams
  • Writing a Summary and Analysis Essay

How To Write A Good Summary Response Essay

To write an excellent summary response essay, include these key elements:

  • Clear Summary of the Main Points: Capture the essence of the source material.
  • Personal Response with Examples: Present your perspective with supportive evidence.
  • Logical Organization and Structure: Ensure a smooth flow of ideas.
  • Proper Citations and References: Acknowledge the original source.

Clear Summary of the Main Points

  • Begin by concisely summarizing the main ideas of the text. 
  • Focus on the primary arguments, leaving out minor details. 
  • This part should give readers a clear understanding of the original work without having to read it.

Personal Response with Examples

  • Next, articulate your response to the text. 
  • This could be an agreement, disagreement, or a deeper analysis. 
  • Support your viewpoint with examples or anecdotes to make it more compelling. 
  • This personal touch differentiates your essay from a simple summary.

Logical Organization and Structure

  • Organize your essay logically. Start with an introduction, followed by the summary, your response, and then a conclusion. 
  • This structure helps readers follow your thought process and enhances the clarity of your arguments.

Proper Citations and References

  • Always cite your sources. Whether you’re quoting directly or paraphrasing, proper citations are crucial for credibility and avoiding plagiarism. 
  • This shows respect for the original author’s work.

summary response essay components

how to write a good summary response essay

Mindgrasp’s Role in Your Essay Writing

Mindgrasp can be an invaluable tool for writing your summary response essay. It helps by providing concise summaries of long texts, generating study guides, and even creating flashcards for key points. This AI tool simplifies understanding complex materials, allowing you to focus more on crafting a compelling personal response. With Mindgrasp, you can write better essays more efficiently, making it a perfect aid for students and professionals alike.

“Upload everything from powerpoint's to books or videos and generate anything from summaries to notes, flash cards and quizzes.”

summary response essay components

How To Write A Summary Response Of An Article

Writing a summary response of an article involves understanding the article’s content and presenting your viewpoints. Follow these steps:

Read and Understand the Article

  • Before writing, read the article thoroughly.
  • Note key points, arguments, and any evidence presented.
  • Understanding the article’s main idea is crucial for an effective summary.

Write a Concise Summary

  • Summarize the main points of the article in your own words.
  • Focus on the core arguments, leaving out less important details.
  • This summary sets the foundation for your response.

Develop Your Response

  • Reflect on how the article’s content resonates with you.
  • Agree, disagree, or analyze the points made in the article.
  • Use specific examples or experiences to support your response.

Combine Summary and Response Coherently

  • Start with the summary, then transition smoothly into your response.
  • Ensure that your response directly relates to the points made in the summary.
  • This coherence makes your essay compelling and easy to follow.

By following these steps, you can effectively write a summary response of an article. The process involves a deep understanding of the article, summarizing its key points, and then articulately responding with your own insights and viewpoints.

how to write a summary response of an article

how to write a summary response of an article

How To Write A Summary And Response Paper

To make your summary and response paper stand out, focus on these key aspects:

Unique Perspective in Response

  • Share a distinct viewpoint that reflects your unique understanding.
  • Avoid generic responses; instead, delve into how the text personally impacts you.
  • This personal touch can make your paper more engaging and memorable.

Critical Analysis and Insight

  • Go beyond mere agreement or disagreement.
  • Analyze the text’s deeper meanings, implications, and the effectiveness of its arguments.
  • This depth of analysis demonstrates your critical thinking skills.

Engaging Introduction and Conclusion

  • Start with an introduction that captivates the reader’s interest.
  • Use a hook, such as a provocative question or an interesting quote.
  • Conclude with a strong statement that summarizes your main points and leaves a lasting impression.

Use of Evidence and Examples

  • Strengthen your response with relevant examples and evidence.
  • Quote the text or bring in external sources to support your viewpoints.
  • This evidence-based approach adds credibility to your paper.

Incorporating these elements into your summary and response paper will make it stand out. By presenting a unique perspective, conducting a thorough analysis, engaging the reader from start to finish, and supporting your points with evidence, your paper can leave a strong, lasting impact.

how to write a summary and response paper

how to write a summary and response paper

How To Write A Summary Response Essay Example

Finding and analyzing examples of summary response essays can greatly aid in writing your own. Here’s how to go about it:

Locate Quality Examples

  • Look for examples in academic databases, university websites, and reputable online educational resources.
  • Libraries and writing centers can also provide well-written essay examples.
  • Ensure that the examples you choose are relevant to the topic and type of text you’re working with.

Analyze the Structure and Content

  • Study how the example essays are structured. Notice the balance between the summary and response sections.
  • Observe how the writers introduce the text, summarize the main points, and transition to their response.
  • Pay attention to the use of citations and how they integrate personal opinions with textual evidence.

Learn from Different Writing Styles

  • Each example will have its unique writing style. Note the differences and what makes each effective.
  • Analyze the tone, language, and the level of formality used in the essays.
  • Understanding varied styles can help you develop a more versatile writing approach.

Apply Techniques to Your Writing

  • Identify effective strategies used in the examples, such as compelling introductions, clear summarizations, and strong argumentative responses.
  • Try to incorporate these techniques into your own writing.
  • Remember, examples serve as guides but your essay should retain your unique voice and perspective.

By studying examples, you gain insights into effective strategies and common structures used in summary response essays. This knowledge will help you craft a well-organized and insightful essay of your own.

how to write a summary response essay example

how to write a summary response essay example

Write Your Best Summary Response Essay With Mindgrasp

To excel in writing your summary response essay, remember these key points:

  • Understand and summarize the main points of the source material.
  • Articulate a personal response with supporting examples.
  • Ensure logical organization and structure in your essay.
  • Use proper citations for credibility.
  • Differentiate your approach when responding to scholarly papers versus articles.
  • Learn from examples to enhance your writing style and structure.

In the fast-paced world of academics and professional writing, AI tools offer significant advantages. They streamline the research and writing process, helping you create high-quality essays efficiently. Mindgrasp stands out as a particularly effective solution. It aids in quickly understanding complex texts, organizing ideas, and even generating outlines for your essays. 

Whether you’re a student juggling multiple assignments or a professional seeking to articulate your thoughts clearly, Mindgrasp simplifies these tasks. By leveraging AI-powered tools, you save time, enhance the quality of your work, and stay ahead in your academic or professional journey. Choose Mindgrasp as your partner for writing impactful and insightful summary response essays.

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  • How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:

  • Read the text
  • Break it down into sections
  • Identify the key points in each section
  • Write the summary
  • Check the summary against the article

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).

Table of contents

When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about summarizing.

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material
  • To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read
  • To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review

When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.

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summary response essay components

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You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

  • Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
  • Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
  • Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and reread any particularly important or difficult passages.

There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

  • Start by reading the abstract . This already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
  • Pay attention to headings and subheadings . These should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
  • Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: What did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Examples of article summaries

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

Citing the source you’re summarizing

When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.

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Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

  • You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
  • You haven’t missed any essential information
  • The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.

If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Want to make your life super easy? Try our free text summarizer today!

A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.

You might have to write a summary of a source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to prove you understand the material
  • For your own use, to keep notes on your reading
  • To provide an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
  • In a paper , to summarize or introduce a relevant study

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.

An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.

All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-summarize/

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Lindsay Ann Learning English Teacher Blog

Best Summary and Response Essay Strategies for Student Writers

summary-and-response-essay

July 13, 2020 //  by  Lindsay Ann //   3 Comments

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Have you tried summary and response essays in your English language arts classroom? In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of summary and response, and I’ll offer questions you can use to help your students find just what they want to say in a They Say, I Say assignment.

It is my hope as an English teacher that my students will write with frequency and with voice . 

To this end, I frequently ask them to compose written responses to various texts we read in class, from short stories, to poems, to nonfiction articles.

Goals of a Summary and Response Essay

First, I want students to closely read the text . This means reading (and re-reading) for critical understanding of the text, making marginal notes, and marking important passages. As students closely read, they should be thinking about the author’s message, style, and impact on them as readers .

Although a summary-response paper may be intended to demonstrate that students have read the required text(s), I want more than simple reading comprehension . 

I want students to think critically.

Therefore, I teach students to read for comprehension  so that they can join the conversation started by the author. 

In this conversation, students must be prepared to respond and evaluate, adding unique thought and analysis prompted by the original text, extending the author’s thoughts with their own . This is what summary and response essay writing is all about.

To state it simply, I often use the analogy of a dinner table conversation. I tell students that reading a text is like pulling up a chair to the dinner table (the text is the main course). To join the dinner conversation, they must be unique, they must do more than summarize the original text, and they must spend time thinking .

Summary Writing Tips

Writing a summary is a lot like the “echo back” step in a good conversation. It’s a check for understanding. Before I move on to add my own thoughts into the conversation, I want to make sure that first I am hearing and understanding what the other person is saying. 

summary-and-response-essay

This is the “they say” part of response writing. 

➡️ It should be in students’ own words. It should be brief, yet long enough to fully represent the author’s main claim and key supporting points. 

❗️ Summary writing is one of the BEST ways for students to improve their reading comprehension, and with increasingly complex texts, students must learn to represent increasingly complex ideas and nuanced organizational structures used by an author to convey his or her ideas. 

The first step in writing a good summary is to mark the text. I model this for students, showing them how I recognize what a paragraph or section of the text or the text as a whole is about. I talk out loud, state what I wonder and what I notice. Then I ask students to join the conversation by doing the same. 

As I do this, I am emphasizing that this is a conversation students are preparing to join. We have to first understand the message that an author is saying.

  • So, what is this author trying to say? 
  • What points is the author making? 
  • What organizational choices does the author use to convey his or her ideas? 
  • What relationships are directly stated or implied between ideas? 
  • What is the larger context for this conversation? 
  • How does the author’s message fit into the context?
  • What bigger picture significance of this topic does the author discuss or imply?

All of this starts with the question of “what do you notice?”  

As students make observations, I help them start to weave together these observations so that they can notice patterns and the author’s overall claim or message.

And, with practice, students begin to do this on their own in a summary and response essay.

Best Ways to Respond to a Text

➡️ After students are able to fully understand and represent the author’s ideas and convey this in the “They Say” portion of their response, we add the “I Say” portion of the response. 

summary-and-response-essay

❗️ In the beginning of the year, we focus solely on the “They Say” in writing until students are demonstrating proficiency. As they do this, I frontload “I Say” skills through informal conversation and debates in the classroom. That way, when I ask students to formalize their thoughts in an “I Say” written response, they are ready. 

For the “I Say,” it’s important to recognize the connection between written opinion and voiced response. Some students need to talk through their opinions before fully developing them in writing. 

For students to be able to add their own ideas to the author’s ideas in a summary and response essay, they must first have something unique and important to say. 

➡️ A sign of undeveloped thinking in response is if a student simply regurgitates the author’s ideas without extending these ideas through new examples or divergent thinking. 

❗️ I want my students to say “yes, AND” or “yes, BUT” to the author. I want them to make their own opinions and examples heard as a part of the conversation as if they are sitting down to dinner with the author and discussing the focus topic in detail.

Questions for Response Writing

The following list will help students shape the thinking that they will produce in response to different texts.

➡️ For all of these suggestions, students should always connect back to the original text(s) with in-text citations, quotes and paraphrasing when appropriate ( but be careful not to over-quote or over-paraphrase – you want this paper to be based on the original text, but also a reflection of your own thinking ).

Ways to Say “Yes, And” or “Yes, But” in Response

Ask a Question:  

  • Pose a related question to the author and explain how the author might answer it
  • Generate a question that the text prompts of you and answer it
  • Generate a question that the text prompts of you, and use additional research to extend the author’s ideas

Use Comparison/Contrast:

  • Compare an author’s claim to the claim(s) made in a different text or by a different author
  • Show how an author’s perspective or claim is different from something else or someone else’s idea

Try Analysis:  

  • Explain an emotional response to the piece you had and analyze what made you have this reaction:  was it something about yourself, culture, or society?
  • Explain why you had a hard time connecting with a text or an author’s claim
  • If responding to an older text or a different cultural text, explain how the author’s claim might function or malfunction in today’s society or your culture
  • Explain how this text could be seen differently through another person’s or another theory’s perspective
  • Explain how a controversy or other historical situation may have given rise to the author’s essay
  • Expose how your own bias or assumptions may interfere with your reading experience

Say “Yes, And”:

  • Extend one of the author’s ideas into a broader context discussion.  In other words, what is this idea a part of?
  • Pose an observation or realization this text sparks in you
  • Pose an important word or concept and explain how the author might define it
  • Examine a similar or parallel issue that this text is related to

Use Argumentation For or Against an Idea Offered by the Author:

  • If you turned the subject of this text into a question on which people would vote, how would you vote – and why?
  • State one of the author’s claims and bring in additional outside reasons and evidence (personal or researched) for or against this claim
  • Explain your subtly different definition of a term or perspective of a claim, and why this difference, while subtle, is important
  • Expose an author’s assumption or bias and explain why this assumption or bias weakens or strengthens his/her idea

Use Argumentation For or Against the Way an Author Presents Ideas:

  • Evidence:   Do facts and examples fairly represent the available data on the topic?  Are the author’s facts and examples current, accurate?
  • Logic:   Has the author adhered to standards of logic?  Has the author avoided, for instance, fallacies such as personal attacks and faulty generalizations?
  • Development:   Does each part of the presentation seem well-developed, satisfying to you in the extent of its treatment?  Is each main point adequately illustrated and supported with evidence?
  • Fairness:   If the issue being discussed is controversial, has the author seriously considered and responded to his opponents’ viewpoints?
  • Definitions:   Have terms important to the discussion been clearly defined – and if not, has lack of definition confused matters?

Audience:   Is the essay appropriate for its audience – does it convince who it’s intended to convince?

Wrapping Up

Thanks for reading this post! Phew, it was a long one, but I hope that you found questions that will help your students be successful with summary and response essay assignments. Please leave a comment below to let me know what you thought and if I can help!

Hey, if you loved this post, I want to be sure you’ve had the chance to grab a  FREE copy of my guide to streamlined grading . I know how hard it is to do all the things as an English teacher, so I’m over the moon to be able to share with you some of my best strategies for reducing the grading overwhelm.

Click on the link above or the image below to get started!

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About Lindsay Ann

Lindsay has been teaching high school English in the burbs of Chicago for 18 years. She is passionate about helping English teachers find balance in their lives and teaching practice through practical feedback strategies and student-led learning strategies. She also geeks out about literary analysis, inquiry-based learning, and classroom technology integration. When Lindsay is not teaching, she enjoys playing with her two kids, running, and getting lost in a good book.

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Chapter Five: Summary and Response

As you sharpen your analytical skills, you might realize that you should use evidence from the text to back up the points you make. You might use direct quotes as support, but you can also consider using summary.

A summary is a condensed version of a text, put into your own words. Summarizing is a useful part of the analytical process because it requires you to read the text, interpret and process it, and reproduce the important points using your own language. By doing so, you are (consciously or unconsciously) making choices about what matters, what words and phrases mean, and how to articulate their meaning.

Often (but not always), response refers to a description of a reader’s experience and reactions as they encounter a text. Response papers track how you feel and what you think as you move through a text. More importantly, responses also challenge you to evaluate exactly how a text acts upon you—to make you feel or think a certain way—using language or images. While a response is not an analysis, it will help you generate ideas for the analytical process.

Chapter Vocabulary

Identifying main points, concerns, and images.

If you ever watch TV shows with a serial plot, you might be familiar with the phrase “Previously, on _________.” The snippets at the beginning of an episode are designed to remind the viewer of the important parts of previous episodes—but how do makers of the show determine what a viewer needs to be refreshed on? And why am I watching full episodes if they’ll just tell me what I need to know in the first minute of the next episode?

Typically, the makers of the show choose short, punchy bits that will be relevant in the new episode’s narrative arc. For instance, a “Previously, on The Walking Dead ” might have a clip from ten episodes ago showing zombies invading Hershel’s farm if the new episode focuses on Hershel and his family. Therefore, these “previously ons” hook the viewer by showcasing only exciting parts and prime the viewer for a new story by planting specific details in their mind. Summaries like this are driven by purpose, and consequently have a specific job to do in choosing main points.

You, too, should consider your rhetorical purpose when you begin writing summary. Whether you are writing a summary essay or using summary as a tool for analysis, your choices about what to summarize and how to summarize it should be determined by what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing.

As you engage with a text you plan to summarize, you should begin by identifying main points, recurring images, or concerns and preoccupations of the text. (You may find the Engaged Reading Strategies appendix of this book useful.) After reading and rereading, what ideas stick with you? What does the author seem distracted by? What keeps cropping up?

Tracking Your Reactions

As you read and reread a text, you should take regular breaks to check in with yourself to track your reactions. Are you feeling sympathetic toward the speaker, narrator, or author? To the other characters? What other events, ideas, or contexts are you reminded of as you read? Do you understand and agree with the speaker, narrator, or author? What is your emotional state? At what points do you feel confused or uncertain, and why?

Try out the double-column note-taking method. As illustrated below, divide a piece of paper into two columns; on the left, make a heading for “Notes and Quotes,” and on the right, “Questions and Reactions.” As you move through a text, jot down important ideas and words from the text on the left, and record your intellectual and emotional reactions on the right. Be sure to ask prodding questions of the text along the way, too.

Writing Your Summary

Once you have read and re-read your text at least once, taking notes and reflecting along the way, you are ready to start writing a summary. Before starting, consider your rhetorical situation: What are you trying to accomplish (purpose) with your summary? What details and ideas (subject) are important for your reader (audience) to know? Should you assume that they have also read the text you’re summarizing? I’m thinking back here to the “Previously on…” idea: TV series don’t include everything from a prior episode; they focus instead on moments that set up the events of their next episode. You too should choose your content in accordance with your rhetorical situation.

I encourage you to start off by articulating the “key” idea or ideas from the text in one or two sentences. Focus on clarity of language: start with simple word choice, a single idea, and a straightforward perspective so that you establish a solid foundation.

The authors support feminist theories and practices that are critical of racism and other oppressions.

Then, before that sentence, write one or two more sentences that introduce the title of the text, its authors, and its main concerns or interventions. Revise your key idea sentence as necessary.

In “Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It),” Jarune Uwuajaren and Jamie Utt critique what is known as ‘white feminism.’ They explain that sexism is wrapped up in racism, Islamophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, and other systems of oppression. The authors support feminist theories and practices that recognize intersectionality.

Whether you are quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing, you must always include an appropriate citation. For support on citation, visit your writing center, access the Purdue OWL, or as your teacher and classmates for support.

In most summary assignments, though, you will be expected to draw directly from the article itself by using direct quotes or paraphrases in addition to your own summary.

Paraphrase, Summary, and Direct Quotes

Whether you’re writing a summary or broaching your analysis, using support from the text will help you clarify ideas, demonstrate your understanding, or further your argument, among other things. Three distinct methods, which Bruce Ballenger refers to as “The Notetaker’s Triad,” will allow you to process and reuse information from your focus text. 1

A direct quote might be most familiar to you: using quotation marks (“ ”) to indicate the moments that you’re borrowing, you reproduce an author’s words verbatim in your own writing. Use a direct quote if someone else wrote or said something in a distinctive or particular way and you want to capture their words exactly.

Direct quotes are good for establishing ethos and providing evidence. In a text wrestling essay, you will be expected to use multiple direct quotes: in order to attend to specific language, you will need to reproduce segments of that language in your analysis.

Paraphrasing is similar to the process of summary. When we paraphrase, we process information or ideas from another person’s text and put it in our own words. The main difference between paraphrase and summary is scope: if summarizing means rewording and condensing, then paraphrasing means rewording without drastically altering length. However, paraphrasing is also generally more faithful to the spirit of the original; whereas a summary requires you to process and invites your own perspective, a paraphrase ought to mirror back the original idea using your own language.

Paraphrasing is helpful for establishing background knowledge or general consensus, simplifying a complicated idea, or reminding your reader of a certain part of another text. It is also valuable when relaying statistics or historical information, both of which are usually more fluidly woven into your writing when spoken with your own voice.

Summary , as discussed earlier in this chapter, is useful for “broadstrokes” or quick overviews, brief references, and providing plot or character background. When you summarize, you reword and condense another author’s writing. Be aware, though, that summary also requires individual thought: when you reword, it should be a result of you processing the idea yourself, and when you condense, you must think critically about which parts of the text are most important. As you can see in the example below, one summary shows understanding and puts the original into the author’s own words; the other summary is a result of a passive rewording, where the author only substituted synonyms for the original.

Original Quote: “On Facebook, what you click on, what you share with your ‘friends’ shapes your profile, preferences, affinities, political opinions and your vision of the world. The last thing Facebook wants is to contradict you in any way” (Filloux).

Each of these three tactics should support your summary or analysis: you should integrate quotes, paraphrases, and summary with your own writing. Below, you can see three examples of these tools. Consider how the direct quote, the paraphrase, and the summary each could be used to achieve different purposes.

Original Passage

It has been suggested (again rather anecdotally) that giraffes do communicate using infrasonic vocalizations (the signals are verbally described to be similar—in structure and function—to the low-frequency, infrasonic “rumbles” of elephants). It was further speculated that the extensive frontal sinus of giraffes acts as a resonance chamber for infrasound production. Moreover, particular neck movements (e.g. the neck stretch) are suggested to be associated with the production of infrasonic vocalizations. 2

The examples above also demonstrate additional citation conventions worth noting:

  • A parenthetical in-text citation is used for all three forms. (In MLA format, this citation includes the author’s last name and page number.) The purpose of an in-text citation is to identify key information that guides your reader to your Works Cited page (or Bibliography or References, depending on your format).
  • If you use the author’s name in the sentence, you do not need to include their name in the parenthetical citation.
  • If your material doesn’t come from a specific page or page range, but rather from the entire text, you do not need to include a page number in the parenthetical citation.
  • If there are many authors (generally more than three), you can use “et al.” to mean “and others.”
  • If you cite the same source consecutively in the same paragraph (without citing any other sources in between), you can use “Ibid.” to mean “same as the last one.”

In Chapter Six, we will discuss integrating quotes, summaries, and paraphrases into your text wrestling analysis. Especially if you are writing a summary that requires you to use direct quotes, I encourage you to jump ahead to “Synthesis: Using Evidence to Explore Your Thesis” in that chapter.

Summary and Response: TV Show or Movie

Practice summary and response using a movie or an episode of a television show. (Although it can be more difficult with a show or movie you already know and like, you can apply these skills to both familiar and unfamiliar texts.)

Watch it once all the way through, taking notes using the double-column structure above.

Watch it once more, pausing and rewinding as necessary, adding additional notes.

Write one or two paragraphs summarizing the episode or movie as objectively as possible. Try to include the major plot points, characters, and conflicts.

Write a paragraph that transitions from summary to response: what were your reactions to the episode or movie? What do you think produced those reactions? What seems troubling or problematic? What elements of form and language were striking? How does the episode or movie relate to your lived experiences?

Everyone’s a Critic: Food Review

Food critics often employ summary and response with the purpose of reviewing restaurants for potential customers. You can give it a shot by visiting a restaurant, your dining hall, a fast-food joint, or a food cart. Before you get started, consider reading some food and restaurant reviews from your local newspaper. (Yelp often isn’t quite thorough enough.)

Bring a notepad to your chosen location and take detailed notes on your experience as a patron. Use descriptive writing techniques (see Chapter One), to try to capture the experience.

What happens as you walk in? Are you greeted? What does it smell like? What are your immediate reactions?

Describe the atmosphere. Is there music? What’s the lighting like? Is it slow, or busy?

Track the service. How long before you receive the attention you need? Is that attention appropriate to the kind of food-service place you’re in?

Record as many details about the food you order as possible.

After your dining experience, write a brief review of the restaurant, dining hall, fast-food restaurant, or food cart. What was it like, specifically? Did it meet your expectations? Why or why not? What would you suggest for improvement? Would you recommend it to other diners like you?

Digital Media Summary and Mini-Analysis

summary response essay components

For this exercise, you will study a social media feed of your choice. You can use your own or someone else’s Facebook feed, Twitter feed, or Instagram feed. Because these feeds are tailored to their respective user’s interests, they are all unique and represent something about the user.

After closely reviewing at least ten posts, respond to the following questions in a brief essay:

What is the primary medium used on this platform (e.g, images, text, video, etc.)?

What recurring ideas, themes, topics, or preoccupations do you see in this collection? Provide examples.

Do you see posts that deviate from these common themes?

What do the recurring topics in the feed indicate about its user? Why?

Bonus: What ads do you see popping up? How do you think these have been geared toward the user?

Model Texts by Student Authors

Maggie as the focal point 3.

Shanna Greene Benjamin attempts to resolve Toni Morrison’s emphasis on Maggie in her short story “Recitatif”. While many previous scholars focus on racial codes, and “the black-and-white” story that establishes the racial binary, Benjamin goes ten steps further to show “the brilliance of Morrison’s experiment” (Benjamin 90). Benjamin argues that Maggie’s story which is described through Twyla’s and Roberta’s memories is the focal point of “Recitatif” where the two protagonists have a chance to rewrite “their conflicting versions of history” (Benjamin 91). More so, Maggie is the interstitial space where blacks and whites can engage, confront America’s racialized past, rewrite history, and move forward.

Benjamin highlights that Maggie’s story is first introduced by Twyla, labeling her recollections as the “master narrative” (Benjamin 94). Although Maggie’s story is rebutted with Roberta’s memories, Twyla’s version “represent[s] the residual, racialized perspectives” stemming from America’s past (Benjamin 89). Since Maggie is a person with a disability her story inevitably becomes marginalized, and utilized by both Twyla and Roberta for their own self-fulfilling needs, “instead of mining a path toward the truth” (Benjamin 97). Maggie is the interstitial narrative, which Benjamin describes as a space where Twyla and Roberta, “who represent opposite ends of a racial binary”, can come together to heal (Benjamin 101). Benjamin also points out how Twyla remembers Maggie’s legs looking “like parentheses” and relates the shape of parentheses, ( ), to self-reflection (Morrison 141). Parentheses represent that inward gaze into oneself, and a space that needs to be filled with self-reflection in order for one to heal and grow. Twyla and Roberta create new narratives of Maggie throughout the story in order to make themselves feel better about their troubled past. According to Benjamin, Maggie’s “parenthetical body” is symbolically the interstitial space that “prompts self-reflection required to ignite healing” (Benjamin 102). Benjamin concludes that Morrison tries to get the readers to engage in America’s past by eliminating and taking up the space between the racial binary that Maggie represents.

Not only do I agree with Benjamin’s stance on “Recitatif”, but I also disapprove of my own critical analysis of “Recitatif.” I made the same mistakes that other scholars have made regarding Morrison’s story; we focused on racial codes and the racial binary, while completely missing the interstitial space which Maggie represents. Although I did realize Maggie was of some importance, I was unsure why so I decided to not focus on Maggie at all. Therefore, I missed the most crucial message from “Recitatif” that Benjamin hones in on.

Maggie is brought up in every encounter between Twyla and Roberta, so of course it makes sense that Maggie is the focal point in “Recitatif”. Twyla and Roberta project themselves onto Maggie, which is why the two women have a hard time figuring out “‘What the hell happened to Maggie’” (Morrison 155). Maggie also has the effect of bringing the two women closer together, yet at times causing them to be become more distant. For example, when Twyla and Roberta encounter one another at the grocery store, Twyla brings up the time Maggie fell and the “gar girls laughed at her”, while Roberta reminds her that Maggie was in fact pushed down (Morrison 148). Twyla has created a new, “self-serving narrative[ ]” as to what happened to Maggie instead of accepting what has actually happened, which impedes Twyla’s ability to self-reflect and heal (Benjamin 102). If the two women would have taken up the space between them to confront the truths of their past, Twyla and Roberta could have created a “cooperative narrative” in order to mend.

Maggie represents the interstitial space that lies between white and black Americans. I believe this is an ideal space where the two races can come together to discuss America’s racialized past, learn from one another, and in turn, understand why America is divided as such. If white and black America jumped into the space that Maggie defines, maybe we could move forward as a country and help one another succeed. When I say “succeed”, I am not referring to the “American dream” because that is a false dream created by white America. “Recitatif” is not merely what characteristics define which race, it is much more than. Plus, who cares about race! I want America to be able to benefit and give comfort to every citizen whatever their “race” may be. This is time where we need black and white America to come together and fight the greater evil, which is the corruption within America’s government.

Teacher Takeaways

“This student’s summary of Benjamin’s article is engaging and incisive. Although the text being summarized seems very complex, the student clearly articulates the author’s primary claims, which are a portrayed as an intervention in a conversation (i.e., a claim that challenges what people might think beforehand). The author is also honest about their reactions to the text, which I enjoy, but they seem to lose direction a bit toward the end of the paper. Also, given a chance to revise again, this student should adjust the balance of quotes and paraphrases/ summaries: they use direct quotes effectively, but too frequently.”– Professor Wilhjelm

Works Cited

Benjamin, Shanna Greene. “The Space That Race Creates: An Interstitial Analysis of Toni Morrison’s ‘Recitatif.’” Studies in American Fiction , vol. 40, no. 1, 2013, pp. 87–106. Project Muse , doi: 10.1353/saf.2013.0004 .

Morrison, Toni. “Recitatif.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable 12th edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 138-155.

Pronouns & Bathrooms 4

The article “Pronouns and Bathrooms: Supporting Transgender Students,” featured on Edutopia, was written to give educators a few key points when enacting the role of a truly (gender) inclusive educator. It is written specifically to high-school level educators, but I feel that almost all of the rules that should apply to a person who is transgender or gender-expansive at any age or grade level. The information is compiled by several interviews done with past and present high school students who identify with a trans-identity. The key points of advice stated are supported by personal statements made by past or present students that identify with a trans-identity.

The first point of advice is to use the student’s preferred name and/or pronoun. These are fundamental to the formation of identity and demand respect. The personal interview used in correlation with the advice details how the person ended up dropping out of high school after transferring twice due to teachers refusing to use their preferred name and pronoun. This is an all-too-common occurrence. The trans community recommend that schools and administrators acquire updated gender-inclusive documentation and update documentation at the request of the student to avoid misrepresentation and mislabeling. When you use the student’s preferred name and pronoun in and out of the classroom you are showing the student you sincerely care for their well-being and the respect of their identity.

The second and other most common recommendation is to make “trans-safe” (single-use, unisex or trans-inclusive) bathrooms widely available to students. Often these facilities either do not exist at all or are few-and-far-between, usually inconveniently located, and may not even meet ADA standards. This is crucial to insuring safety for trans-identified students.

Other recommendations are that schools engage in continual professional development training to insure that teachers are the best advocates for their students. Defend and protect students from physical and verbal abuse. Create a visibly welcoming and supportive environment for trans-identified students by creating support groups, curriculum and being vocal about your ally status.

The last piece of the article tells us a person who is trans simply wants to be viewed as human—a fully actualized human. I agree whole-heartedly. I believe that everyone has this desire. I agree with the recommendations of the participants that these exhibitions of advocacy are indeed intrinsic to the role of gender-expansive ally-ship,

While they may not be the most salient of actions of advocacy, they are the most foundational parts. These actions are the tip of the iceberg, but they must be respected. Being a true ally to the gender-expansive and transgender communities means continually expanding your awareness of trans issues. I am thankful these conversations are being had and am excited for the future of humanity.

“The author maintains focus on key arguments and their own understanding of the text’s claims. By the end of the summary, I have a clear sense of the recommendations the authors make for supporting transgender students. However, this piece could use more context at the beginning of each paragraph: the student could clarify the logical progression that builds from one paragraph to the next. (The current structure reads more like a list.) Similarly, context is missing in the form of citations, and no author is ever mentioned. Overall this author relies a bit too much on summary and would benefit from using a couple direct quotations to give the reader a sense of the author’s language and key ideas. In revision, this author should blend summaries, paraphrases, and quotes to develop this missing context.”– Professor Dannemiller

Wiggs, Blake. “ Pronouns and Bathrooms: Supporting Transgender Students .” Edutopia , 28 September 2015

Education Methods: Banking vs. Problem-Posing 5

Almost every student has had an unpleasant experience with an educator. Many times this happens due to the irrelevant problems posed by educators and arbitrary assignments required of the student. In his chapter from Pedagogy of the Oppressed , Paulo Freire centers his argument on the oppressive and unsuccessful banking education method in order to show the necessity of a problem-posing method of education.

Freire begins his argument by intervening into the conversation regarding teaching methods and styles of education, specifically responding in opposition to the banking education method, a method that “mirrors the oppressive society as a whole” (73). He describes the banking method as a system of narration and depositing of information into students like “containers” or “receptacles” (72). He constructs his argument by citing examples of domination and mechanical instruction as aspects that create an assumption of dichotomy, stating that “a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others” (75). Freire draws on the reader’s experiences with this method by providing a list of banking attitudes and practices including “the teacher chooses and enforces his choices, and the students comply” (73), thus allowing the reader to connect the subject with their lived experiences.

In response to the banking method, Freire then advocates for a problem-posing method of education comprised of an educator constantly reforming her reflections in the reflection of the students. He theorizes that education involves a constant unveiling of reality, noting that “they come to see the world not as a static reality but as a reality in process, in transformation” (83). Thus, the problem-posing method draws on discussion and collaborative communication between students and educator. As they work together, they are able to learn from one another and impact the world by looking at applicable problems and assignments, which is in direct opposition of the banking method.

While it appears that Freire’s problem-posing method is more beneficial to both the student and educator, he fails to take into account the varying learning styles of te students, as well as the teaching abilities of the educators. He states that through the banking method, “the student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance” (71). While this may be true for many students, some have an easier time absorbing information when it is given to them in a more mechanical fashion. The same theory applies to educators as well. Some educators may have a more difficult time communicating through the problem-posing method. Other educators may not be as willing to be a part of a more collaborative education method.

I find it difficult to agree with a universal method of education, due to the fact that a broad method doesn’t take into consideration the varying learning and communication styles of both educator and student. However, I do agree with Freire on the basis that learning and education should be a continuous process that involves the dedication of both student and educator. Students are their own champions and it takes a real effort to be an active participant in one’s own life and education. It’s too easy to sit back and do the bare minimum, or be an “automaton” (74). To constantly be open to learning and new ideas, to be a part of your own education, is harder, but extremely valuable.

As a student pursuing higher education, I find this text extremely reassuring. The current state of the world and education can seem grim at times, but after reading this I feel more confident that there are still people who feel that the current systems set in place are not creating students who can critically think and contribute to the world. Despite being written forty years ago, Freire’s radical approach to education seems to be a more humanistic style, one where students are thinking authentically, for “authentic thinking is concerned with reality” (77). Problem-posing education is one that is concerned with liberation, opposed to oppression. The banking method doesn’t allow for liberation, for “liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it” (79). Educational methods should prepare students to be liberators and transformers of the world, not containers to receive and store information.

“I love that this student combines multiple forms of information (paraphrases, quotes, and summaries) with their own reactions to the text. By using a combined form of summary, paraphrase, and quote, the student weaves ideas from the text together to give the reader a larger sense of the author’s ideas and claims. The student uses citations and signal phrases to remind us of the source. The student also does a good job of keeping paragraphs focused, setting up topic sentences and transitions, and introducing ideas that become important parts of their thesis. On the other hand, the reader could benefit from more explanation of some complex concepts from the text being analyzed, especially if the author assumes that the reader isn’t familiar with Freire. For example, the banking method of education is never quite clearly explained and the reader is left to derive its meaning from the context clues the student provides. A brief summary or paraphrase of this concept towards the beginning of the essay would give us a better understanding of the contexts the student is working in.”– Professor Dannemiller

Freire, Paulo. “Chapter 2.” Pedagogy of the Oppressed , translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, 30 th Anniversary Edition, Continuum, 2009, pp. 71-86.

You Snooze, You Peruse 6

This article was an interesting read about finding a solution to the problem that 62% of high school students are facing — chronic sleep deprivation (less than 8 hours on school nights). While some schools have implemented later start times, this article argues for a more unique approach. Several high schools in Las Cruces, New Mexico have installed sleeping pods for students to use when needed. They “include a reclined chair with a domed sensory-reduction bubble that closes around one’s head

and torso” and “feature a one-touch start button that activates a relaxing sequence of music and soothing lights” (Conklin). Students rest for 20 minutes and then go back to class. Some of the teachers were concerned about the amount of valuable class time students would miss while napping, while other teachers argued that if the students are that tired, they won’t be able to focus in class anyway. Students who used the napping pods reported they were effective in restoring energy levels and reducing stress. While that is great, there was concern from Melissa Moore, a pediatric sleep specialist, that napping during the day would cause students to sleep less during that “all-important nighttime sleep.”

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue in high school students. I know there are a lot of high school students that are very involved in extra-curricular activities like I was. I was on student council and played sports year-round, which meant most nights I got home late, had hours of homework, and almost never got enough sleep. I was exhausted all the time, especially during junior and senior year. I definitely agree that there is no point in students sitting in class if they’re so tired they can barely stay awake. However, I don’t know if sleeping pods are the best solution. Sure, after a 20-minute nap students feel a little more energetic, but I don’t think this is solving the chronic issue of sleep deprivation. A 20-minute nap isn’t solving the problem that most students aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep, which means they aren’t getting enough deep sleep (which usually occurs between hours 6-8). Everyone needs these critical hours of sleep, especially those that are still growing and whose brains are still developing. I think it would be much more effective to implement later start times. High school students aren’t going to go to bed earlier, that’s just the way it is. But having later start times gives them the opportunity to get up to an extra hour of sleep, which can make a huge difference in the overall well-being of students, as well as their level of concentration and focus in the classroom.

“I appreciate that this author has a clear understanding of the article which they summarize, and in turn are able to take a clear stance of qualification (‘Yes, but…’). However, I would encourage this student to revisit the structure of their summary. They’ve applied a form that many students fall back on instinctively: the first half is ‘What They Say’ and the second half is ‘What I Say.’ Although this can be effective, I would rather that the student make this move on the sentence level so that paragraphs are organized around ideas, not the sources of those ideas.”– Professor Wilhjelm

Conklin, Richard. “ You Snooze, You Peruse: Some Schools Turn to Nap Time to Recharge Students .” Education World, 2017 .

Bloom, Benjamin S., et al. Tax onomy of Educational Objectives: T he Classification of Educational Goals . D. McKay Co., 1969.

Also of note are recent emphases to use Bloom’s work as a conceptual model, not a hard-and-fast, infallible rule for cognition. Importantly, we rarely engage only one kind of thinking, and models like this should not be used to make momentous decisions; rather, they should contribute to a broader, nuanced understanding of human cognition and development.

In consideration of revised versions Bloom’s Taxonomy and the previous note, it can be mentioned that this process necessarily involves judgment/evaluation; using the process of interpretation, my analysis and synthesis require my intellectual discretion.

Mays, Kelly J. “The Literature Essay.” The Norton Introduction to Literature , Portable 12th edition, Norton, 2017, pp. 1255-1278.

“Developing a Thesis.” Purdue OWL , Purdue University, 2014, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/616/02/ . [Original link has expired. See Purdue OWL’s updated version: Developing a Thesis ]

Read more advice from the Purdue OWL relevant to close reading at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/4/17/ .

One particularly useful additional resource is the text “Annoying Ways People Use Sources,” externally linked in the Additional Recommended Resources appendix of this book.

Essay by an anonymous student author, 2014. Reproduced with permission from the student author.

This essay is a synthesis of two students’ work. One of those students is Ross Reaume, Portland State University, 2014, and the other student wishes to remain anonymous. Reproduced with permission from the student authors.

Essay by Marina, who has requested her last name not be included. Portland Community College, 2018. Reproduced with permission from the student author.

the verbatim use of another author’s words. Can be used as evidence to support your claim, or as language to analyze/close-read to demonstrate an interpretation or insight.

author reiterates a main idea, argument, or detail of a text in their own words without drastically altering the length of the passage(s) they paraphrase. Contrast with summary.

a mode of writing that values the reader’s experience of and reactions to a text.

a rhetorical mode in which an author reiterates the main ideas, arguments, and details of a text in their own words, condensing a longer text into a smaller version. Contrast with paraphrase.

EmpoWORD: A Student-Centered Anthology and Handbook for College Writers Copyright © 2018 by Shane Abrams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The Summary Response Essay: 5 Essential Components

The Summary Response Essay: 5 Essential Components

The summary response essay is a classic writing task for advanced english as a second language students who are embarking on an academic path..

It is often used to introduce students to the notion of source integration, and it can also serve as a foundation for introducing other rhetorical styles. As students prepare to undertake university coursework, they need to be prepared to respond to reading material responsibly and effectively, and the summary response essay is excellent way to help them begin to learn how to do so.

Prepare Your Students for Academic Writing

Summarizing.

This writing task is a fundamentally important one, as it will be a useful and necessary technique in many academic writing assignments that ESL students encounter in their studies. It’s especially challenging because a student’s ability to do so effectively depends on both reading and writing skills. If students are at a deficit in reading proficiency, the writing aspect of summarizing will be incredibly difficult. Likewise, if a student is strong reader, summarizing will be challenging if his or her writing skills are not of a comparable proficiency level. When teaching students how to summarize, the focus should be on main ideas. Often, students are tempted to include too many details, and a summary can turn into one long paraphrase in which students include too many details. A summary grid is a useful tool for helping students to pull main ideas out of a text before organizing them into a piece of writing. This graphic organizer is simply a chart that has space for students to write the main idea of portions of the text. It can be divided by sentence, paragraph, or section, depending on the length of the text. Students can use a summary gird to take notes and then further synthesize the information to decide what to include in a summary. Like anything we teach, summarizing needs to be broken down step by step when students first are first beginning to learn how to do so, and collaboration among classmates when students are first learning this concept will be very useful.

Paraphrasing and Quoting

There can easily be confusion between summarizing, paraphrasing , and quoting when students are learning to integrate sources into their writing. Therefore, it is often helpful to introduce these skills together, allowing students to compare and contrast the characteristics of each. Start by taking a passage and showing students an example of a summary, a paraphrase, and quote from the same excerpt, so they can begin to identify the defining features of all three. The focus of summaries should be on main ideas, which paraphrasing and quoting should preserve one, isolated idea in its entirety.

Organization

The organization of a summary response essay is typically a 4-5 paragraph essay that includes a short summary in the introduction that provides and objective overview of a text. The body of the essay is the response portion and should include student’s commentary on the reading or on an issue related to the topic or ideas stated within the reading. This format is a formative teaching tool because much of what students will encounter in later academic coursework will require them to engage in writing tasks that require stating information and then analyzing it. The summary response essay serves a stepping stone for this kind of thinking and writing process, and thus, the organization of ideas in a summary response essay is important as a foundational form.

Transitions

The summary response essay, like any basic writing task for English as a Second Language students, is also an opportunity to develop cohesion in writing. Students should be directed to choose appropriate connectors to join ideas, both between paragraphs and within them. Once students have mastered the general format of a summary response essay, the next step is to have them refine their writing by looking at how appropriate transitional words and phrases can be added to aid them in clarifying ideas and creating stronger arguments.

Argumentation Can Be Introduced

When students have become comfortable using the summary response format, argumentation can be introduced using the same structure. This allows students to focus on dealing with their ideas without needing to also worry about organizational issues in the essay. If they are working within the familiar framework of the summary response essay, they will be free to explore how concession and refutation can be used to strengthen opinions and enhance critical thinking. Argumentation is a concept that will take students some time to digest, so if students can work within a familiar framework, it minimizes the amount of new information that needs to be processed at once.

The summary response essay is a tried-and-true tool for developmental English as a Second Language writing and reading courses.

It is an essential component of any course that is preparing students to write academically with the use of source integration. Students will benefit greatly throughout their academic careers from the practice that the summary response essay affords them in terms of honing their summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting skills.

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When you underline and annotate a text, when you ask yourself questions about its contents, when you work out an outline of its structure, you are establishing your understanding of what you are reading. When you write a summary, you are demonstrating your understanding of the text and communicating it to your reader.

To summarize is to condense a text to its main points and to do so in your own words. To include every detail is neither necessary nor desirable. Instead, you should extract only those elements that you think are most important—the main idea (or thesis) and its essential supporting points, which in the original passage may have been interwoven with less important material.

Many students make the mistake of confusing summary with analysis. They are not the same thing. An analysis is a discussion of ideas, techniques, and/or meaning in a text. A summary, on the other hand, does not require you to critique or respond to the ideas in a text. When you analyze a piece of writing, you generally summarize the contents briefly in order to establish for the reader the ideas that your essay will then go on to analyze, but a summary is not a substitute for the analysis itself.

If you are writing a literature paper, for example, your teacher probably does not want you to simply write a plot summary. You may include some very brief summary within a literature paper, but only as much as necessary to make your own interpretation, your thesis, clear.

It is important to remember that a summary is not an outline or synopsis of the points that the author makes in the order that the author gives them. Instead, a summary is a distillation of the ideas or argument of the text. It is a reconstruction of the major point or points of development of a text, beginning with the thesis or main idea, followed by the points or details that support or elaborate on that idea.

If a text is organized in a linear fashion, you may be able to write a summary simply by paraphrasing the major points from the beginning of the text to the end. However, you should not assume that this will always be the case. Not all writers use such a straightforward structure. They may not state the thesis or main idea immediately at the beginning, but rather build up to it slowly, and they may introduce a point of development in one place and then return to it later in the text.

However, for the sake of clarity, a summary should present the author’s points in a straightforward structure. In order to write a good summary, you may have to gather minor points or components of an argument from different places in the text in order to summarize the text in an organized way. A point made in the beginning of an essay and then one made toward the end may need to be grouped together in your summary to concisely convey the argument that the author is making. In the end, you will have read, digested, and reconstructed the text in a shorter, more concise form.

WHEN AND HOW TO SUMMARIZE

There are many instances in which you will have to write a summary. You may be assigned to write a one or two page summary of an article or reading, or you may be asked to include a brief summary of a text as part of a response paper or critique. Also, you may write summaries of articles as part of the note-taking and planning process for a research paper, and you may want to include these summaries, or at least parts of them, in your paper. The writer of a research paper is especially dependent upon summary as a means of referring to source materials. Through the use of summary in a research paper, you can condense a broad range of information, and you can present and explain the relevance of a number of sources all dealing with the same subject.

You may also summarize your own paper in an introduction in order to present a brief overview of the ideas you will discuss throughout the rest of the paper.

Depending on the length and complexity of the original text as well as your purpose in using summary, a summary can be relatively brief—a short paragraph or even a single sentence—or quite lengthy—several paragraphs or even an entire paper.

QUALITIES OF A SUMMARY

A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent . These qualities are explained below:

  • A summary must be comprehensive: You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and note them down in a list. Review all the ideas on your list, and include in your summary all the ones that are indispensable to the author's development of her/his thesis or main idea.
  • A summary must be concise: Eliminate repetitions in your list, even if the author restates the same points. Your summary should be considerably shorter than the source. You are hoping to create an overview; therefore, you need not include every repetition of a point or every supporting detail.
  • A summary must be coherent: It should make sense as a piece of writing in its own right; it should not merely be taken directly from your list of notes or sound like a disjointed collection of points.
  • A summary must be independent: You are not being asked to imitate the author of the text you are writing about. On the contrary, you are expected to maintain your own voice throughout the summary. Don't simply quote the author; instead use your own words to express your understanding of what you have read. After all, your summary is based on your interpretation of the writer's points or ideas. However, you should be careful not to create any misrepresentation or distortion by introducing comments or criticisms of your own.

TWO TECHNIQUES FOR WRITING SUMMARIES

Summarizing shorter texts (ten pages or fewer).

  • Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph.
  • Formulate a single sentence that summarizes the whole text.
  • Write a paragraph (or more): begin with the overall summary sentence and follow it with the paragraph summary sentences.
  • Rearrange and rewrite the paragraph to make it clear and concise, to eliminate repetition and relatively minor points, and to provide transitions. The final version should be a complete, unified, and coherent.

Summarizing Longer Texts (more than ten pages)

  • Outline the text. Break it down into its major sections—groups of paragraphs focused on a common topic—and list the main supporting points for each section.
  • Write a one or two sentence summary of each section.
  • Formulate a single sentence to summarize the whole text, looking at the author's thesis or topic sentences as a guide.
  • Write a paragraph (or more): begin with the overall summary sentence and follow it with the section summary sentences.
  • Rewrite and rearrange your paragraph(s) as needed to make your writing clear and concise, to eliminate relatively minor or repetitious points, and to provide transitions. Make sure your summary includes all the major supporting points of each idea. The final version should be a complete, unified, and coherent.

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ESCC LRC LibGuides

ENG 111 Summary/Response Essay: Home

summary response essay components

Getting Started

A summary/response is a natural consequence of the reading and annotating process. In this type of essay, writers capture the controlling idea and the supporting details of a text and respond by agreeing or disagreeing and then explaining why.

  • Summary : Write the main ideas of the article in your own words with occasional quotes from the original author(s).
  • Response : Explain your thoughts about this article. Evaluate what you think on this issue and relate it to your own experiences or other things you have read.

The best way to write a summary is ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What issues are described, explained or resolved in this work? 
  • What is the controlling/main idea? 
  • What are the supporting details? 
  • What results or conclusions are made? 
  • What opinion does the author want readers to keep in mind about this topic? 
  • What information does the author use to convince readers? 

To move from an outline to a draft of a summary , follow these guidelines: 

State the author’s name and the title of the text you’re summarizing in the first 1-2 sentences of the summary. 

Express the author’s main idea in your own words in the first 1-2 sentences of the summary (no more than three words in a row from the text you’re summarizing.) 

Identify main points that support the main idea. Write the main points in your own words (no more than three words in a row from the text.) 

Use minor details (e.g. examples, explanations and specific details) only when needed to support the main points. 

Arrange the ideas so the organization and transition words in the summary paragraph reflect the original text. 

Show that you are summarizing someone else’s ideas with expressions like “According to” + author’s name or author’s last name + a signal verb. 

A response is a critique or evaluation of the author's essay. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions in relation to the article being summarized. It examines ideas that you agree or disagree with and identifies the essay’s strengths and weaknesses in reasoning and logic, in quality of supporting examples, and in organization and style. A good response is  persuasive ; therefore, it should cite facts, examples, and personal experience that either refutes or supports the article you’re responding to, depending on your stance.

Summary Response Essay Outline Patterns

Need more? Check out these links:

How to Write a Summary, Analysis and Response Essay (with examples)

Summary and Response Essay Examples

How to Write a Summary and Response Essay

summary response essay components

  • Last Updated: Feb 8, 2024 4:33 PM
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5.7: Sample Response Essays

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  • Sample response paper "Spread Feminism, Not Germs" in PDF with margin notes     
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  • Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes  
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  1. How to Write a Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay Paper With

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  3. ⭐ Summary response essay example. Writing Effective Summary and

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  4. Summary and response Essay Example

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  5. How to Write a Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay Paper With

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  6. The Summary Response Essay: 5 Essential Components

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  1. PERSUASIVE ESSAY Part2 Breakdown

  2. Summary Response Essay

  3. The Writing Process:Pre-Writing and Drafting

  4. Unit 3: Summary & Response Essay

  5. Summary Response Essay Overview

  6. Introduction to Summary and Response

COMMENTS

  1. Summary-Response Writing Breakdown

    Identify the author (s) and the piece of writing that is being addressed. Give a brief summary that highlights the key parts, tone, arguments, or attitude. This may or may not include direct quotations. Critically evaluate the piece of writing. Depending on the task, this could include any sort of response, including but not limited to ...

  2. Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays

    Two Typical Organizational Formats for Summary/Response Essays: 1. Present the summary in a block of paragraphs, followed by the response in a block: Intro/thesis Summary (two to three paragraphs) Agreement (or disagreement) Disagreement (or agreement) Conclusion

  3. PDF Luc Writing Center "How to Write a Summary Response Essay"

    A summary response essay summarizes and responds to an author's argument on a particular subject or issue. Firstly, this requires careful, faithful explanation of what the author is actually saying in the "summary" part of your essay, even if you disagree with their premise, chain of evidence, argument, or conclusion.

  4. The Summary Response Essay: 5 Essential Components

    1 Summarizing This writing task is a fundamentally important one, as it will be a useful and necessary technique in many academic writing assignments that ESL students encounter in their studies. It's especially challenging because a student's ability to do so effectively depends on both reading and writing skills.

  5. How to Write a Summary, Analysis, and Response Essay Paper With

    Virginia Kearney Updated: Sep 15, 2023 8:25 PM EDT Get tips on writing a summary, analysis, and response essay. Dean Drobot via Canva Pro Summary Writing Steps A summary is telling the main ideas of the article in your own words. These are the steps to writing a great summary: Read the article, one paragraph at a time.

  6. Summary/Response Essays: Overview

    Summary/Response Essays: Overview A summary/response essay may, at first, seem like a simplistic exercise for a college course. But the truth is that most academic writing requires us to successfully accomplish at least two tasks: summarizing what others have said and presenting what you have to say. Because of this, summarizing and responding ...

  7. Combining a Summary and Response

    Three steps in a summary-response assignment: Begin with a summary of the article. This will familiarize the audience with the context of your response. Include an introduction to the response. Identify an idea by quoting the idea and then paraphrasing the idea. Explain your response to the idea.

  8. A Guide to Effective Summary Response Essays

    Summary response essays are two-part essays that include a summary of an article, essay, chapter or report and a response to it. It is not a formal paper or essay because it does not have an introduction, body, or conclusion like other essays. This type of essay instead consists of a summary of the reading followed by a response to the reading.

  9. NROC Developmental English Foundations

    Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading. For the summary paragraph, create a topic sentence that identifies the main idea of the reading. Then, for the response paragraph, create a separate thesis statement that states your opinion about the author's main idea. Step 2: Identify the supporting details for the summary and for the response.

  10. Strategy: Writing a Summary Response

    Strategy: Writing a Summary Response. A summary response summarizes the main ideas of an author's work and also responds to the author's essay by critiquing or evaluating the ideas presented. Note that there is an appropriate time for opinion, evaluation, and summary; take a closer look at some of the best practices in structuring your ...

  11. PDF Drafting the Summary and Response Essay

    Depending on your thesis and the main point you're developing, you may respond by pointing out weaknesses and disagreeing, by admitting that the author is partially right but overlooks a point, or by agreeing with the author and building on his or her point with your own examples and discussion.

  12. LibGuides: Writing Toolkit: Summaries and Summary/Response

    Writing Modes and Essay Types: Summary and Response Essays. Writing a Reaction or Response Paper. From Hunter College's Dr. Murray and Anna C. Rockowitz Writing Center (RWC). Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays. From Writing@CSU.

  13. How to Write a Strong Response Essay

    Updated May 11, 2020 Image Credits A response essay is your opinion of a work, including but not limited to songs, books, poems, films, and art. Response essays include two parts. Not only will you provide an overview of the work, but you'll share your response to it as well.

  14. How to Write Your Next Summary Response Essay in Minutes

    To write an excellent summary response essay, include these key elements: Clear Summary of the Main Points: Capture the essence of the source material. Personal Response with Examples: Present your perspective with supportive evidence. Logical Organization and Structure: Ensure a smooth flow of ideas.

  15. How to Write a Summary

    When to write a summary. Step 1: Read the text. Step 2: Break the text down into sections. Step 3: Identify the key points in each section. Step 4: Write the summary. Step 5: Check the summary against the article. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about summarizing.

  16. Best Summary and Response Essay Strategies for Student Writers

    Goals of a Summary and Response Essay. First, I want students to closely read the text. This means reading (and re-reading) for critical understanding of the text, making marginal notes, and marking important passages. As students closely read, they should be thinking about the author's message, style, and impact on them as readers.

  17. Chapter Five: Summary and Response

    Response papers track how you feel and what you think as you move through a text. More importantly, responses also challenge you to evaluate exactly how a text acts upon you—to make you feel or think a certain way—using language or images. While a response is not an analysis, it will help you generate ideas for the analytical process.

  18. BusyTeacher.org

    The Summary Response Essay: 5 Essential Components The Summary Response essay is a classic writing task for advanced English as a Second Language Students who are embarking on an academic path. It is often used to introduce students to the notion of source integration, and it can also serve as a foundation for introducing other rhetorical styles.

  19. Guidelines for Writing a Summary

    A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent. These qualities are explained below: A summary must be comprehensive: You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and note them down in a list.

  20. Home

    Write the Response point by point : End the essay by making a final statement about the essay and the author. End the essay by making a final statement about the essay and the author. Introduction (1 paragraph) Summary: (1 paragraph) Remember you are only summarizing (you may have fewer or more than these 4 points) Main Point 1 . Main Point 2

  21. Response (Reaction) Paper Guide

    The Summary and Response Format. A response paper's summary and response format involves two distinct sections: a summary of the text and a personal reaction or critique. Summary of the Main Ideas. Start with a concise summary that covers the main ideas of the text. This should be neutral and factual, providing a foundation for your response.

  22. 5.7: Sample Response Essays

    Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes. Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" accessible version with notes in parentheses. This page titled 5.7: Sample Response Essays is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills ( ASCCC Open Educational Resources ...

  23. P176 Components of a Summary-Response essay

    Start studying P176 Components of a Summary-Response essay. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools.