How to Write Summaries of Newspaper Articles

By Darla Himeles
Skim each newspaper article before you read it in preparation for writing your summary.

Whether you need to write summaries of newspaper articles for school or you want to try summarizing as a study skill, writing summaries typically increases your reading comprehension by helping you to synthesize and demonstrate your understanding of the article. A newspaper article summary briefly restates the author’s central point, the article’s purpose and any pertinent supporting information. Unless your instructor asks for a longer or a critical summary, meaning that you should critique the article as part of your summary, keep your summary short, typically between four and eight sentences, and objective.

Read the newspaper article’s title, subtitle and first paragraph to identify the author’s main point. Underline or note the main point for future reference.

Skim through the newspaper article, reading the headings and subheadings, photograph captions, charts and graphs, insets and the final paragraph. This gives you an overview of the article’s trajectory and will help you take better notes.

Read the whole article carefully, taking notes on its arguments, supporting details and conclusions. Often each section of an article or each paragraph, if it is short, will introduce a new piece of relevant information or further support a previous piece of information.

Organize your notes into an outline. Place the main idea first, in your own words, and then list supporting information in an intuitive order, such as chronologically from most to least important, or in sections that otherwise logically follow one another. If at all possible, refrain from using the author’s words at all. If you must quote her, be sure to use quotation marks and note which page the quotation comes from.

Use the outline to craft your article summary. State the article’s title, author and main point first, followed by the points listed in your outline. Do not simply make a list, however. Your summary should read with the ease of strong prose, using concrete nouns and verbs and clear sentences to tell the brief story of the article.

Tip

Your summary should stand alone from the newspaper article so that anyone unfamiliar with the article may understand what the article is about. Ask a friend who has not read the newspaper article to read your summary and tell you whether he understands it.

Warning

Writers new to summarizing risk accidentally plagiarizing if they write down word-for-word phrases from the article while taking notes. Place all of your notes in your own words to avoid plagiarism and ensure your understanding of the material. Furthermore, always give the author’s name in the beginning of your summary to ensure your reader can distinguish the author’s ideas from your own.

About the Author

Darla Himeles is a freelance writer, editor and poet living in Castine, Maine. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College's English and education programs and a current student in Drew University’s MFA in poetry and poetry in translation program, Himeles writes frequently about education, wellness, writing and literature.