How to Write a Research Summary

How to Write a Research Summary

There is a lot of research out there, and it can be hard to keep up. Research summaries are a great way of staying up to date in your field without having to read through tons of journal articles. A research summary is a brief, concise presentation of the key points found in a research article.

Any academic summary should answer the ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what’ of a study. In this post, we will review the basics of what goes into writing an effective research summary.

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What is a research summary?

A summary of a research paper is designed to offer a brief overview of a particular study. The purpose of the research summary is to help students interpret scientific literature. These academic papers are vital in presenting ideas and evidence to experts.  

Writing a good summary involves identifying important information in your research paper and condensing it for your reader. You should provide a clear and concise overview without analyzing or critiquing the source.

Importance of summarizing

When looking at how to write a research paper, it is inevitable to understand the importance of summarizing your work. Research paper summary helps in several ways, including learning to identify essential concepts and consolidating critical details to support those ideas.

You can use research summaries for those researches developed for a funding entity or an organizational partner that participated in the study. It gives the external organization vital information required for a meeting or decision-making.

An executive summary gives an overview of formal report content to management or executives of a company. In this case, the executive does not have to read the entire report to grasp the concept.

When to summarize

There are various circumstances which you might be required to summarize an article:

  • To come up with notes that will enable you to remember what you have read
  • As a standalone task that demonstrates that you have understood the paper
  • To provide an overview of other people’s work in a literature review

When writing an academic paper, you will engage with other scholars’ work in various ways. You might use a direct quote or paraphrase it to support your point.

If the chapter or article is relevant to your research, it might be appropriate to summarize it to offer an overview before analyzing or critiquing the work. In this article, you will learn how to write an executive summary for a research paper.

Tips for writing research summary outline

Writing a research summary

Summary of a research paper should have a formal approach similar to other academic writings. Writing a synopsis requires much effort to know which information to include. You can handle the process on your own or seek research paper help online.

The following are tips for writing a good summary outline

Contemplate your target audience

Your research summary should meet the requirements of the target audience. Determine your audience before starting to write your summary since the needs of different audiences differ. This way, you will write relevant information in your outline.

Save time

Writing an executive summary for a research paper can be time-consuming. It might not be easy to dissect an enormous exertion into a small piece of work. You can make your writing process better by scanning the research from top to bottom.

Provide visual representation

The research paper and its summary require visuals for full effect. A simple graph or diagram can convey a lot of information. As such, do not leave visuals for the primary research paper and omitting them in your summary.


The length of research summaries varies depending on the type of research paper. As a rule of thumb, your summary should not be more than 10% of the total pages of your work. Mostly it takes between two to four pages.

Research summary structure

Your research summary format should be similar to that in your original paper. You should cover and reflect upon content from all research sections. Major structural elements of a research summary are as follows:


It announces your topic of analysis, and you can formulate it to introduce your key findings. The title captures the attention of the reader and makes them want to read more. It is best to use headlines designed as questions.


The abstract should be a concise and comprehensive description of your study. The length of an abstract varies, ranging between 100-500 words. Your research summary should have a short abstract.


Introduction in your research paper summary announces your subject by presenting the critical concept or current state of an investigation to your readers. This section lists hypotheses and research questions advanced by the author.


Irrespective of its location, the methodology section carries the details of data analysis, or experimental methods use in collecting your research information. It could be surveys, statistical analysis, or sampling. You will omit most of these details in your summary; hence it is essential to know what is critical to mention.


Under the results section, you should list specifics evidence attained from your experiments. It forms the most significant part of your research paper. You should include in your summary the observations, conclusions, and interpretations.


In this section, you discuss the results in the context of current facts among experts. It contains results interpretations, study strengths and limitations, and possible future investigations to be undertaken.


In some research papers, you can merge the conclusion with the discussion section. For executive summary of the research paper, you should include a standalone unit for your closing. You should revisit and validate hypotheses depending on the position of your evidence.


You should mention the sources used to cite your work in your research summary. Ensure that you provide an appropriate citation in your original article.

Step-by-step guide of writing a research paper summary

Before writing your research summary, it would be best to know how to proceed from beginning to end. Every section is important and worth paying attention to. You can get guidance from the craft of research summary for structuring, organizing, and writing your research paper summary.

This article will provide simple steps to help you write a summary of the research paper:

Determine your focus

Your first step is to establish why you need to summarize the research paper. For instance, if your summary writing is to take notes as a reminder about the article content, a more extended summary will be ideal. If you summarize to include it in your current research work, you should focus on how the article relates to your work.

Scan the article

If you start by reading a new piece from start to end, you will be bogged down in detail. It is essential to scan the article content before you can give in to read the entire piece. Peruse through the paper and examine its sections to identify:

  • The purpose of research and research questions found in the introduction
  • The tested hypotheses in the article
  • How they verified ideas through the methodology
  • The findings in the results section, including figures and tables
  • Interpretation of the findings (stated in discussion)

You should note down key facts and underline key sentences of every paragraph in the margin. Although you can use the abstract to pinpoint the article’s main ideas, you cannot exclusively rely on it. Abstracts contain condensed information that might make you miss the critical aspects of the paper.

Read the article

After highlighting the main areas, you can now read the article. Read through every section several times to capture in-depth the highlighted points. As you read intending to summarize for your research paper, ask yourself these questions:

  • How does the study design address the research question?
  • What is the contribution of this study towards answering the critical question?
  • What are the results? Are they convincing?
  • What are the unanswered elements of the original question?

You will know you are ready to start writing your research summary when you can confidently explain the study to someone who has not read the article. While at it, paraphrase the paper in your own words to avoid plagiarism in your research paper summary.

The best approach is to summarize key points in your own words, which will make you rewrite the concepts in your own style. Sticking to the original language with minor changes will show that you have not understood the article.

Write the summary

You have read the article, and you are aware of the vital point it aims to communicate. The next step is to jot the facts down in your language. The secret is to identify important information and condense it for your readers.

You should write your first draft using the order in the article. Your research summary should have a simple format:

  • State research question and explain its importance
  • Mention the tested hypotheses
  • Describe the methodology showing design, material, participants, dependent variables, and procedure
  • Define the results and state if they were significant
  • Explain the implications of results and do not overstate their significance

When writing your draft, you should focus on the content as opposed to its length. There is a possibility that you will require to compress it further.

Edit your research summary

Your summary draft turns out to be too long and needs some editing and condensing in most cases. It would help if you edited for accuracy; thus, consider adding more information or removing unnecessary data. No matter the case, do not generalize the ideas but rather be concise and focused.

To make your summary look good, ensure that:

  • You eradicate wordiness such as adverbs and other unnecessary words that add no value to your sentence.
  • You use precise language and avoid vague references
  • You paraphrase your work rather than using direct quotes
  • You use accurate academic language

After editing your summary, you should proofread to check for grammatical spelling errors. You can have someone else proofread your work to capture anything that you might have missed out on. Make use of research summary examples online to polish your work.

In summary

To write an excellent research summary, you should establish your focus, scan the article, and then read through it. This approach will help you note down and edit an outline that will come nothing short of perfection. A summary of the research paper act as a catalyst to launch your ideas.

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