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Research Summary Structure, Samples, Writing Steps, and Useful Suggestions

Updated 01 Feb 2023

What is a Research Summary and Why Is It Important?

A research summary is a type of paper designed to provide a brief overview of a given study - typically, an article from a peer-reviewed academic journal. It is a frequent type of task encountered in US colleges and universities, both in humanitarian and exact sciences, which is due to how important it is to teach students to properly interact with and interpret scientific literature and in particular, academic papers, which are the key way through which new ideas, theories, and evidence are presented to experts in many fields of knowledge. A research summary typically preserves the structure/sections of the article it focuses on. Get the grades you want with our professional research paper helper .

How to Write a Research Summary – Typical Steps

Follow these clear steps to help avoid typical mistakes and productivity bottlenecks, allowing for a more efficient through your writing process:

Read Also:  Criminal Justice Research Topics To Impress Your Teacher

Research Summary Structure

The research summary format resembles that found in the original paper (just a concise version of it). Content from all sections should be covered and reflected upon, regardless of whether corresponding headings are present or not. Key structural elements of any research summary are as follows:

Note that if you need some model research summary papers done before you start writing yourself (this will help familiarize you with essay structure and various sections), you could simply recruit our company by following the link provided below.

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Research Summary Writing Tips

Below is a checklist of useful research paper tips worth considering when writing research summaries:

For additional information on formatting, structure, and for more writing tips, check out these research paper guidelines on our website. Remember that we cover most research papers writing services you can imagine and can offer help at various stages of your writing project, including proofreading, editing, rewriting for plagiarism elimination, and style adjustment.

Research Summary Example 1

Below are some defining elements of a sample research summary written from an imaginary article.

Title – “The probability of an unexpected volcanic eruption in Yellowstone” Introduction – this section would list those catastrophic consequences hitting our country in  case of a massive eruption and the importance of analyzing this matter. Hypothesis –  An eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would be preceded by intense precursory activity manifesting a few weeks up to a few years in advance. Results – these could contain a report of statistical data from multiple volcanic eruptions happening worldwide looking specifically at activity that preceded these events (in particular, how early each type of activity was detected). Discussion and conclusion – Given that Yellowstone is continuously monitored by scientists and that signs of an eruption are normally detected much in advance and at least a few days in advance, the hypothesis is confirmed. This could find application in creating emergency plans detailing an organized evacuation campaign and other response measures.

Research Summary Example 2

Below is another sample sketch, also from an imaginary article.

Title – “The frequency of extreme weather events in US in 2000-2008 as compared to the ‘50s” Introduction – Weather events bring immense material damage and cause human victims. Hypothesis – Extreme weather events are significantly more frequent nowadays than in the ‘50s Results – these could list the frequency of several categories of extreme events now and then: droughts and associated fires, massive rainfall/snowfall and associated floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, arctic cold waves, etc. Discussion and conclusion – Several types of extreme events indeed became significantly more frequent recently, confirming this hypothesis. This increasing frequency correlates reliably with rising CO2 levels in atmosphere and growing temperatures worldwide and in the absence of another recent major global change that could explain a higher frequency of disasters but also knowing how growing temperature disturbs weather patterns, it is natural to assume that global warming (CO2) causes this increase in frequency. This, in turn, suggests that this increased frequency of disasters is not a short-term phenomenon but is here to stay until we address CO2 levels.

Let Professionals Help With Your Research Summary

Writing a research summary has its challenges, but becoming familiar with its structure (i.e. the structure of an article), understanding well the article that needs to be summarized, and adhering to recommended guidelines will help the process go smoothly. Still, suppose you happen to be severely out of time and feel like "I  need help writing a research paper " (overloaded at work/college/university). In that case, you can order research papers online from our writing service.

Simply create your account in a few clicks, place an order by uploading your instructions, and upload or indicate the article requiring a summary and choose a preferred writer for this task (according to experience, rating, bidding price). Our transparent system puts you in control, allowing you to set priorities as you wish (to our knowledge, few competitors have something equivalent in place). Obviously, we can help with many other essay types such as critical thinking essay, argumentative essay, etc. In particular, the research paper definition article on our website highlights a few popular paper types we work with.

Another unique advantage is that we allow and encourage you to communicate directly with your writer (if you wish) guiding his or her work – feel free to request partial drafts, to clarify potential issues you worry about, or even to revise papers as often as needed (for free) until you achieve a satisfactory result. We’ve implemented a system where money is released to writers only after students are fully satisfied with what they get. If you feel like giving it a try, it’s easy and worry-free! Just follow the link below.


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Written by Paul Calderon

As a trained writer and an expert in book publishing and finalization, Paul knows how to engage readers in his text. As an author himself, Paul never misses a chance to write. Writing is his true passion as he explores technology, education, and entertainment among many popular subjects these days. His mentoring experience and skills of creative guidance make his writing accessible, clear, and fun to follow.

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example of research article summary

Research Summary Examples – PDF

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Fundamentals of a Research Summary

How to Write a Research Summary

Read your paper, write a draft, identify main points, separate sections.

Combine Information

Making the first draft.

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Editing your Research Summary

Research summary writing tips, copy and paste, consider the readers, research article summary template.

research article summary template

Research Report Executive Summary Template

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Research Summary Example

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Research Summary Sample


Research Writing Summary Tips (continuation)

Clarity and organization, use strong and positive language, divide into parts, more design, how market research is done by small nonprofits, what is the importance of a questionnaire, better together: market research + business, research paper outline examples and how to write them, 34+ questionnaire examples in word format, 7+ problem statement examples, samples, how to use swot analysis to build market research plan, 29+ survey questionnaire examples, 8+ field notes examples & samples, related articles.

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How To Write A Research Summary

Deeptanshu D

It’s a common perception that writing a research summary is a quick and easy task. After all, how hard can jotting down 300 words be? But when you consider the weight those 300 words carry, writing a research summary as a part of your dissertation, essay or compelling draft for your paper instantly becomes daunting task.

A research summary requires you to synthesize a complex research paper into an informative, self-explanatory snapshot. It needs to portray what your article contains. Thus, writing it often comes at the end of the task list.

Regardless of when you’re planning to write, it is no less of a challenge, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time. This blog will take you through everything you need to know about research summary so that you have an easier time with it.

How to write a research summary

What is a Research Summary?

A research summary is the part of your research paper that describes its findings to the audience in a brief yet concise manner. A well-curated research summary represents you and your knowledge about the information written in the research paper.

While writing a quality research summary, you need to discover and identify the significant points in the research and condense it in a more straightforward form. A research summary is like a doorway that provides access to the structure of a research paper's sections.

Since the purpose of a summary is to give an overview of the topic, methodology, and conclusions employed in a paper, it requires an objective approach. No analysis or criticism.

Research summary or Abstract. What’s the Difference?

They’re both brief, concise, and give an overview of an aspect of the research paper. So, it’s easy to understand why many new researchers get the two confused. However, a research summary and abstract are two very different things with individual purpose. To start with, a research summary is written at the end while the abstract comes at the beginning of a research paper.

A research summary captures the essence of the paper at the end of your document. It focuses on your topic, methods, and findings. More like a TL;DR, if you will. An abstract, on the other hand, is a description of what your research paper is about. It tells your reader what your topic or hypothesis is, and sets a context around why you have embarked on your research.

Getting Started with a Research Summary

Before you start writing, you need to get insights into your research’s content, style, and organization. There are three fundamental areas of a research summary that you should focus on.

How to Structure Your Research Summary

The research summary is nothing but a concise form of the entire research paper. Therefore, the structure of a summary stays the same as the paper. So, include all the section titles and write a little about them. The structural elements that a research summary must consist of are:

It represents the topic of the research. Try to phrase it so that it includes the key findings or conclusion of the task.

The abstract gives a context of the research paper. Unlike the abstract at the beginning of a paper, the abstract here, should be very short since you’ll be working with a limited word count.


This is the most crucial section of a research summary as it helps readers get familiarized with the topic. You should include the definition of your topic, the current state of the investigation, and practical relevance in this part. Additionally, you should present the problem statement, investigative measures, and any hypothesis in this section.


This section provides details about the methodology and the methods adopted to conduct the study. You should write a brief description of the surveys, sampling, type of experiments, statistical analysis, and the rationality behind choosing those particular methods.

Create a list of evidence obtained from the various experiments with a primary analysis, conclusions, and interpretations made upon that. In the paper research paper, you will find the results section as the most detailed and lengthy part. Therefore, you must pick up the key elements and wisely decide which elements are worth including and which are worth skipping.

This is where you present the interpretation of results in the context of their application. Discussion usually covers results, inferences, and theoretical models explaining the obtained values, key strengths, and limitations. All of these are vital elements that you must include in the summary.

Most research papers merge conclusion with discussions. However, depending upon the instructions, you may have to prepare this as a separate section in your research summary. Usually, conclusion revisits the hypothesis and provides the details about the validation or denial about the arguments made in the research paper, based upon how convincing the results were obtained.

The structure of a research summary closely resembles the anatomy of a scholarly article . Additionally, you should keep your research and references limited to authentic and  scholarly sources only.

Tips for Writing a Research Summary

The core concept behind undertaking a research summary is to present a simple and clear understanding of your research paper to the reader. The biggest hurdle while doing that is the number of words you have at your disposal. So, follow the steps below to write a research summary that sticks.

1. Read the parent paper thoroughly

You should go through the research paper thoroughly multiple times to ensure that you have a complete understanding of its contents. A 3-stage reading process helps.

a. Scan: In the first read, go through it to get an understanding of its basic concept and methodologies.

b. Read: For the second step, read the article attentively by going through each section, highlighting the key elements, and subsequently listing the topics that you will include in your research summary.

c. Skim: Flip through the article a few more times to study the interpretation of various experimental results, statistical analysis, and application in different contexts.

Sincerely go through different headings and subheadings as it will allow you to understand the underlying concept of each section. You can try reading the introduction and conclusion simultaneously to understand the motive of the task and how obtained results stay fit to the expected outcome.

2. Identify the key elements in different sections

While exploring different sections of an article, you can try finding answers to simple what, why, and how. Below are a few pointers to give you an idea:


3. Prepare the first draft

Now that you’ve listed the key points that the paper tries to demonstrate, you can start writing the summary following the standard structure of a research summary. Just make sure you’re not writing statements from the parent research paper verbatim.

Instead, try writing down each section in your own words. This will not only help in avoiding plagiarism but will also show your complete understanding of the subject. Alternatively, you can use a summarizing tool (AI-based summary generators) to shorten the content or summarize the content without disrupting the actual meaning of the article.

SciSpace Copilot is one such helpful feature! You can easily upload your research paper and ask Copilot to summarize it. You will get an AI-generated, condensed research summary. SciSpace Copilot also enables you to highlight text, clip math and tables, and ask any question relevant to the research paper; it will give you instant answers with deeper context of the article..

4. Include visuals

One of the best ways to summarize and consolidate a research paper is to provide visuals like graphs, charts, pie diagrams, etc.. Visuals make getting across the facts, the past trends, and the probabilistic figures around a concept much more engaging.

5. Double check for plagiarism

It can be very tempting to copy-paste a few statements or the entire paragraphs depending upon the clarity of those sections. But it’s best to stay away from the practice. Even paraphrasing should be done with utmost care and attention.

6. Religiously follow the word count limit

You need to have strict control while writing different sections of a research summary. In many cases, it has been observed that the research summary and the parent research paper become the same length. If that happens, it can lead to discrediting of your efforts and research summary itself. Whatever the standard word limit has been imposed, you must observe that carefully.

7. Proofread your research summary multiple times

The process of writing the research summary can be exhausting and tiring. However, you shouldn’t allow this to become a reason to skip checking your academic writing several times for mistakes like misspellings, grammar, wordiness, and formatting issues. Your research summary can stand out from the others, provided it is drafted perfectly on both technicality and comprehension parameters.

8. Watch while you write

Keep a keen observation of your writing style. You should use the words very precisely, and in any situation, it should not represent your personal opinions on the topic. You should write the entire research summary in utmost impersonal, precise, factually correct, and evidence-based writing.

9. Ask a friend/colleague to help

Once you are done with the final copy of your research summary, you must ask a friend or colleague to read it. You must test whether your friend or colleague could grasp everything without referring to the parent paper. This will help you in ensuring the clarity of the article.

Once you become familiar with the research paper summary concept and understand how to apply the tips discussed above in your current task, summarizing a research summary won’t be that challenging. While traversing the different stages of your academic career, you will face different scenarios where you may have to create several research summaries.

In such cases, you just need to look for answers to simple questions like “Why this study is necessary,” “what were the methods,” “who were the participants,” “what conclusions were drawn from the research,” and “how it is relevant to the wider world.” Once you find out the answers to these questions, you can easily create a good research summary following the standard structure and a precise writing style.

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Common Problems in Article Summaries

Read carefully and closely, structure of the summary, writing the summary.

Understanding Article Summaries

An article summary is a short, focused paper about one scholarly article that is informed by a critical reading of that article. For argumentative articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the thesis and supporting arguments; for empirical articles, the summary identifies, explains, and analyses the research questions, methods, findings, and implications of the study.

Although article summaries are often short and rarely account for a large portion of your grade, they are a strong indicator of your reading and writing skills. Professors ask you to write article summaries to help you to develop essential skills in critical reading, summarizing, and clear, organized writing. Furthermore, an article summary requires you to read a scholarly article quite closely, which provides a useful introduction to the conventions of writing in your discipline (e.g. Political Studies, Biology, or Anthropology).

The most common problem that students have when writing an article summary is that they misunderstand the goal of the assignment. In an article summary, your job is to write about the article, not about the actual topic of the article. For example, if you are summarizing Smith’s article about the causes of the Bubonic plague in Europe, your summary should be about Smith’s article: What does she want to find out about the plague? What evidence does she use? What is her argument? You are not writing a paper about the actual causes of Bubonic plague in Europe.

Further, as a part of critical reading, you will often consider your own position on a topic or an argument; it is tempting to include an assessment or opinion about the thesis or findings, but this is not the goal of an article summary. Rather, you must identify, explain, and analyse the main point and how it is supported.

Your key to success in writing an article summary is your understanding of the article; therefore, it is essential to read carefully and closely. The Academic Skills Centre offers helpful instruction on the steps for critical reading: pre-reading, active and analytical reading, and reflection.

Argumentative Articles

As you read an argumentative article, consider the following questions:

Empirical Articles

As you read an empirical article, consider the following questions:

Create a Reverse Outline

Creating a reverse outline is one way to ensure that you fully understand the article. Pre-read the article (read the abstract, introduction, and/or conclusion). Summarize the main question(s) and thesis or findings. Skim subheadings and topic sentences to understand the organization; make notes in the margins about each section. Read each paragraph within a section; make short notes about the main idea or purpose of each paragraph. This strategy will help you to see how parts of the article connect to the main idea or the whole of the article.

A summary is written in paragraph form and generally does not include subheadings. An introduction is important to clearly identify the article, the topic, the question or purpose of the article, and its thesis or findings. The body paragraphs for a summary of an argumentative article will explain how arguments and evidence support the thesis. Alternatively, the body paragraphs of an empirical article summary may explain the methods and findings, making connections to predictions. The conclusion explains the significance of the argument or implications of the findings. This structure ensures that your summary is focused and clear.

Professors will often give you a list of required topics to include in your summary and/or explain how they want you to organize your summary. Make sure you read the assignment sheet with care and adapt the sample outlines below accordingly.

One significant challenge in writing an article summary is deciding what information or examples from the article to include. Remember, article summaries are much shorter than the article itself. You do not have the space to explain every point the author makes. Instead, you will need to explain the author’s main points and find a few excellent examples that illustrate these points.

You should also keep in mind that article summaries need to be written in your own words. Scholarly writing can use complex terminology to explain complicated ideas, which makes it difficult to understand and to summarize correctly. In the face of difficult text, many students tend to use direct quotations, saving them the time and energy required to understand and reword it. However, a summary requires you to summarize, which means “to state briefly or succinctly” (Oxford English Dictionary) the main ideas presented in a text. The brevity must come from you, in your own words, which demonstrates that you understand the article.

Sample Outlines and Paragraph

Sample outline for an argumentative article summary.

Sample Outline for an Empirical Article Summary

Sample Paragraph

The paragraph below is an example of an introductory paragraph from a summary of an empirical article:

Tavernier and Willoughby’s (2014) study explored the relationships between university students’ sleep and their intrapersonal, interpersonal, and educational development. While the authors cited many scholars who have explored these relationships, they pointed out that most of these studies focused on unidirectional correlations over a short period of time. In contrast, Tavernier and Willoughby tested whether there was a bidirectional or unidirectional association between participants’ sleep quality and duration and several psychosocial factors including intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement. Further they conducted a longitudinal study over a period of three years in order to determine whether there were changes in the strength or direction of these associations over time. They predicted that sleep quality would correlate with measures of intrapersonal adjustment, friendship quality, and academic achievement; they further hypothesized that this correlation would be bidirectional: sleep quality would predict psychosocial measures and at the same time, psychosocial measures would predict sleep quality.

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Links on this guide may go to external web sites not connected with Randolph Community College. Their inclusion is not an endorsement by Randolph Community College and the College is not responsible for the accuracy of their content or the security of their site.

When writing a summary, the goal is to compose a concise and objective overview of the original article. The summary should focus only on the article's main ideas and important details that support those ideas.

Guidelines for summarizing an article:

Your summary should include:

 Adapted from "Guidelines for Using In-Text Citations in a Summary (or Research Paper)" by Christine Bauer-Ramazani, 2020

Additional Resources

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How to Write a Summary - Guide & Examples  (from Scribbr.com)

Writing a Summary  (from The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center)

Six elements a research summary should include

example of research article summary

Summarizing a research paper (or papers) sounds like it should be a pretty quick, easy task. After all, how hard can writing 200 words be?! But whether you’re writing a summary to include in your essay or dissertation, or you need to draft a compelling abstract for your own paper, distilling complex research into an informative, easy-to-read snapshot can be one of the most daunting parts of the research process. For that reason, it’s often the activity that gets left to last.

Having a few questions top of mind while you draft your summary can really help to structure your thoughts and make sure you include the most important aspects of the research. In short, every academic summary should cover ‘the why’, ‘the how’, ‘the who’ and ‘the what’ of a study. Asking yourself the following six questions as you start to think about your summary can help you to structure your thoughts and find the right words.

1.    Why is this study necessary and important?

The ‘why’ can often be found in the first sentence of the introduction or background of a research article. Let’s have a look at a 2014 paper about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans (1) :

“ Plastic pollution  is globally distributed across all oceans due to its properties of buoyancy and durability, and the sorption of toxicants to plastic while traveling through the environment have led some researchers to claim that synthetic polymers in the ocean should be regarded as hazardous waste.”

Another quick way of identifying the ‘why’ of the research is to search for the subject of the study (eg. ‘Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans’) in Wikipedia. This can help inject wider significance into your research summary, for example:

“Waterborne plastic poses a serious threat to  fish ,  seabirds ,  marine reptiles , and  marine mammals , as well as to boats and coasts.”

The Abstract of this paper also points to a gap in the research – the lack of data on the amount of plastic waste in the Southern Hemisphere.

2.    Who were the participants?

It’s good practice to include statistical information about the study subjects or participants in your summary. This will quickly tell your reader how well the key findings are backed up. This part of the summary can combine a short narrative description of the participants (eg. age, location etc); what was ‘done’ to the participants as part of the study; what impact the study had on the participants and a brief description of the control group.

3.    What were the methods used?

How was the study carried out? What kind of materials were used to conduct the study and in what quantities or doses? Again, where possible include statistics here: number of materials; sample sizes; metrics (weight, volume, concentration etc). Here’s an example summary of a methods section from the above paper on ocean plastic:

“Net tows were conducted using neuston nets with a standard mesh size of 0.33 mm towed between 0.5 and 2 m s −1 at the sea surface  for 15–60 minutes outside of the vessel’s wake to avoid downwelling of debris. Samples were preserved in 5% formalin. Microplastic was manually separated from natural debris, sorted through stacked Tyler sieves into three size classes counted individually and weighed together.”

Including information about the consistency of methods or techniques used will help underline the credibility of the research.

4.    What were the key findings of the study?

Stick to the high level, headline finding of the research here. What do the quantitative results of the study reveal that was previously unknown? Again, including statistics where you can will help reinforce the findings, but remember to keep it brief. Here’s an example from the same plastic pollution paper:

“Based on the model results, the authors estimate that at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are currently floating at sea.”

5.    What conclusion was drawn from the research?

At this stage,  try to focus on the overall outcome of the research, but also what makes the study both significant and novel. What was uncovered as part of the research that wasn’t previously known? Do the results of the study tell us something different to what was previously known or assumed?

In the plastic pollution paper, what was previously unknown was an estimate of the amount of plastic in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. The authors explain that their results confirm the same pattern of dispersal in the Southern Hemisphere as for the Northern Hemisphere:

“Surprisingly, the total amounts of  plastics  determined for the  southern hemisphere  oceans are within the same range as for the  northern hemisphere  oceans, which is unexpected given that inputs are substantially higher in the northern than in the  southern hemisphere .”

6.    What kind of relevance does the research have for the wider world? (the big why)

Rounding off your summary with a powerful statement that shows how the outcome of the research has a wider significance is good practice. The ‘big why’ can often be found in the Discussion or at the end of the Conclusion of a research article, and often in the Abstract as well.

Including clear, concise research summaries in your essay or dissertation can be very beneficial in strengthening your argument and demonstrating your understanding of complex research, all of which can help to improve your final grade. Using this six-point formula as a way of structuring your summary will also help you to think more critically about the research you read and make it easier for you to communicate your understanding both verbally and in writing.

Try out Scholarcy’s Smart Summarizer to help draft your own research summary.

Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L., Carson, H., Thiel, M., Moore, C., Borerro, J., Galgani, F., Ryan, P. and Reisser, J., 2014. Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea.  PLoS ONE , 9(12), p.e111913.

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