This is a continuation of a previous blog post, how to critically read a journal article- so if you haven’t read that yet click https://drofwhat.com/2016/10/26/how-to-critically-read-an-article/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true . If you have, yay- you get a gold sticker!
So you have critically read an article and now it is important to summarise it. Why? So that you are sure you understand the content and it is also a great way to keep a record of the articles you’ve read. If you are doing research this is particularly important, you never know when these notes will come in handy. It also allows me to control F for a keyword and find a relevant article for the different chapters of my thesis!
I keep my summaries in a word document- and these are my tips and an overview of the structure that I use.
Title- Take your time to put the authors details, the title of the article and the year it was published as the title. You will be grateful for taking the time rather than writing – “Jones et al- shark behaviour” which you may never, ever find on google again!
Then I start to summarise the important points of the article- the sections you highlighted when reading. I have a very specific way that I summarise and you obviously do not have to use my technique- but I think being consistent is essential. It gives structure to your summary and avoids confusion when you are looking back on a summary you may have completed over a year earlier.
1) I use the same subheadings (e.g. methods) that the article includes and put these in italics- that way I can find the sections easily if I need to reread the article for further clarification.
2) Anything I copy directly from the article I put in quotation marks so I know I cannot use this exact sentence in my writing! Plagiarism is obviously not allowed!
3) I put any notes that I have paraphrased into the document normally (in plain text). I therefore know that this information requires referencing but not rewording.
4) I put my own thoughts (criticisms, ideas etc.) in capitals and highlighted. I therefore know that these sections are my own thoughts and that I do not need to reference them.
5) I then put any particularly important information into my ‘thesis’ onenote notebook. This way I can look at my notebook and remember specific ideas I had about my chapters and studies. I have ideas for my own writing all the time when I am reading articles and this ensures I do not forget them.
This may seem really simple, but having an easy, organised and consistent format for summarising makes your research/uni life that little bit easier.