APA writing format, or the standards of the American Psychological Association, sets writing guidelines for professional or academic papers. The APA Publication Manual addresses thousands of technical writing details in more than 270 pages, including proper summarization techniques. Summarization refers to providing a complete overview of a passage, article or book. People often summarize movies in daily life, telling the plot and what happened and condensing the entire movie to five or six sentences. Writers use the same technique more formally by following a few simple steps.

Step 1

Read the material. Take notes, if needed. Focus on the main ideas and the key points.

Step 2

Summarize the main idea of the passage. Use your own words. Refer to a dictionary and thesaurus for reference help, either hard copies or online versions. Another approach is to summarize each paragraph in one or two sentences. Combine, reword and rework each paragraph until they flow together smoothly.

Step 3

Paraphrase or reword any ideas that support your main topic. Look for bold or italicized words. Even photo captions can offer ideas to include in the summarization.

Step 4

Quote any key phrases directly, using the appropriate APA format for citing sources.

Step 5

Avoid paraphrasing, which differs from summarizing. Summarizing means you use your own words, focusing on the key ideas of the article. Summaries shorten the material and can be as brief as one or two sentences to address a whole article. A paraphrase is longer. Paraphrasing means you reword source material; you condense and shorten the material.


You must use references and credit original sources in both summaries and paraphrasing. Failing to do so constitutes plagiarism, which means you have taken someone else's material and used it as if it were your own.

Related Articles