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Summarizing academic articles

Use this summary sheet to help you read and make sense of especially dense, complex academic articles. Depending on your purpose for reading, taking long, detailed notes may not be efficient or effective. Instead of spending hours taking notes only to finish with a poor understanding of the content, break your process down into three steps:

  • skim the article for the big signs (e.g., topic, organization, subheadings);
  • go back to read and annotate the article (i.e., notes in the margins, some highlighting (about 20% of each paragraph));
  • then write the information on a summary sheet like this one. Reading with the summary’s questions and subsections in mind can help you organize the information as you take it in.

The academic article summary sheet is also available as a PDF!

Details and key termsSummary and connections

Article details






Key terms (3-5)


Explanation in your own words











Brief summary of the article

What is the main argument? What evidence does the author use to support it? (300 words max)




Connections to other readings / course material / your own work:

Does the article agree or disagree with other articles you’ve read? Does it build on them, or help explain something you’ve read? Does it help you understand a course learning objective? Does it connect to relevant material from other courses you’ve taken?