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Biology: BIO 140

This subject guide will help you find resources in Biology.

Information Literacy Session BIO 140

York College Logo Information Literacy Session BIO 140

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How to Summarize an Article

Summarizing Scientific or Research Articles

1. State the purpose of the experiment or research study. This is, in essence, the "topic" of the article. Explain what the research was about and why the researcher felt inclined to research it.

·         Indicate if or how the researcher's purpose meshes with the purpose of your own essay as you introduce the article.

·         Briefly mention the authority of those performing the research to lend validity to the summary and the article.

2. Explain the researcher's hypothesis. In the introduction of your summary, mention what the researcher expected to find by the end of his or her research.

·         Do not hint around about whether the hypothesis was correct.

3. Describe the method used to find the results.[3] In order to lend further credibility to the research article in question, you need to describe how the experiment was set up in clear, simple terms.

·         Mention who the subjects were.

·         Describe the design of the experiment. This includes the timeline for the experiment, how subjects were split up, and what distinguished the experimental group from the control group.

·         Also describe the tasks or actions subjects needed to take during the duration of the experiment.

4. Mention the results. After describing the method used, state what the results of the experiment were.

·         Include percentages and rates if applicable.

·         Mention any irregularities in the results.

5. Explain how the researcher analyzes those results. State what the researcher concluded based on his or her own results.

  • Do not include your own analysis in the summary. If you do analyze the results, do so in another portion of your paper.Some Rights Reserved

How to Write an Article Review

An article review is both a summary and an evaluation of another writer's article. Professors often assign article reviews to introduce students to the work of experts in the field. Experts also are often asked to review the work of other professionals. Understanding the main points and arguments of the article is essential for an accurate summation. Logical evaluation of the article's main theme, supporting arguments, and implications for further research is an important element of a review. Here are a few guidelines for writing an article review. (

1. Understand what an article review is. An article review is written for an audience who is knowledgeable in the subject matter instead of a general audience. When writing an article review, you will summarize the main ideas, arguments, positions, and findings, and then critique the article's contributions to the field and overall effectiveness.

·         Article reviews present more than just an opinion. You will engage with the text to create a response to the scholarly writer's ideas. You will respond to and use ideas, theories, and research from your own studies. Your critique of the article will be based on proof and your own thoughtful reasoning.

·         An article review only responds to the author's research. It does not provide any new research.[2]

·         An article review both summarizes and evaluates the article.


2. Think about the organization of the review article. Before you even begin reading the article you will review, you need to understand how your article review will be set up. This will help you understand how to read the article so that you can write an effective review. Your review will be set up in the following parts:

·         Summarize the article. Focus on the important points, claims, and information.

·         Discuss the positive aspects of the article. Think about what the author does well, good points she makes, and insightful observations.[3]

·         Identify contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the text.[4] Determine if there is enough data or research included to support the author's claims. Find any unanswered questions left in the article.


3. Preview the article. Begin by looking at the title, abstract, introduction, headings, opening sentences of each paragraph, and the conclusion. Then read the first few paragraphs, followed by the conclusion.[6] These steps should help you start to identify the author's arguments and main points. Then read the article in its entirety. When you read the first time, just read for the big picture – that is, look for the overall argument and point the article is making.[7]

·         Make note of words or issues you don't understand and questions you have.

·         Look up terms or concepts you are unfamiliar with so you can fully understand the article.

4. Read the article closely. Read the article a second and third time. Use a highlighter or pen to make notes or highlight important sections. Highlight the main points and the supporting facts.[8]

Don't: highlight every paragraph — just the central points.
Do: supplement the most important points with notes or cross-references.

·         Connect what you read in the article to your existing knowledge of the topic. Think about things you have discussed in class or other articles you have read. Does the article agree or disagree with your previous knowledge? Does it build on other knowledge from the field? Determine how the article you are reviewing is similar and different from other texts you've read on the subject.

·         Pay careful attention to the meaning of the article. Make sure you fully understand the article. The only way to write a good article review is to understand the article.


5. Put the article into your own words. You can do this as a freewritten paragraph or as an outline. Start by putting the article in your own words. Focus on the argument, research, and claims the article makes. Make sure to include all the important points. It is pivotal that you are accurate.[9]

Don't: spend time on editing or phrasing. This is just for your own benefit.
Do: write in a clear, logical structure to test your understanding.

·         With either method, make an outline of the main points made in the article and the supporting research or arguments. It is strictly a restatement of the main points of the article and does not include your opinions.

·         After putting the article in your own words, decide which parts of the article you want to discuss in your review. You can focus on the theoretical approach, the content, the presentation or interpretation of evidence, or the style. You will always discuss the main issues of the article, but you can sometimes also focus on certain aspects. This comes in handy if you want to focus the review towards the content of a course.[10]

·         Review the summary outline to eliminate unnecessary items. Erase or cross out the less important arguments or supplemental information.

6. Write an outline of your evaluation. Review each item in the article summary to determine whether the author was accurate and clear. Write down all instances of effective writing, new contributions to the field, as well as areas of the article that need improvement. Create a list of strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the article may be that it presents a clear summation of a particular issue. Its weakness may be that it does not offer any new information or solutions. Use specific examples and references. For example, the article might have incorrectly reported the facts of a popular study. Jot down this observation in your outline and look up the facts of the study to confirm your observation. Think about the following questions to help you critique and engage with the article:

·         What does the article set out to do?

·         What is the theoretical framework or assumptions?

·         Are the central concepts clearly defined?

·         How adequate is the evidence?

·         How does the article fit into the literature and field?

·         Does it advance the knowledge of the subject?

·         How clear is the author's writing?[11]

Don't: include superficial opinions or your personal reaction.
Do: pay attention to your own biases, so you can overcome them.

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How to Read and Review a Scientific Journal Article: Writing Summaries and Critiques

 Before you begin the first draft of your summary: 

  • Try to describe the article in your own words first. 
  • Try to distill the article down to its “scientific essence.” 
  • Include all the key points and be accurate. 
  • A reader who has not read the original article should be able to understand your summary

 Write a draft of your summary: 

  • Don’t look at the article while writing, to make it easier to put the information in your own words and avoid unintentional plagiarism.
  • Refer back to the article later for details and facts. 
  • Ask yourself questions as you write: 
    • What is the purpose of the study?
    • What questions were asked? 
    • How did the study address these questions? 
    • What assumptions did the author make? 
    • What were the major findings? 
    • What surprised you or struck you as interesting?
    • What questions are still unanswered? 

Credit : Pechenik, Jan A. "Writing Summaries and Critiques." A Short Guide to Writing about Biology. Ed. Rebecca Gilpin. 6th ed. New York: Pearson, 2007. 130-138. (Duke University)

Further Reading