Research Summary: A Guide with Steps, Structure, Tips, and Examples

Last Updated: 24 August 2023

Writing a research summary is among the many assignments students encounter in college- and university-level education. A research summary, also known as the research precis or synopsis, is a piece of writing that summarizes or condenses the content of a research paper, peer-reviewed journal article, dissertation, or any scholarly journal of preference.

The research summary is a precise document that comprehensively gives the readers a detailed overview of a research study, including the research problem, purpose statement, objectives, methodology, results/findings, and implications for future study, usually taking the structure of the article or research paper (whatever document you are summarizing). This means it preserves the sections.

When assigned to write a research summary, you must ensure it meets the requirements stated in the prompt. Usually, most students do not get it right in the first attempt.

Now that you are here, this brief guide takes you through the steps our research paper experts have always used to produce the best research summary that captivates readers.

Purpose of a Research Summary

Why is a research summary critical, or why are you given such assignments? The world is fast-paced, and nobody would mind reading a succinct synopsis of a research study compared to spending hours trying to get the gist of an article or a research study. Research summary plays a critical role.

The scientific and academic community relies on research summaries for various reasons:

  1. Accessing information. The research summaries condense the information of large research projects or studies, which makes complex findings and conclusions accessible to a broad audience. Readers can quickly access the information without reading an entire research paper.
  2. Knowledge Dissemination. Summaries quickly disseminate critical information to a broader audience, including policymakers, the public, and professionals.
  3. Review and Evaluation. Peer reviewers and editors request research summaries to quickly pick your brains and thought process on a topic. They use summaries to assess the significance and quality of the research article before accepting it for publication.
  4. Decision-making. Stakeholders and policymakers prefer to read research briefs or synopsis of studies to make quick and informed decisions.
  5. Testing summarization skills. Instructors assign research summary assignments to assess your skills in condensing information concisely.
  6. Saving Time. Reading research summaries saves time for researchers, academics, and professionals as they can get up-to-date information on the latest trends and developments in a field without reading full-length abstracts or articles.
  7. Evidence-based practice. In nursing, psychology, sociology, and other fields, research summaries help decision-makers and practitioners to implement the latest evidence into their daily practice or operations. Instead of spending too much time reading research articles, they can read the summaries and focus on what they want.
  8. Research summaries can be used as educational resources to facilitate students and researchers in understanding various research aspects, methodologies, analysis techniques, and findings in a specific area. For nurses and other professions, it enhances professional growth and gives confidence when practicing.

Research Summaries vs. Abstracts vs. Article Critique

There are notable differences between research summaries, abstracts, and article critique papers. The table below highlights the significant differences between the three assignments.



Article Critique

Research Summary


Provides a concise overview of the research study.

Provides an overview of a more extensive research study or paper; it includes the abstract.

Critical analysis and evaluation of a research article.


It should be concise, usually limited to 150-250 words.

Longer than a summary and includes an in-depth analysis and evaluation of the article.

Shorter and more condensed than the original article.


Briefly outline the research question, methodology, results, and conclusions.

Analyzes the strengths, weaknesses, methodology, and implications of the research.

Presents the key points or arguments, key findings, and significant conclusions.


It should be objective with no critical evaluation.

It includes critical thinking and judgment about the research being critiqued. It focuses on extant issues such as researcher credibility, conflict of interest, age of the citations, etc.

It should be objective. It does not include a critical evaluation.


Objective and neutral.

It includes the reviewer's insights, opinions, and perspectives supported with evidence and examples.

Objective and neutral tone.

Additional Components

Includes the keywords

It may include an introduction, conclusions, recommendations, and personal reflections.

No additional components

References or Citations

No citations or references

May include references and in-text citations to support the critique

May cite the original research paper for context

The summary of the differences shows that the three are different in structure and purpose. For more detailed guides, check our detailed dedicated guides below:

The Seven Steps for Writing a Detailed Research Paper Summary

Research drives academia the same way it anchors practice and survival in real-world settings.

Each year, researchers from different fields set out to conduct research on specific issues. Consequently, there are millions of published scholarly articles in different subject-specific journals.

Your instructor or professor will give you an article or advise you on selecting an article and expect you to write a practical research summary, then assess and grade you.

Here are the bold steps to create a research summary faster without compromising quality.

Step 1: Read and Understand the Research Paper or Article

Assuming you have read the assignment brief, which naturally comes first in any assignment, your next step is to identify and download the article whose summary you will write. As soon as you have the article, you can print it or store it on your computer.

The first step in writing a research summary is thoroughly reading and comprehending the original research paper or study. Therefore, begin by skimming the article from its title to the end.

Starting from the title gives you a sneak peek into the focus of the study. As you advance, take your time to understand the research objectives, methodology, results, and conclusions.

You should go beyond the title by identifying the main arguments, study design, sampling strategies, study subjects, sample size, significant findings, and supporting evidence.

If you encounter complex terms, phrases, or concepts, research them further to ensure an accurate comprehension.

Step 2: Identify the Core Elements

By now, you would have had a good grasp of the essence of the research. You need to identify the core elements to feature in your summary. These typically include the research question, methodology, key results, and major conclusions. Let us explore the main elements of a research summary in detail:

When reading the article critically to identify the components explained above, ensure that you take notes or highlight the article using different color codes to make it easy when writing the first draft. Organize your notes as per the research paper structure or sections.  

Step 3: Craft a Clear and Concise Introduction

The notes you took should serve as discussion points for your summary. Begin writing your research summary with a clear and concise introduction that grabs the reader's attention.

To do this, briefly introduce the research topic and its significance in the broader context of the field. State the purpose of your summary and signpost the ideas the readers should expect.

Your thesis statement should be based on the main findings or purpose of the research.

Step 4: Summarize the Research Question and Objectives

This section summarizes the research question or problem the original study aimed to address.

Keep it succinct and focused, providing enough context for readers to understand the purpose of the research. It should be easy to do this because you have your reading notes with you.

Remember to be very brief, elaborate, and to the point.

Step 5: Explain the Methodology

Give an overview of the research methodology used in the study.

When writing this section, you should concisely cover the research design, data collection methods, and any specific procedures used.

Avoid getting into excessive technical details, but ensure you cover the essentials that give readers an understanding of how the study was conducted.

Step 6: Present the Key Results

Present the most crucial findings and results from the research.

Focus on the outcomes that directly address the research question or objectives.

Incorporate relevant statistics or significant data, and use clear and straightforward language to convey complex findings.

If your professor requires you to use external sources to explain the findings (supporting the interpretations made by the researchers), or if you want to show that you understand the topic better, get scholarly peer-reviewed sources to evaluate the findings.

You should not focus on your personal opinions and biases, nor should you bring your interpretations. It is a summary of what the researchers found from their research.

Step 7: Discuss the Major Conclusions

Discuss the major conclusions drawn from the research.

Highlight how the results contribute to the existing knowledge in the field and any implications they might have.

While presenting the conclusions, ensure that your research summary objectively reflects the interpretations of the researcher (s). DO NOT introduce personal opinions.

Step 8: Review and Edit

After completing the initial draft, review your research summary paper for clarity, coherence, competence, and conciseness.

You should assess the entire paper for grammatical, spelling, and stylistic mistakes. Ensure that you do not have run-on lines and have used tenses correctly. Check for any omissions, typos, or awkward phrasings that could affect the overall quality of your paper.

Also, ensure that the research summary meets the specified word count and the length guidelines, if applicable.

Related: Tips for including an article's title when writing a paper.

Components of a Research Summary

A typical research summary, otherwise referred to as a research brief or précis, must align with a given structure. It has several components that each serve a specific purpose in conveying the purpose of the original research concisely. Since most articles use the IMRAD format, it is the same structure for research summaries.

Below is the standard structure for a typical research summary:

  1. Title. The title of the research summary paper should be clear and reflect the focus of the study being summarized.
  2. Abstract. The abstract provides a brief overview of the entire research summary. It includes a concise statement of the research question, methodology, key findings, and significant conclusions. The abstract should be written after the entire summary has been crafted, highlighting the most critical points.
  3. Introduction. The introduction section introduces the research topic and its significance. It provides context for the research and outlines the purpose of the summary paper.
  4. Research Question/Objectives. This section states the main research question or objectives the original study sought to address.
  5. Methodology. Your summary should describe the research design, data collection methods, and any specific procedures used during the study.
  6. Results. In this part, you should present the key findings and results, focusing on the outcomes directly related to the research question or objectives.
  7. Discussion. In the discussion section, explain the major conclusions drawn from the study and their implications. It may also discuss how the results contribute to the existing knowledge in the field.
  8. Conclusion. In the conclusion section, briefly summarize the main points presented in the research summary and may offer final thoughts on the significance of the research.
  9. References. In this last section of the summary paper, you should include a list of the sources (citations) used in the research summary paper. Ensure all sources are correctly cited following the required citation style (APA, MLA, ASA, CHICAGO, HARVARD, TURABIAN, etc.).

You should note that the length and specific sections of a research summary paper might vary depending on the guidelines provided by your instructor or institutional requirements. Besides, some summaries may include additional sections like acknowledgments or a list of keywords used in the paper.

Always follow the prescribed format and requirements for your research summary paper. If no structure is provided, you can use the one we provided – it is the standard.

Read more about writing a precis for a research paper from this short guide by the University of Washington.

Tips for Writing an Effective Precis for a Research Paper

If you rush to complete a research summary before a deadline, here are some valuable tips to help you make it compelling, captivating, and insightful.

  1. Be Objective. When writing the summary, maintain an unbiased tone by sticking to facts and research findings. Do not weave in your opinions or interpretation. Focus on what the researchers did and reported.
  2. Write an outline. To write a research summary fast, ensure you have a research outline to help you visualize the first draft.
  3. Use visuals if necessary. Some instructors insist on including visuals from the original article. Ensure that you label and cite them accordingly.
  4. Avoid plagiarism. As you borrow quotes from the article or paraphrase ideas, ensure you cite everything. Include the page number in the in-text citation.
  5. Write Concisely. Aim to keep the summary within the prescribed length, focusing on the most relevant information. Going overboard will only make you have fluff instead of great content. Your summary paper should be succinct enough to cover the content without irrelevant information.
  6. Use Clear Language. You should write the research summary in a formal tone. Therefore, avoid jargon and complex terms. Instead, opt for simple and understandable language. You should be professional when presenting every section to sound subjective.
  7. Maintain Logical Flow. Organize your summary logically, ensuring one section smoothly transitions into the next.
  8. Cite Properly. If you include direct quotes or references from the original research, ensure proper citation following the required style format.
  9. Double-Check Accuracy. Make sure you accurately represent the researchers' work and avoid any misinterpretations. Ensure you polish your summary by checking and correcting grammatical, formatting, flow, and spelling errors.
  10. Use a third eye. Have a peer or mentor review your summary to provide valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Research Summary Examples

Let us examine two exceptionally written research summary sample papers to contextualize everything. Remember, these are samples used for illustrative purposes and should not be lifted (uncited) into your assignments. The example research summaries detail the main components of a research summary.

Research Summary Example 1

Title: Research on the Effects of Exercise on Mental Health
This research study investigates the relationship between regular exercise and mental health outcomes. With the growing prevalence of mental health disorders, understanding the potential benefits of exercise in improving mental well-being has become increasingly important.
The study employed a randomized controlled trial design, with participants (n=100) aged 25 to 40 years randomly assigned to either an exercise or a control group. The exercise group engaged in a 12-week aerobic exercise program, while the control group maintained regular daily activities.
After the 12-week intervention, participants in the exercise group showed significant improvements in mental health indicators compared to the control group. They reported reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, along with higher self-esteem and better overall mood.
The findings suggest that regular aerobic exercise can significantly improve mental health outcomes among young adults. The positive effects observed in this study align with existing literature, supporting the integration of exercise as a complementary intervention in mental health treatment plans.

Research Summary Sample 2

Title: Research on Sustainable Agriculture Practices


This research study investigates the impact of sustainable agriculture practices on crop yields and environmental sustainability. As concerns about food security and environmental degradation continue to rise, finding sustainable approaches to agriculture is crucial.


The study employed a mixed-methods approach, combining field experiments with surveys of farmers. The experimental phase involved implementing sustainable practices, such as crop rotation, organic fertilization, and integrated pest management, on a sample of farms. The surveys gathered data on farmer perceptions and attitudes toward sustainable practices.


The results indicate that farms implementing sustainable practices experienced improved crop yields over time, with an average increase of 15% compared to conventional farms. Additionally, the surveys revealed a positive correlation between farmer awareness of sustainable practices and their willingness to adopt these methods.


The findings highlight the potential benefits of sustainable agriculture practices in enhancing crop productivity while reducing the environmental impact of farming. The study underscores the importance of promoting awareness and education among farmers to encourage adopting sustainable practices on a broader scale.

Now that everything is clear ….

Research summary writing can be a thorn in the flesh if you do not know how to go about it. However, when you skim and read the article critically, organize ideas, and follow the structure of the research paper, everything falls into its place.

We hope this comprehensive step-by-step guide will help you write a perfect summary paper.

If you are in a phase where you are doing a lot of research, here are some helpful guides:

We wish you the best of luck as you settle in to do your research summary assignment. However, if, for one reason or another, you cannot do it on your own; our research paper helpers can assist you in achieving your objectives. We understand the endless challenges that come the way, affecting your productivity.

Worse, you can have all the time and forget about the research paper until the last minute. Our professional writers will help you with the research summary paper and well-researched essays, term papers, and dissertation papers. Help is just one click away (visit our homepage and fill out the order form).