Summary and Response Assignment

Summary and response assignments (4)

One every four weeks (week 4, 8, 12, 16)

Unit 1 summary will receive a “pencil grade” that can be erased if you revise it before you write your second summary and response.

Value: 25 points each.


Although Electronic Communication is primarily a professional writing class, I am asking you to read four academic articles that should be relevant to our work in this class, give you a taste of the kind of scholarship being done primarily in the sub-field of rhetoric and composition, and help you hone your academic reading and writing skills.

Summaries can take many forms, but for the kind of academic textual summary I am asking you to do, I will expect the following.

  1. A proper MLA or APA citation of the article.
  2. A concise paraphrase, even quotation of the article’s thesis or main point.
  3. Concise paraphrases of the major supporting claims. Direct quotation of key phrases is welcome, but don’t turn the summary into a copy and paste paragraph; show your ability to paraphrase and construct a summary in your own words.
  4. Consistent documentation of page numbers that show me you are directly quoting or paraphrasing from a specific page in the article. All direct quotations and paraphrases should be followed by a specific page (or two if the quotation crosses page numbers); a more generally summary of a who section might receive a three or four page documentation (pp 22-25).
  5. This thesis + summary of major supporting claims should result in a paragraph 5-7 sentences long.
  6. A response paragraph. General questions you might consider: what did you learn from the article? How is what you learned relevant to your education and future profession? Do you have any questions about the article (questions that you would like me to try and answer)? Do you see any problems with the article’s methodology, data, or conclusions?
  7. The finished paper should be two paragraphs, each 5-7 sentences long that demonstrate detailed, precise knowledge of the article read.   Ideally, someone could read your summary and have a pretty clear understanding of what the text said, and a clear understanding of why you responded as you have done.

I will grade the summaries holistically, but I will score the summary out of 13 and the response out of 12.

Below, you will see this same information (plus some additional tips) presented in the form I am asking you to use: an academic summary and response paper. You might encounter similar assignments in other advanced classes; you will definitely do this kind of work if you pursue a graduate degree.


Your name

English 457

My name



Citation (most academic article tells you how to make a proper citation).


The summary paragraph should start very directly with a quotation or paraphrase of the article’s thesis. No need for a long, general introduction—cut right to the chase. In academic articles of the length and complexity you will be summarizing, there will often be a two or three paragraph introduction before the author or authors state their thesis. They won’t typically go much deeper than the 3rd to 5th paragraph before they state, as clearly as they can, their thesis, central point, or main claim. A thesis is usually a statement that can be argued, not just a description of “what we are going to do this paper.” In long academic articles, the thesis is often followed by a sentence that functions as warrant; a warrant tells readers why the thesis is important. Academic articles will often follow the thesis and warrant with what is called a “forecast” or an “essay map.” In other words, an outline of what the article is going to cover.


Sometimes the essay map corresponds really closely to the headings used in the article, sometimes the map and the headings aren’t tightly connected. Regardless, pay close attention to the section headings because they often summarize really succinctly the key idea or claim of the section; also pay close attention to the subheadings in the essay, within the sections. You might want to outline any essay you are summarizing, using the authors’ headings and subheadings. Write a sentence or two about each section so you can see on one page, in your words, what the authors are saying. You might end up writing a 10-14 sentence outline of the article which you will then try to boil down into a 5-7 sentence summary for me. If you are having trouble understanding the “heart of the essay,” focus on understanding the Introduction and the Conclusion. Authors will typically be introducing and then summarizing their key ideas in those sections; the middle section provide elaboration, backing, and support for their ideas. As you can see, writing summaries also means closely reading the material you are summarizing, and coming to a really good, thorough understanding. Reading and outlining might take you somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes.


For these summaries, I am asking you to identify at least three key ideas or claims, so you can pick what you think are the three most important claims or key ideas in the article. Those three ideas should also be the ones that you want to respond to you in the response paragraph of the essay.


The response paragraph is a little more loosely defined, but two key moves will be responding to the material you have actually summarized, rather than some aspect of the article you might not have summarized, and then connecting your response to the course work, career plans, something concrete and relevant.


Good luck with these summary and response assignments; they have the potential to be really powerful learning tools, both because of the content the articles provide and the skills you will develop as a reader of scholarship and a writer of good, clear, summaries and responses.


Three of the four articles can be found in Blackboard, and you can submit your summary and response directly in Blackboard. The fourth article will be one of your own choosing. Demonstrate that you understand what an academic, scholarly article looks like based on your selection. You are welcome to copy and paste the response to your blog, of course, but I don’t want to mess with your tone and style if you think an academic post would be out of place.

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