A Guide to Effective Summary Response Essays

If you’ve been tasked to write a summary response essay but are unsure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this quick guide on the basics of summary response essays. We’ll cover everything from its definition and writing tips to a sample outline for summary response essay.

This is a less common type of essay that requires a certain style and approach that differs from other types of essays. But with the help of this guide, you’ll be able to make the writing process much easier.

What is a Summary Response Essay

Summary response essays are two-part essays that include a summary of an article, essay, chapter or report and a response to it.

It is not a formal paper or essay because it does not have an introduction, body, or conclusion like other essays. This type of essay instead consists of a summary of the reading followed by a response to the reading.

To better understand this type of essay, it’s best to look at its two parts separately in the next section.

What to Include in Your Essay


The summary is a concise round-up of all the main ideas in an essay or writing. It cites all the relevant details about the work you’re reviewing. Your summary can include the following:

  • Author and the work’s title (typically in the first sentence).
  • The thesis of the essay and its supporting ideas
  • It may use direct quotations to provide forceful or concise statements of the author’s ideas

Most summaries present the main points in the order they were made by the author and continually referred back to the article being summarized. Your summary should not exceed one-third the length of the original work.


Responses are critiques or evaluations of an author’s work. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions for the article being summarized.

This examines ideas that you agree or disagree with. It identifies the work’s strengths and weaknesses by looking at its organization and style. You should use examples and evidence to support the opinions in your response.

A good response must contain

  • Facts
  • Examples
  • Personal experiences

Depending on your stance, these can either refute or support the article you’re responding to.

Steps for Writing a Summary Response Essay

Identify the main idea of the reading.

Create a topic sentence that describes the main idea of your reading for your summary. For your response, create a separate thesis statement that states your opinion on the author’s main idea.

Add supporting details for the summary and response.

Next, identify the supporting facts of the reading. In the summary paragraph, it is important to keep the order of the supporting details. Consider how these points relate to the author’s main idea.

Develop the supporting details for the response paragraph, highlighting how your evidence or personal experience supports the thesis statement you’ve created.

Identify the author’s purpose for writing.

It’s helpful to get to know the goal that the author wants to achieve through their work.

For your summary, try to ask yourself:

  • Why did the author write this?
  • Is there anything specific that the author wants me to know?
  • Does the author want me to do something after reading this? 

And in your response, discuss whether or not the author was successful in achieving the goal of their work.

Write a summary response to the reading.

Given all the data you’ve gathered from the first three steps, you can start writing your summary and the response paragraphs. Make sure to include all the necessary information and be detailed but not flowery. 

General Outline for Summary Response Essay

Summary Paragraph

  • Provide the title and author’s name to introduce the work the essay will discuss. Additionally, state the author’s main idea.
  • Write supporting sentences that describe the supporting details of the work.
  • Let this information come together in a sentence that explains the author’s reason or goal for writing the piece.

Response Paragraph

  • Clearly state your opinions or thoughts about the author’s main idea. Use the thesis statement you created in the earlier steps. You can also ask yourself: Does my opinion regarding the reading relate to the author’s main idea?
  • Put your personal experience into a supporting sentence (or sentences) describing how your opinion or thoughts support or go against the author’s main idea.
  • Write a sentence summarizing this information and explain how your opinion or thought relates to the author’s main idea.

Wrapping Up

A summary response essay typically includes a summary of the reading followed by your thoughts and reactions. It may seem like a long and daunting task, but with a little guidance, you can be confident you’re up for the challenge.

Use the writing tips and outline for summary response essay sample in this essay to help you easily get started!

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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