How to Write a Summary APA Style

Summarizing the contents of your work is an excellent method to pique the interest of a potential reader. But do you know how to write a summary APA style?

When presented with a lengthy piece of writing, most readers will either scan it or turn first to the author’s summary. In an academic setting, reading the abstract is a great way to grasp a paper’s main points before diving into the body.

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What Is a Summary?

A summary, synopsis, overview, or informative abstract, is a condensed version of the source material. Summaries are written to save readers time by distilling the key points from longer works like books and articles.

Literature reviews are a subset of summaries that adhere to the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines. 

References and paraphrased text must adhere to the APA’s guidelines for citation. It is common practice for writers and students in the social sciences, business, and nursing to adopt the APA style when writing summaries.

How to Write a Summary APA Style

The summary is meant to be a thorough representation of the main topic. To write a summary using the APA format, one should take a topic and divide it into a few more minor arguments or parts. Use the following guidelines to write a tremendous APA-style summary.

1. Correct Use of Terms

You should include basic information about the source you’re summarizing (author, title, etc.) right at the start of your paper. Then, zero down on the most relevant parts of the text to convey the gist of what was said.

The aim is to show your teacher that you’ve digested the material and can summarize its significance in a few carefully chosen phrases.

Experts suggest capping your summary at a quarter of the length of the original material. Summarizing is not the same as analyzing, reviewing, or criticizing.

Therefore, refrain from including your thoughts and feelings. Do not include any critical evaluations or counterarguments (unless such points are explicitly addressed in the original text). Pay attention to the meat of the text and address the author’s stated goals in doing so.

2. Voice and Perspective

Use simple, direct language and the present tense to write your summary. According to experts, a summary should use everyday vocabulary and plain language instead of clichés, figurative language, and technical terminology.

The APA dictates that you utilize the active voice instead of the passive one. So, verify that the subject of each of your sentences is performing the activity. Using the active voice and the present tense helps readers focus on the central idea.

3. APA Literature Review Style

The APA format is frequently used for literature reviews. A literature review is not the same as a book review or a critical analysis of a piece of writing.

Literature reviews provide a critical summary of what scientific literature says about your unique topic or question. A literature review requires demonstrating your knowledge of the subject and the context in which you should conduct your research.

When writing a literature review according to APA guidelines, you must include at the very least:

  • A title page
  • Opening paragraph
  • List of references.

4. Use of APA in-Text Referencing Style

If necessary, reference specific passages within the body of your summary. Don’t use direct quotes or paraphrase unless doing so is essential to understanding the information.

Minimize the number of words used in your summary by being as concise as possible. Remember to give proper citations if you quote or paraphrase from another source.

The components of in-text citations required are the author’s last name, publication date, and page numbers in parentheses after a direct quote or paraphrase.

For example, the probability of gaining weight after 35 years and above varies from person to person. Some people don’t add weight, while others do (Stevenson, 1813, p.88).

5. References

The APA style dictates that you utilize a reference page to list the sources from which you pulled information for your summary.

References should be centered at the top of the page; however, it should not be bolded or italicized. The first line should be flush left, and subsequent lines should be indented to show alphabetical order based on the author’s last name.

Please double-space between each citation. The original text of the work being summarized may be the sole source necessary.


Knowing how to write a summary in APA style is a knowledge that can come in handy with many things, including writing research papers. By learning and practicing these skills, you will be able to showcase your academic prowess when you graduate.

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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