Summarizing (also known as glossing) involves giving a short overview of another writer’s project (i.e., her aims, methods, and materials)(Harris 2006, 24) in a given work or passage, including the main and salient point(s). When choosing what to quote and what to paraphrase, try to paraphrase what is clear or routine, and to quote those phrases and passages that you want to use or respond to in some way, e.g., key terms or phrasings, or problematic or suggestive phrases, etc. A good guiding rule to follow is that the summary should be something that the original writer would agree fairly represents their project (i.e., it is generous), but that brings into focus the aspects that are useful for your own project (i.e., it is assertive). It is necessary to attribute the summarized ideas to the original source and reference them, whether they are quoted or paraphrased. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.


  1. Attribute to show that you are summarizing someone else’s words (e.g., author name and/or title of work)
  2. Use reporting verbs/structures (to suggest how strongly the writer held/stated his/her opinion)
  3. Use the same key terms/vocabulary as the writer (defining if necessary)
  4. Include all the key claims of the argument
  5. Include any key examples/details (but not the minor/unnecessary ones)
  6. Use mainly your own paraphrases, but also include “short quotes” of key phrases with properly formatted in-text references.
  7. Don’t explicitly state your own ideas, examples or opinions (yet)!
  8. Read your summary and check it is i) a fair representation of the original and ii) shorter than the original!


According to Adler, even though many people assume that happiness is subjective and thus different for everyone, this is a simplification (1984, 6-7). Certainly, as Aristotle admitseven the same man identifies it with different things at different times (Aristotle, cited in Adler 1984, 6); things such as wealth or health or power. Adler analyzes the example of power, claiming that happiness can never logically be due to having power over other men because this would preclude . . . men, subject to [that] power from becoming happy (6). Thus, Adler insists that everyone’s natural right to pursue happiness is more important than the rights of the few to succeed in politics (7)From this, he concludes that happiness must be defined objectively, beyond any individual’s changeable preferences (7).

Adler, Mortimer J. 1984. Aristotle’s Ethics: The Theory of Happiness. New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • According to = an attribution phrase which attributes a quote or paraphrase to its source
  • X argues that = a reporting verb which suggests how strongly the original writer made his or her claim
  • original text = quotation marks to indicate where exact quotations from a source begin and end
  • term = “scare quotes” to indicate that a technical term is somehow problematic
  • Adler … (1984, 6) = in-text reference in Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) author-date style (Author-surname Year-of-publication, page-number-of-quote). Because the surname is integral to the sentence, you don’t need to repeat it in the reference. The full reference would be: (Adler 1984, 6).
  • (Aristotle, cited in Adler 1984, 6) = CMS in-text reference for an indirect citation of a source (i.e., one which was quoted in the source that you read)
  • (7) = page number only on subsequent CMS in-text reference of same source
  • [. . .] = shows that words have been cut from the original source
  • [word] = one or two words (max) changed to fit quote to grammar of sentence
  • Adler, Mortimer J. … = CMS end-text reference (for a book) (Author-surname, Author-forename(s). Year-of-publication. Title-of-book. City: Publisher.)
ORIGINAL SOURCE (quoted parts are underlined):
I would like to conclude this brief account of Aristotle’s theory of happiness by mentioning […] the difficult question of whether happiness is the same for all men. Most people — in Aristotle’s time and in ours — do not think it is:
With regard to what happiness is (men) differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is some plain and obvious thing, like pleasure, wealth, or honor. They differ, however, from one another — and often even the same man identifies it with different things, with health when he is ill, with wealth when he is poor. (Aristotle 1969 36)
[. . .] But, Aristotle contends, on the contrary, that there is only one true conception of happiness and that when happiness is truly conceived, it is the same for all men, whether they think so or not. […] Suppose, for example, that someone thinks that happiness consists in having power over other men, and not being subject to the power of anyone else. Some men, we know from history and experience, actually think this—and want power more than anything else. They think it is most essential to their happiness. What is wrong with such thinking? You can readily see what is wrong. If power over others were truly an element in human happiness, then happiness would not be attainable by all men. Because if some men attain it, that would preclude other men, subject to their power, from becoming happy. Everyone cannot be on top—and if you have to be on top in order to be happy, only some men can achieve happiness at the expense of others. Hence, if everyone has a natural right to the pursuit of happiness, and if that means that happiness must be attainable by all, then we know at once, do we not, that power over other men cannot be a part of human happiness—for if it were, happiness would not be attainable by all.


  • Summarizing is a key part of the assessed summary-response task on this 101 course. See also the glossary entry on responding.
  • Indirect citation of sources is not recommended, and consultation of the original is usually preferable. This is often not possible in ENG 101, however, where you are limited to citing the provided texts.