A research summary is a requirement during academic research and sometimes you might need to prepare a research summary during a research project for an organization.

Most people find a research summary a daunting task as you are required to condense complex research material into an informative, easy-to-understand article most times with a minimum of 300-500 words.

In this post, we will guide you through all the steps required to make writing your research summary an easier task. 

What is a Research Summary?

A research summary is a piece of writing that summarizes the research of a specific topic into bite-size easy-to-read and comprehend articles. The primary goal is to give the reader a detailed outline of the key findings of a research.

It is an unavoidable requirement in colleges and universities. To write a good research summary, you must understand the goal of your research, as this would help make the process easier. 

A research summary preserves the structure and sections of the article it is derived from.

Research Summary or Abstract: What’s The Difference?

The Research Summary and Abstract are similar, especially as they are both brief, straight to the point, and provide an overview of the entire research paper. However, there are very clear differences.

To begin with, a Research summary is written at the end of a research activity, while the Abstract is written at the beginning of a research paper. 

A Research Summary captures the main points of a study, with an emphasis on the topic, method, and discoveries, an Abstract is a description of what your research paper would talk about and the reason for your research or the hypothesis you are trying to validate.

Let us take a deeper look at the difference between both terms.

What is an Abstract?

An abstract is a short version of a research paper. It is written to convey the findings of the research to the reader. It provides the reader with information that would help them understand the research, by giving them a clear idea about the subject matter of a research paper. It is usually submitted before the presentation of a research paper.

What is a Summary?

A summary is a short form of an essay, a research paper, or a chapter in a book. A research summary is a narration of a research study, condensing the focal points of research to a shorter form, usually aligned with the same structure of the research study, from which the summary is derived.

What Is The Difference Between an Abstract and a Summary?

An abstract communicates the main points of a research paper, it includes the questions, major findings, the importance of the findings, etc.

An abstract reflects the perceptions of the author about a topic, while a research summary reflects the ideology of the research study that is being summarized.

Getting Started with a Research Summary

Before commencing a research summary, there is a need to understand the style and organization of the content you plan to summarize. There are three fundamental areas of the research that should be the focal point:

  1. When deciding on the content include a section that speaks to the importance of the research, and the techniques and tools used to arrive at your conclusion.
  2. Keep the summary well organized, and use paragraphs to discuss the various sections of the research.
  3. Restrict your research to 300-400 words which is the standard practice for research summaries globally. However, if the research paper you want to summarize is a lengthy one, do not exceed 10% of the entire research material.

Once you have satisfied the requirements of the fundamentals for starting your research summary, you can now begin to write using the following format:

  • Why was this research done?  – A clear description of the reason the research was embarked on and the hypothesis being tested.
  • Who was surveyed? – Your research study should have details of the source of your information. If it was via a survey, you should document who the participants of the survey were and the reason that they were selected.
  • What was the methodology? – Discuss the methodology, in terms of what kind of survey method did you adopt. Was it a face-to-face interview, a phone interview, or a focus group setting?
  • What were the key findings? – This is perhaps the most vital part of the process. What discoveries did you make after the testing? This part should be based on raw facts free from any personal bias.
  • Conclusion – What conclusions did you draw from the findings?
  • Takeaways and action points – This is where your views and perception can be reflected. Here, you can now share your recommendations or action points.
  • Identify the focal point of the article  In other to get a grasp of the content covered in the research paper, you can skim the article first, in a bid to understand the most essential part of the research paper. 
  • Analyze and understand the topic and article Writing a summary of a research paper involves being familiar with the topic –  the current state of knowledge, key definitions, concepts, and models. This is often gleaned while reading the literature review. Please note that only a deep understanding ensures efficient and accurate summarization of the content.
  • Make notes as you read Highlight and summarize each paragraph as you read. Your notes are what you would further condense to create a draft that would form your research summary.

How to Structure Your Research Summary

  • Title – This highlights the area of analysis, and can be formulated to briefly highlight key findings.
  • Abstract – this is a very brief and comprehensive description of the study, required in every academic article, with a length of 100-500 words at most. 
  • Introduction – this is a vital part of any research summary, it provides the context and the literature review that gently introduces readers to the subject matter. The introduction usually covers definitions, questions, and hypotheses of the research study. 
  • Methodology –This section emphasizes the process and or data analysis methods used, in terms of experiments, surveys, sampling, or statistical analysis. 
  • Results section – this section lists in detail the results derived from the research with evidence obtained from all the experiments conducted.
  • Discussion – these parts discuss the results within the context of current knowledge among subject matter experts. Interpretation of results and theoretical models explaining the observed results, the strengths of the study, and the limitations experienced are going to be a part of the discussion. 
  • Conclusion – In a conclusion, hypotheses are discussed and revalidated or denied, based on how convincing the evidence is.
  • References – this section is for giving credit to those who work you studied to create your summary. You do this by providing appropriate citations as you write.

Research Summary Example 1

Below are some defining elements of a sample research summary.

Title – “The probability of an unexpected volcanic eruption in Greenwich”

Introduction – this section would list the catastrophic consequences that occurred in the country and the importance of analyzing this event. 

Hypothesis –  An eruption of the Greenwich supervolcano would be preceded by intense preliminary activity manifesting in advance, before the eruption.

Results – these could contain a report of statistical data from various volcanic eruptions happening globally while looking critically at the activity that occurred before these events. 

Discussion and conclusion – Given that Greenwich is now consistently monitored by scientists and that signs of an eruption are usually detected before the volcanic eruption, this confirms the hypothesis. Hence creating an emergency plan outlining other intervention measures and ultimately evacuation is essential. 

Research Summary Example 2

Below is another sample sketch.

Title – “The frequency of extreme weather events in the UK in 2000-2008 as compared to the ‘60s”

Introduction – Weather events bring intense material damage and cause pain to the victims affected.

Hypothesis – Extreme weather events are more frequent in recent times compared to the ‘50s

Results – The frequency of several categories of extreme events now and then are listed here, such as droughts, fires, massive rainfall/snowfalls, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

Discussion and conclusion – Several types of extreme events have become more commonplace in recent times, confirming the hypothesis. This rise in extreme weather events can be traced to rising CO2 levels and increasing temperatures and global warming explain the rising frequency of these disasters. Addressing the rising CO2 levels and paying attention to climate change is the only to combat this phenomenon.


A research summary is the short form of a research paper, analyzing the important aspect of the study. Everyone who reads a research summary has a full grasp of the main idea being discussed in the original research paper. Conducting any research means you will write a summary, which is an important part of your project and would be the most read part of your project.

Having a guideline before you start helps, this would form your checklist which would guide your actions as you write your research summary. It is important to note that a Research Summary is different from an Abstract paper written at the beginning of a research paper, describing the idea behind a research paper.

  • Angela Kayode-Sanni
  • on 7 min read


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