How to Summarize the News

The purpose of a summary is to state what importance a piece of news contains. We're going to walk you through how to accomplish this with a few simple steps.

Before you begin, you need to know the intended audience of the summary. Different audiences drive different motivations for summarization. For example:

  • A boss wants to find out quickly whether or not the news is relevant. 
  • A researcher is looking for context to determine if the original piece’s statements are important.
  • A coworker needs to know if the news results in changes to the status quo.
Once you determine who you’re summarizing the news article for, there are a few key components to include. 1. Find the contextual topic sentence. Reporters typically summarize the topic of story in the first few sentences so you should find it in the beginning of the article.Re-write the topic sentence and try to include data from later in the story to provide context. 2. Identify the magnitude of the story. Look for data points that give context to the total impact of the event such as:
  • What percent of the population is affected?
  • What is the percentage change being discussed?
  • What is the absolute value of the change?
  • How does the data compare to the past?
  • How many times has this happened in the past?
  • What happened last time this issue was reported on?

3. Note the who and when.

Summarize exactly the audience scope of who the problem, story, event, or change impacted and when.

  • Factual: Where did it happen?
  • Factual: When did it happen?
  • Factual: Did an important person make a claim or statement?
  • Quote: Is it a projection about the future?
  • Judgement: What has to happen for the outcome to occur?
4. What is the importance of the news? Why does the audience need to know about this news – is the status quo altered? Is the opinion of the article backed up by data or research contained within it? 5. Evaluate the source. The publishing source can’t be ignored. Consider the sources contributing to the article, is the publisher could be motivated to emphasize a particular point over another because of money, values of the individual or owner of the publication, government restrictions on press or political affiliation. Have they won any journalism awards and how often are they cited by other newspapers, magazines or government organizations? 6. Projections, Estimates, Opinions: Noisy Quasi Data. This is only data because as far as quantifying that something happened, it is verifiable that a person place or thing happened or said or forecasting something. The voracity of this source’s claim or projection is subject to uncertainty, and society has to judge the source’s credibility at their own risk. If you do trust the source’s credibility, try to understand if what they are saying is a big change in the status quo by gathering factual historical data that gives context.

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