For college students, writing summaries may seem like just an overly simple and absurd exercise. Shouldn’t they have learned to do it at school already? Yet still, most professors will find students now knowing how to correctly comprise what they’ve read into a brief compilation of key ideas. And if they can’t write about what they’ve read correctly, how could they possibly write a proper response stating their ideas? So, let’s finally figure out once and for all how you should structure and write your summary response essays and save both your and your professors time correcting and rewriting those works.

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Writing a Summary Response Essay – What to Include & How to Structure

So you need to write a response summary. The very first thing you will have to do is carefully read through the original text. You will need to note the key details provided in this work, as well as your own thoughts regarding what you’ve read. Sometimes you might indeed be given not a particularly interesting source, of course. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t evoke any thoughts or emotions in you. So, be cautious even when you feel bored – after all, that’s a feeling too.

As you went through the source and made notes, you will now have to make sure you collected all the needed information. What that might be? For starters, it’s the key details about the publication: its author, title, publication date and place, and the main idea (or purpose). You will also need to identify and put into your own words the author’s key argument / opinion /claim /perspective. Presenting supporting ideas here may be a good decision, as it will help both you and your reader connect the dots which led the author to draw the conclusion they did.

How to Write a Summary Response Essay

When you collect all of this, be sure to combine it into one logical narrative. You are not making a list or simple recollection of the mentioned facts. Your writing needs to flow like a river. That’s where a proper structure might help you out. This is how your summary response essay should be built:

  1. Topic paragraph
    This is the very start of the essay which includes the information we talked about: author of the source, title, publication place, and date. You can also provide the reader with a little background/context for the future discussion here.
  2. The Summary
    After setting the scene, you may continue writing and present the author’s perspectives and claims they made in their work. Don’t forget to give supportive ideas to your reader too, because only then you will be able to build a logical text. Write everything down in the order it was discussed in the original source and include its initial conclusion (don’t forget to write in your own words!).

    Note: You have to stay objective despite putting everything in your own words. Do not alter the facts or opinions given in the source and stay as accurate and close to the original as possible.
  3. The Response
    After presenting the summary, which can take any amount of paragraphs you need, you should move on to giving your opinion/evaluation of the reading material. Talk about your perspective on the presented issue. You are free to critique or agree with the author, just be sure to give a clear argument on why you think that way.

Following this structure, it should be easy for you to build a coherent narrative and state everything you have to say. And yeah, don’t just repeat the source, retelling everything verbatim – that won’t do you any good. Quotes are also usually not needed – after all, it’s a response summary and not just an analysis.

Types of Ideas that Can be Presented in Your Summary Response Essay

In a summary response essay, you’ll come across various types of ideas, such as facts, opinions, beliefs, and prejudices. Each requires a different approach in your response. For instance, you might reflect on new knowledge gained, agree with well-supported arguments, disagree based on personal experiences, or note omissions/inconsistencies in the author’s discussion. Moreover, analyzing the author’s text organization and purpose can deepen your response. This variety of ideas and responses helps move your essay forward and explore the original text much deeper.

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Step-by-Step Process of Writing a Summary Response Essay

With a clear understanding of the structure and the ideas that you should include in your essay, it shouldn’t be as hard for you to compile a proper response summary. However, organizing the writing process correctly can also help make the process much quicker. That’s why we decided to analyze the existing tips and create a guide that would make essay writing more simple and effective.

Identifying Main Idea

Before starting your writing, make sure you found what was the point of the piece you’ve read. Ask yourself: Have I identified the text’s main ideas and supporting ideas? And, what were my initial reactions to the text? This will allow you to create a topic sentence for the summary paragraph and a thesis statement for the response paragraph.

Laying Down Supporting Facts

During this step, you have to dedicate time to picking the ideas that may help your reader understand the author’s point of view. You can also pinpoint the facts that may support your own opinion. Here, it would be helpful to ask questions: what led the author to draw these conclusions? Do I agree or disagree with the author’s points? Is it a little of both?

Outlining the Author’s Purpose

The third step is to determine the author’s purpose for writing and assess whether it was achieved. Maybe you will notice inconsistencies or biases in the writer’s logic. Or maybe something in the writing wasn’t as clear as it should have been.

Bring Everything Together

Now, as you have created your outline (because that’s what you were initially doing in the first three steps) you can bring all the pieces of this puzzle together. Add detalization to the outline. Express your opinion about the author’s main idea.

Note: When drafting your work (and first, you will create a draft that will become an essay only after you review it), be sure to include signal phrases to distinguish between the author’s and your own ideas. These can be words asChomsky argues’, ‘Smith’s research states’.

Finally, proofread your essay for errors and format it appropriately, according to the requirements stated by the professor.

Writing Example

To give you a clearer idea of how the summary response essay may look like, analyze the example we give below:

In “Existential Psychotherapy,” Irvin D. Yalom explores the existential approach to psychotherapy, emphasizing the human condition’s inherent concerns, such as death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. Yalom argues that confronting these existential realities can lead to personal growth and a more authentic existence. He presents a therapeutic framework that prioritizes understanding the client’s experience and encourages self-reflection and acceptance of life’s uncertainties.

Yalom’s insights into existential psychotherapy resonate with me, particularly his emphasis on the importance of confronting existential concerns. I agree with his assertion that acknowledging our mortality and the limitations of our freedom can lead to a deeper appreciation of life and a more genuine connection with others. However, I find his discussion on isolation to be slightly lacking in addressing the role of social support and community in mitigating feelings of loneliness. Additionally, while Yalom’s approach to meaninglessness is thought-provoking, I believe that exploring one’s values and engaging in purposeful activities can also play a significant role in finding meaning. Overall, “Existential Psychotherapy” provides valuable perspectives on the human condition and the therapeutic process, encouraging both therapists and clients to embrace life’s complexities.

Keep in mind that this is just an approximate example. It doesn’t have the level of detalization that can be presented in this type of essay, however, it follows the appropriate structure and includes both a summary of the original work and the response paragraph.

Long-Term Skill Development: Why Summary Response Essays are Good for You

Writing summary/response essays isn’t just a school exercise. It can come in handy when crafting research papers or even compiling business reports. The first thing that this type of writing teaches you is to present complex ideas in simple words and brief formulations. The response part pushes you to form and articulate your opinions, a very important skill in persuasive writing and argumentation. Plus, the whole process boosts your ability to engage with texts critically and allows you to sift through different viewpoints and present your ideas clearly. So, while it might seem like just another assignment now, knowing how to write summary response essays can set you up for success in various writing tasks down the line.


What is a summary response essay?

A summary response essay is a piece of writing that presents a summary of an author’s main ideas and then offers a personal response to those ideas. It combines elements of summary and analysis, allowing the writer to engage with the text and express their own perspectives.

What are the key components of a summary response essay?

The key components of a summary response essay include a clear summary of the text’s main points, a thesis statement that presents the writer’s response, supporting arguments that elaborate on the response, and evidence from the text to back up the writer’s views.

What are some tips for writing a strong summary response essay?

For a strong summary response essay, start by thoroughly understanding the text. Then, create a clear and concise summary, followed by a well-defined thesis statement. Provide detailed arguments to support your response, using evidence from the text. Finally, structure your essay so it is well-organized and flows smoothly from one point to the next.


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