Topic outline

  • Summarising the content of one source

    Summarising means outlining, in one or two sentences, the main idea presented in a source such as a book, an edited book chapter or a journal article.  A summary is written in your own words, and includes an in-text reference to acknowledge the original author.  By summarising the key ideas presented in a source, you are demonstrating your understanding of the original author's main argument, and your ability to express the information concisely.  By including an in-text citation you are acknowledging that the idea is not your own.  For example:

    Social networking has had a major impact on young people (Body & Ellison, 2007).

    In the above example, the writer has summarised an overarching argument presented by Body and Ellison in their 2007 publication.

    Summarising and cross-referencing multiple sources 

    If you have identified a common theme or argument presented in more than one source by multiple authors, you can summarise the theme by using your own words and including an in-text reference for all of the sources at the same time.  This technique, sometimes called 'cross-referencing', is a sophisticated way of demonstrating in your writing that you have read widely on a given topic. 

    Here is an example of summarising and cross-referencing multiple sources:

    Social networking has had a major impact on young people (Body & Ellison, 2007; Hansford & Adlington, 2009; Lenhart & Madden, 2007).

    When should you summarise in your writing?

    Summarising is particularly useful when you want to use whole text themes, concepts, theories and/or models to support an argument in your academic writing.

    Formatting tip for cross-referencing 

    In APA 7,  use a semi-colon to separate the items in the in-text reference, and list the items alphabetically according to their authors' family names.  If you are using a different referencing style in your studies, visit the Referencing style guides on this site to find out how you should format your reference in that style when citing two or more sources at the same time.