Summarizing and Discussing Articles

The ability to summarize a news article is an important skill to develop for the FFA Oral Final Exam and the final exam for this class. These group discussions usually begin with students summarizing the article they have been assigned to discuss. In this session we will practice article summary. This exercise will also introduce students to the issues we will be using for the oral presentations.

What to Look For in an Article

Newspaper articles generally begin with a lead that identifies a narrow topic. Early in the article, answers to the journalistic questions (who, what, when, where and why) are addressed. Generally, the most important information will follow the lead, and the last half of the article- as it was originally written- will be extraneous information. This information is reserved for the end because many newspapers will have to crop stories in order to fit them into available space.

Newspaper articles differ in organizational structure from other forms of expository text. It is rare for newspaper articles to have a conclusion. Also missing are other internal organizational structures. The use of transitional words or sentences is rare. Paragraphs are not organized by topics or main ideas. In fact, one will rarely find a paragraph that exceeds two sentences in length! Sentence fluency, by six trait standards, is “merely mechanical; they get the job done in a routine fashion.” Newspaper articles don’t strive for voiceful writing. They present facts.

When analyzing an article for objectivity, subjectivity, or bias, a reader of articles may be well advised to examine that which is not presented and to compare that analysis with what is reported. For example, one might take note of who was quoted: What is the topic and what is his/her relationship to this topic? Who else might have a stake in regard to this topic, and why was this person not interviewed or his/her side revealed?

When summarizing an article you should first try to identify as many of the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why) as possible. From that you should be able to come up with a sentence or two explaining what the article is about. Then try to find what additional facts are being set forth and why.

If it could be said that there is a structural “norm” for newspaper articles, it would be best described by the inverted pyramid model: