Teaching Students on How to Summarize Journal Articles
Dyah Sunggingwati is a teaching staff at Mulawarman University, Indonesia. She has been the coordinator of English Master Program for four years. Her research interests are in ELT and professional development. She enjoys working with English teachers.
This article aims to share how reading strategies have been implemented in the classroom with students in the fifth semester at tertiary level. Four different strategies namely browsing journal articles, skimming and noting, highlighting and noting, and paraphrasing were demonstrated to students before they were able to do summarizing. The students found that paraphrasing was the most difficult phase of all and completing the summary was less challenging.
Literature in the second reading or writing has indicated that summarizing is uneasy task. In the academic field, it is perceived as very beneficial but complicated skills. Summarizing strategies require students to reconceptualize what the students have read in order to articulate similar ideas to the original source with dissimilar way of expressions (Chen & Su, 2011; Nambiar, 2007). They need to engage in a variety of reading and writing skills and make contextualized decisions as they interact with the reading materials and the assigned writing tasks (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2005; Grabe and Zhang, 2013).
It is necessary for teachers to show how to use the reading strategies and providing opportunities for students to employ these strategies for their learning under their teacher supervision (Villaume & Brabham, 2002; Duke & Pearson; 2002). In this article I would like to share the teaching practices that I have been doing in my classes when I ask my students to summarize open access journal articles. My students are asked to employ some reading strategies namely browsing journal articles, skimming and noting, highlighting and noting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. In this article, I would also like to include some of my students’ reflections after going through each stage. I will refer to these students as S-01, S-10, and so on. Further details are presented in the following sections.
Target students: university students
Stage 1: Browsing journal articles
In this stage, I talk about the characteristics of journal articles and the benefits that the students get for reading such articles. Following this, I introduce the students to the online sources and websites in which they can download reliable open access journals. I also introduce them to the concept of key words that they can use in search for the articles. For many (if not all) students, the idea of looking journal articles is something new; thus, it might take some time to familiarize themselves with this new knowledge. Next, the students are given further explanation on how to find articles that they need by reading the abstracts. This stage ends when the students can find at least one article that interests or suits them.
My students found that browsing journal articles was beneficial but uneasy. One of them (S-10) reported, “I know much better about good journal article and the website that I could browse, how to search and download them”. Another student (S-15) said, “It is not easy to find the articles that I want. So, I have to write down the general key words and select the articles. This takes time and I need to spend more time to select the ones I am interested in”.
Stage 2: Skimming and scanning
The next strategies I use in my class are skimming and scanning. I ask my students to read the article that they found in the first stage. Then I show them how to locate important points and main ideas in one of the paragraphs presented in the article. By doing this, I try to show the students on how to use the scamming strategy. After that, I ask the students to focus on the first three paragraphs of their article and teach them how to find details such as important key words using the scanning strategy. At the end of this stage, I ask the students to share the results of their article skimming and scanning.
Stage 3: Highlighting and noting
In this stage, I introduce the students to two strategies called highlighting and noting. The students are asked first to identify the key words for each paragraph, then to highlight the key words or phrases. These key words or phrases will have to be rewritten out as students’ own sentences or notes. This is the strategy of noting or note taking. The students’ sentences or notes should be written in the margins or on sticky notes. This is done for each paragraph of the whole article.
The students found that this stage was very challenging. As S-07 reflected, “First, this article has 23 pages, and each page is long or has some paragraphs. It was difficult to highlight and note because there were too many sentences that I should write on my sticky notes.”
Stage 4: Paraphrasing
In paraphrasing phase, the students are required to take all the notes they have written. The students are then taught to paraphrase their sentences that they developed in the third stage. In other words, as their teacher, I demonstrate how to do paraphrasing. After that, I ask my students to paraphrase their sentences and share their works with their classmates. This stage usually takes longer than the other three stages. For some students, this is their most challenging stage. To this, S-11 claimed, “The next stage is paraphrasing. I think you must know that it’s the hardest stage, and again it is because I have many sentences to be paraphrased.”
Stage 5: Summarizing
Finally, the students are asked to read, edit, and revise their paraphrases in order to have a good summary of the content of the articles that they have chosen. As their teacher, I guide them to deal with similar ideas coming from different articles. The idea is to have the students summarize 12 articles on similar topic.
Though it seems very hard, the students said that they could complete the assignment with minor difficulties. To this, S-03 stated, “I think the summarizing stage is less complicated because I have understood the concept and the language. I am familiar the vocabulary in the articles” . In line with this, another student S-01 admitted, “And the last is summarizing. I feel that when I am in the stage of summarizing, I am done with the task because the hardest part, paraphrasing, has been passed. Summarizing requires less concentration as I only need to get back and review to previous paraphrasing”.
At the end of the fifth stage, all students are asked to provide some personal reflections on what they have learned. In general, all students find that the course is challenging but beneficial. As S-15 admitted, “I feel the task of reading and analyzing these articles really help me in developing my interest in reading. The tasks also expand my knowledge on how to use strategies to understand and to summarize journal articles. The strategies that I have learned will be very useful for my thesis writing later on.”
After teaching and evaluating the aforementioned stages, I came to conclusion that the sequence of the reading strategies is reasonably structured as the students have to deal both reading and writing skills including vocabulary. Completing the whole five stages might be challenging for the students. They need our direction as teachers and detail information to guide them in their learning step by step. Providing enough practices would assist them to minimize their difficulties.
Chen, Y.S. & Su, W.S. (2011). A genre-based approach to teaching ESL summary writing. ELT Journal, 66(2), 184-192.
Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Ferris, D. R., & Hedgcock, J. S. (2005). Teaching ESL composition: Purpose, process, and practice (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Grabe, W., & Zhang, C. (2013). Reading and writing together: A critical component of English for academic purposes teaching and learning. TESOL Journal 4(1), 9-24.
Nambiar, R.M.K. (2007). Enhancing academic literacy among tertiary learners: A Malaysian experience. 3L Journal of Language Teaching,Linguistics and Literature, 13. Retrieved from http://ejournal.ukm.my/3l/article/view/1030/942
Villaume, S. K., & Brabham, E. G. (2002). Comprehension instruction: Beyond strategies. The Reading Teacher 55(7), 672-673.
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