English 401
The Faust Theme


English 401
The Faust Theme

Practice Exericse 2: Article Summary, Unit 2

Article Summary

Purpose of Practice Exercise 2: To understand the philosophical view that is the rationale for Faust’s salvation.

Learning Objective: To critically read and summarize a scholarly article.

Being able to summarize an article will help you understand what the author’s main points are. In a summary you paraphrase the author’s ideas, that is, you express them in your own words. A summary can help you decide if you wish to refer to the author’s ideas in your research or essay writing.

How to Summarize

These steps are adapted from Summarization, by Sharren Patterson, and used with permission of the author.

  • Begin your summary by identifying the author, the title of the reading (like so: Gabriel R. Ricci, in “Goethe’s Faust: Poetry and Philosophy at the Crossroads,”…) and the main subject and or thesis of the reading.
  • Note that titles of essays are placed in quotation marks and that punctuation is placed inside the quotation marks.
  • If you haven’t provided the thesis in your first sentence, paraphrase it now.
  • Include all significant points (ideas) and only inseparable details.
  • Present the content in the same order that the author does.
  • Make each part of your summary directly proportional to the part it summarizes.
  • Use a neutral (impartial/objective) tone.
  • Exclude any of your own critical response or commentary. (If you were to cite an author’s work in a research essay, you might comment on it there, but the summary is not the place to do so.)
  • Be brief – try to summarize each paragraph in no more than a sentence, although sometimes an extra sentence might be necessary. Note that occasionally one or two sentences will be enough to cover two to three short paragraphs that are developing one point.
  • Use mostly your own language, but select a few key words or sentences for quotation. Make sure to enclose any of the author’s words or sentences in quotation marks.
  • Use a variety of verbs to identify the author as the source of information throughout your summary (as in Ricci claims, or Ricci points out, or Next, Ricci suggests, or Ricci maintains).
  • Remember that you’re not re-telling what the author said. Your job is to summarize the author’s points. The difference is all in introducing the author as the source of the information. For example, instead of saying, “Goethe is a philosophical poet,” you should write, “The author states that Goethe is a philosophical poet.”
  • Write a one sentence conclusion, starting with “The author concludes by (saying, reporting, reminding, asserting, observing). . . .

Practice Exercise 2: Read the following scholarly article by Gabriel R. Ricci, “Goethe’s Faust: Poetry and Philosophy at the Crossroads,” Humanitas, Volume XX, Nos. 1 and 2, 2007.


Here is a sample summary of a section of the article, " I. Philosophical Poets."

Sample summary:

I. Philosophical Poets

Gabriel R. Ricci, in “Goethe’s Faust: Poetry and Philosophy at the Crossroads,” concurs with George Santayana’s characterization of Goethe’s philosophical stance in Faust as “Teutonic romanticism” with a fresh approach that leads to Faust’s salvation in spite of the lives he destroys. Ricci claims that Faust’s idiosyncratic Gospel translation is key to his desire to act and apparent in his reclamation project at the play’s end.

Ricci, following Santayana’s suggestion, says that Goethe’s worldview throws out accepted knowledge but continues the search for meaning and truth nevertheless. Santayana, says Ricci, recognizes Faust’s attraction to the “infinite and the pure activity that he imagines after death (705)” (Ricci 154); but the desire to experience life in practical ways trumps the desire for the infinite. Concluding this section, Ricci states that Faust first rejects convention with his revolutionary translation of the Gospel line.

Write your own 500 – 750 word summary of one of the remaining sections of the article. Look for the author’s main idea in each paragraph and/or section, key points in the development of the argument, and the writer’s conclusion. You may post your summary on the course discussion forum if you would like peer feedback.

Last modified: Tuesday, 5 November 2013, 4:13 PM MST