Executive Summaries are much like any other summary in that their main goal is to provide a condensed version of the content of a longer report. Definition of Executive Summary
The executive summary is usually no longer than 10% of the original document. It can be anywhere from 1-10 pages long, depending on the report's length. Executive summaries are written literally for an executive who most likely DOES NOT have the time to read the original. •
Executive summaries make a recommendation
Accuracy is essential because decisions will be made based on your summary by people who have not read the original •
Executive summaries frequently summarize more than one document Types of Summaries
Summaries written in order to recommend a specific course of action are executive summaries. Summaries that highlight the major points of a long piece are called abstracts. The purpose of an abstract is to allow readers to decide whether or not they want to read the longer text. View our Writing Guide about Abstracts
Standard summary only refers to a summary of someone else's published work and is written for a variety of purposes. View our Writing Guide about Standard Summaries
Processes for Writing an Executive Summary
Executive summaries are typically written for longer reports. They should not be written until after your report is finished. Before writing your summary, try: •
Summarizing the major sections of your report. You might even copy text from your report into the summary and then edit it down. •
Talking aloud or even tape recording yourself summarizing sections of your report. Questions to Ask Yourself as You Write
What is your report about?
Why is it important?
What is included in the report?
What is included in each section?
As a cover sheet to your document, an executive summary need not go into ANY mention of how you conducted your analysis and/or what you're basing your conclusion on. Instead, begin with a concise statement of the conclusion you reached after conducting your analysis and/or research is the paper that will be attached. For example, after a comparison of what other schools like CSU do about personal calls for faculty, you conclude that the CSU is charging for calls most other institutions do not. How you word the conclusion will differ depending on your audience and what they care most about. The following examples illustrate how the wording must change given an audience's needs. Example One
Colorado State should discontinue the practice of charging faculty for personal calls. This is a good example if the people you work for are only interested in this issue. It begins with a summary of conclusions regarding only the CSU population.
Because I have found that over 75% of comparable institutions do not charge for personal calls, I have concluded that our faculty is justified in objecting to this practice which should be seen as a "perk" for our faculty. This sentence provides unnecessary information about other institutions and/or why the faculty think they deserve to have these calls paid for. Your readers can get that information from the report. Further, the use of "I" is unnecessary since your readers already know who wrote the report. Writing Recommendations
After beginning with a summary statement of your findings, the executive summary should go on to provide a specific recommendation for action geared toward your audience. For example, the report on charging for personal calls was requested by the president's office, not the individual departments and colleges who actually determine policy. As a result, the recommendation for action is geared toward what the president's office should do, not the other departments involved. To learn more about writing recommendations: After summarizing the entire article and/or research report(s), an executive summary ends with a one or two line recommendation for action. Simple Formula
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