Writing Executive Summaries
As its name suggests, an executive summary summarizes, or reviews the main points of, a longer document or report for a reader that does not have time to read the entire report. An effective executive summary analyzes and summarizes the most important points in the paper or report, and will often make a recommendation based on the analysis. Executive summaries are “stand alone” documents that are almost always read independently of the reports they summarize. You may submit an executive summary as part of an assignment, and your instructor will likely read the summary and the paper or report. It’s helpful, however, to keep in mind that executive summaries should inform and influence people who will only be reading the executive summary. Most of the time, you will be summarizing a paper or report that you wrote, but there may be times when you will write an executive summary of another author’s report or article. Often your instructor will specify the length of your executive summary, but 10% of the document that you are summarizing is a good rule of thumb. For example, a ten-page paper or report would require a one-page executive summary. When preparing to write an executive summary, ask yourself the following questions: Who will read your executive summary? Sometimes your executive summary may have an “intended” audience: your professor might require you to write it for a CEO, department head, or supervisor, for example. On other assignments, your audience won’t have a specific identity, but always keep in mind that the reader of an executive summary needs to know all of the important information in the main document without reading the actual document. Even if you know that your instructor will be reading everything that you submit, write the executive summary as a “stand alone” document. What is the main document’s main topic, theme, or idea? Most reports have a “thesis” or central point that they are seeking to...
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