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Common Assignments: Executive Summaries

Basics of Executive Summaries

Executive summaries are common in the Walden MBA program, but they are also found as part of some government and business documents. As a student, you should complete an executive summary when specifically requested to do so. An executive summary is a comprehensive review of a larger document. For example, a 35-page report may begin with a single-page executive summary all of the main information in the longer report. Any findings, conclusions, recommendations, or other details that appear in the larger document must be touched on in the executive summary. Readers should be able to read the executive summary alone and have a complete understanding of the larger document in its entirety.

How to Write an Executive Summary

It is important to meet all length and content expectations, so be sure to review the specific directions for your assignment. Also remember that the executive summary can only be written after the full-length document is complete.

Tips for completing the executive summary from Laureate Education (2013) include:

  • List all of the main points in the same order in which they occur in the paper that you are summarizing.
  • Take each point and turn it into a sentence.
  • Add additional sentences to clarify or explain each point.
  • Add a short introduction and a short conclusion. Include the name of the article, report, etc. and the author(s) in the introduction.
  • Check grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Check for plagiarism.
  • Read the summary slowly and carefully to make sure it covers all of the main points clearly, yet concisely. Also, check to be sure it is interesting. You want to catch your reader’s attention.
  • Set it aside. Let some time pass, and read it again. Often, you will catch items that you did not see the first time.

For academic writing, be sure to include appropriate citations and a reference. This is typically not part of a business executive summary, but should be included for purposes of this program.

 

Reference

Laureate Education. (2013). How to write an executive summary [Course handout]. Retrieved from http://class.waldenu.edu

Executive Summary Versus Abstract

Like an executive summary, an abstract is a short summary of a larger text. Both executive summaries and abstracts are meant to capture the main ideas, findings, and conclusions of a longer document.  Executive summaries, however, tend to include more details than abstracts. An abstract includes enough information for readers to decide if they want to read the full-length document. Executive summaries must include enough information for readers to understand the full-length document without reading it.

Another difference between executive summaries and abstracts are the fields where they are used. Generally, executive summaries are common in business and government, while abstracts are more common in academia and at Walden, especially when seeking publication in a professional journal.