How to write an executive summary for a research report

Written by stephanie fagnani
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How to write an executive summary for a research report
Executive summaries quickly let readers know exaclty what is contained in a research report. (business report image by Darko Draskovic from Fotolia.com)

Every research report should include an executive summary which sums up the key points of the report in a nice, concise package for readers. The executive summary should be short in comparison to the overall report, and the exact length should be determined based on the length of the entire report. And, according to the article "The Executive Summary: Why and How to Write It" by Helen Wilkie, which appears on Hodu.com, the executive summary should contain the reasons why the report was written, the focus and limitations of the report and a brief summary of all findings and conclusions.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Computer
  • Research Report
  • Excel software

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Analyse each chapter or section of the main report and determine which points are most pertinent. For example, if your report contains a chapter on trends within a certain industry, decide which trends should be mentioned in the summary.

  2. 2

    Write a summary of the main points from each chapter of no more than a few sentences. You can edit these when you are finishing the final draft of the summary, but these will provide you with an initial outline.

  3. 3

    Organise those points in the order in which they appear in the main report for the executive summary. Start with the most important data, like the overall revenues of an entire industry or the most influential trends driving industry-wide growth. You can narrow the focus of each summary point as you go along if necessary.

  4. 4

    View the executive summaries from other research reports if you are having trouble deciding on what to include or how to organise information. Most market research report publishers will offer executive summaries for free to interested parties in the hopes that they will find the information so valuable that they will purchase the full report. Just obtain contact information through a company's website --you will usually need to speak with a marketing or sales director.

  5. 5

    Use some sort of graphics in the executive summary, if possible, which will help readers visualise some of the main points of the report that you are trying to sum up. For example, if the report contains percentage breakdowns of various entities, create a pie chart or bar graph. Or, use bullets to enhance the presentation of certain data.

  6. 6

    Proofread and edit the executive summary once you have completed the initial outline to make sure it conveys all of the most important information found in the body of the research report in a concise manner. If possible, ask a friend or family member to read the summary to make sure you have presented information in an easy to understand fashion.

Tips and warnings

  • As a general rule, executive summaries should offer small chunks of pertinent information. Try to keep sentences short to make them more easily digestible for the reader. Stick to about 30 words per sentence.
  • Avoid using industry jargon in the executive summary. This might lead the reader to believe the report is too technical in nature and not of value to them.

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