Research Paper Summary & Help Writing an Executive Summary

(Updated on June 20, 2018 by Michelle Williams)


When completing a summary of a lengthy research paper, your goal is to boil down the paper so that its main points can be understood quickly and easily.  At the same time, the overall gist of the research paper must be preserved.

In order to complete a summary of a lengthy research paper, you must read the document yourself and get a solid understanding of its main purpose and its main points.  As you read the paper, you should take note of what you find to be the most important points.

If you can write directly on the research paper, highlighting important points is perhaps the easiest method for narrowing down the information you'll include in your summary.  If you can't write on the document, you might attach Post-it notes to the document on the pages with important information and write a small note to yourself regarding the information contained on that page.  Another alternative would be to keep a notebook and to simply write the page number on which the information is listed and then complete a brief summary of the main points found on that page.

Research Paper Summary & Help Writing an Executive SummaryAfter you have finished reading the research paper and taking notes, you'll need to go back through your notes in order to determine the main points that are to be included in your summary.  You may find that you took more notes than you have room for in your summary.  If this is the case, you'll need to further narrow down your notes by weeding out the most important information.

Remember, when completing a summary of a research paper, your goal is to provide the reader with an overview of the most important points the author is trying to make.  Even if you personally feel that certain points are more important than others, you're to remain true to the original document, careful to avoid interjecting your own opinions or bias.

If the original research paper is divided into sections, one method for writing your summary is to summarize each section.  In this case, your summary should also be broken down into the same sections as the original document.  This is perhaps the easiest method for summarizing a large document, though other methods can be used, as well.

The length of your summary will be largely dependent upon the requirements that you're given.  When completing the summary, however, you shouldn't write in list form or use other similar methods to reduce the length of the summary.  Rather, you should write in paragraph form just as in the original research paper.

Since you're summarizing a larger document, your goal isn't to complete a thorough essay with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Rather, your purpose is to provide the reader with an overview of the original research paper that highlights its most important points.  In this way, the reader can gain a basic understanding of the original research paper without reading it, but can refer to the original document for clarification and detail.

How to Write an Executive Summary

Learning how to write an executive summary is no simple task.  An executive summary is a short piece of writing that summarizes a business research paper.  It allows an executive to determine, in a very short amount of time, things such as: whether the business research paper is worth reading in its entirety, what the basic points are, and what the conclusion is.  While an executive summary does notin and of itselfhave enough information on which to base any definitive action, it gives the reader a good sense of the topic so that if there's a reason to read further, the document being summarized can be scanned for facts, statistics, and details relevant to whatever is being discussed or considered.

One common situation in which an executive summary essay is used is when you're completing a business plan to show to potential investors.  Because the amount of time that investors have to look at your proposal is limited, they will expect an executive summary when you present your business plan so that they can prioritize your plan on their list of reading, and quickly determine whether or not the plan you have devised is something that they should devote further attention to.  An executive summary is the most carefully written part of your business plan, and should be perfectly clear.  Any kind of advanced details regarding the topic should be left to the business plan itself; an executive summary is simply a kind of outline to give a sense of the contents of the plan.

The executive summary should always be one page in length or shorter.  It should be possible to read the executive summary in less than a minute and understand the overall business plan.  To get started with your executive summary, introduce the industry at which your business is targeted, describe the niche in the market that your business plan is designed to cover, and/or identify the problem that your plan is designed to address or solve.  It is important to give the reader a sense of the other solutions that have been offered for the same problems during your overview of the market.  Explain how other companies have developed approaches and how the approach for your company will have an advantage over theirs.  As in the business proposal itself, you should be able to demonstrate through your research and with solid reasoning how the report that you have devised is superior to others and the one that money should be invested into.  Again, don't give examples or detailsthose are saved for the backup materials such as the plan itself and the appendices.  Also, keep in mind the specific audience that you're writing the executive summary for.  If the summary is being written for investors, you should give them a sense of the kind of return expected on their investment and what kind of time frame you're giving them for an exit.  If the summary is for a plan that will have internal use, it should explain how company goals will be met by carrying out the plan.  Keep things simple, and know your audience, and your executive summary will be able to meet its intended goal.

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