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How to Write an Executive Summary for a Research Paper

What is an Executive Summary In a Research Paper? 

When you are asked to compose an executive summary for your research paper, the main purpose is to provide a detailed overview in a report form or any other specified paper type with a clear synthesis of all the essential key points that will help your readers to understand the objectives and the vital elements of your research. Learning how to write an executive summary for a research paper, you should prepare your target audience and save their time as they aim to understand and evaluate your main message and the content. Although there may be several deviations, depending on your subject, it is necessary to state the purpose of your report right in the first paragraph and highlight all the information that will help your readers to understand the results of your research with all the relevant descriptions, conclusions, or further recommendations. 

Why Do We Compose an Executive Summary?  

It’s done to increase the clarity and the purpose of your research for the academic community, college professors, general audience, and publishers. The executive summary in a research paper writing can be encountered in any academic discipline. It aims to help the readers understand the vital points of lengthy research work and focus one’s attention and expectations without having to read through every complex paper paragraph. Starting from colleges and universities to business circles and presentations, the role of an executive summary for research is paramount! 

The Executive Summary Length and Placement 

In the majority of cases, your summary should not exceed 5-10% of the total length of your report. For example, if your research paper is about forty pages, your executive summary should fit within two pages of text. As it appears after the table of contents, the length is critical and should play a role of a summary before your introduction part starts. Your executive summary should reflect what has been researched with a brief explanation of the problem (or series of challenges) with the methodology and solutions that you have provided before resulting in a list of outcomes. 

Structure of an Executive Summary For a Research Paper 

Even when they have an example of executive summary for research paper to look through, most students still find it challenging to learn what must be present in each part of their paper and what information is relevant or unnecessary for a specific part. While your grading rubric may have recommendations that one must follow, let's break down each part in greater depth to understand the purpose: 

  • Introduction. This is where you must introduce your subject and talk about the importance of a chosen topic. Your first paragraph must provide sufficient and clear information about the discipline and the range of your research by either including the target audience or explaining why the issue matters. It should be about three to five sentences. 

For example: “The problem of the Amazon Forests have often been discussed through the lens of environmental damage, yet not many social aspects of the almost extinct populations have been explored”.  

  • Purpose of Study. When writing an executive summary, one of the hardest tasks is to explain why you are researching something and what you would like to achieve. In practice, if you want to make a point and prove that something is harmful, it must be specified along with your assumption. In a certain sense, it works like a thesis statement.  

For example: “The main objective of the research is to determine the volume of African Americans with the cardiovascular conditions living in the criminal regions of Alabama State and document the findings”. 

  • Methods to Gather Data. Also known as the methodology, it is either qualitative or quantitative analysis that comes first. The methods may include surveys, interviews, lab experiments, or field recordings. If you are using specific technical equipment or electronic devices, it is also necessary to include a brief list, especially if it will make more sense to the readers. 

For example: “The surveys and private interviews have been chosen as the methodology for the maximum efficiency of this research project. The consent for the interviews has been received and permission has been granted by the educational counselors at the local community”. 

  • Findings. This section should list your findings in a short form without getting too much into details. The most important is to explain what has been discovered and what significance it has in relation to your assumption or the methods that have been used. 

For example:The research on the implementation of multimedia solutions for the cognitive development of autistic children has shown that the inspiration factor has helped to motivate the young learners to adjust and work with the flexible software, thus becoming more socially aware of the socialization and the teamwork”. 

  • Recommendations. In case you have discovered certain facts or information through the course of your research, this part of a summary of research must list the order of actions that must be taken or the further research that may be helpful to achieve your goals. Also known as the call to action, this part should not introduce any new ideas but must stay within the scope of your research.

For example: The works by J.R. Lawson explore the subject of brain metamorphoses in virtuo at greater depth, which can further explain the main hypothesis explored by this research”

  • Report Limitations. If you are using surveys or interviews, there are apparent limitations and challenges that you may encounter. In practice, if your sample group has been limited or you could not obtain information related to some lab research, mention it here. If something is missing from the research on the topic, it must be documented as well. Do your best to organize the limitations by the importance or the order of their occurrence by explaining why they have affected the clarity or validity of your research. 

For example: The lack of social contacts with the remote tribes in New Zealand has made it almost impossible to collect data about social life patterns and interactions within the tribe. The published linguistic guides have been insufficient to analyze the language specifics in full”. 

  • Implementation. This section basically helps your target audience to learn about the practical implementation of your research. Composing your summary of a research paper, it is essential to explain the practical value of your work and show the most efficient ways to use the recommendations or locate information that will help to understand the importance of your research. 

For example:“The presence of the innovative research labs in NYC for the journalistic community has also made it possible to explore the subject even further by starting with the open journalism projects and sharing them on social media or the television networks involved in the social development campaign”.

  • Conclusion. This part must summarize the information that has been provided in the aforementioned sections. Remember that you should not exceed the given word count and keep your conclusion short by restating the main thesis and letting your target audience see the most important key points. Do not introduce any new ideas or mention things that have not been discussed before. 

In practical terms, think of your executive summary of a research paper as if it is a brief advertisement where you explain and promote your research paper by explaining the main purposes and the methodologies with the results. While it may sound complex to most college and university students, executive summary writing must be done when your research work has already been finished. Collect all the vital information and use it to fill in the relevant section as shown in the structure parts above. 

Executive Summary for a Research Paper Formatting 

It will always depend on your writing style and the specified formatting since this section follows the same guidelines as what has been specified for the rest of your research paper. For example, if you are composing an executive summary in APA or MLA format, you must follow the same fonts and indents that have been mentioned in the style manual. The majority of scientific writing papers do not mention anything specific regarding executive summary format other than the bullet point form in certain cases, especially when taking a report form. Always consult your academic advisor to ensure that you are not violating any writing rules before submitting your work! 

The Executive Summary Mistakes to Avoid  

Starting with an executive summary paper, many students misunderstand the purpose of each section and forget that the summary, in this case, is not the same as their introduction section or a part where they have to write about how good or bad their research is. It’s not a preface either as you have to provide a mini version of your research paper. There are at least five aspects that one must consider in terms of mistakes and the ways to avoid them, including:  

  1. Clarity of Your Tone. Keep your tone clear and do not introduce any new ideas or assumptions. Use information from your research and try to keep all the vital elements in 2-3 sentences at most for each section. The key aspect is to keep things brief as you write. 
  2. Knowing Your Target Audience. When you already know your target audience well, you can narrow things down and avoid explaining the concepts and the problems that may already be clear to your readers. It will also affect the depth of your comments and recommendations. 
  3. Avoid Pasting Parts of Your Existing Research. The worst mistake that can make your research paper sound weaker is copying and pasting the parts of your research paper for an executive summary. When you do so, you are also risking being blamed for self-plagiarism or repetitions that may affect the final score of your research paper. 
  4. Getting Too Lengthy or Overly Complex. Your executive summary report should not become overly long and go beyond 2 pages for a short paper. The same relates to the structure and complexity of each section. The purpose here is to achieve clarity and a good structure. 
  5. Forgetting to Proofread and Connect The Concepts. This aspect is often ignored, yet proofreading and editing your executive summary should always come first as you check the wording and readability of your work. Each section of your executive summary must represent a continuation of each preceding part. 

An executive summary is essentially a compressed representation of your research paper. If your target audience manages to understand the purpose of your research paper quickly, you have been able to compose a good executive summary report. Think of a busy person who doesn’t have much time to read your paper and imagine as if you are talking to a good friend, explaining the purpose of your writing! 

Executive Summary Writing Tips and Recommendations 

Speaking of tips for writing an executive summary, you must take notes when reading through your research paper to remember all the vital points that must be discussed. Here is what you must do to achieve success with your executive report writing: 

  • Mention your purpose right away and outline the methods and sources of information that have been used.  
  • As you make recommendations, do not be vague and stay specific. Mention the authors or research projects that can be helpful. 
  • Learn to specify your methods and explain why choosing case studies was better or possible compared to interviews. 
  • Stay focused on your subject! 
  • If you have used experimental research, discuss the benefits. 
  • Speaking of limitations, mention the time that has been spent on the implementation of the methods. 
  • The skills and lack of communication in certain areas may also be used as the barrier to research implementation. 
  • Mention the risks involved when you share recommendations. 

Note: Some college professors recommend skipping the conclusion part of an executive summary for business courses or brief reports. Dealing with a serious research paper that’s meant for publishing, the final conclusion part of 2-3 sentences must be present! 

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