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Abstract and executive summary

It is important for students to understand the difference between abstract and executive summary writing. Although they share some similarities in formality, they both have different purposes. Please read on to find out more information.

 

The abstract

  • Most research articles and reports are prefaced by an abstract.

  • An abstract is an overview of the entire text.

  • An abstract is sometimes called a synopsis.

  • Unlike the introduction, which leads the audience to the body of the text, the abstract is a text about a text – it provides a commentary on the text that follows from beginning to end.

  • It is a short, half to one-page summary where each new sentence introduces new information so that a concise summary is achieved without paragraphing.

  • An abstract is usually written impersonally.

  • Check that your abstract has at least one sentence about each section of the report, in the same order.

  • It should be written after the report is completed, when you have an overview of the whole text, and placed on the first page of the report.

 

The executive summary

  • An executive summary is derived from the business practice of giving executives a concise outline of the main points in a report, indicating where in the report to locate more detailed information.

  • The summary may consist of several pages for a long report, and may include headings and dot points or numbered points.

  • It must be concise and without fine detail, providing a commentary on the main points only and following the sequence of the report itself.

  • Like the abstract, it should be written after the report is completed, when you have an overview of the whole text, and placed on the first page of the report.

 

For more help

For more help with academic writing, there are many useful resources on the HELPS website, as well as in the UTS Library. You can also come and talk to the HELPS Advisors who can assist you.
 

Adapted from:
Morley-Warner, T. 2009, Academic writing is… A guide to writing in a university context, Association for Academic Language and Learning, Sydney.

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