Types of Business Summaries

In business, and in business classes, you will often be asked to write a summary. While all summaries provide overviews of more detailed texts, a summary can take one of many forms depending on its context, purpose, and audience. The following explains some common summary types used in business.

Executive Summary

This is a special type of summary that accompanies a lengthy report. The purpose is to provide the main points of the long report to busy decision-makers who may not have time to read the entire document. The executive summary is not a separate deliverable or letter, but always accompanies, and is a part of, the longer report it summarizes.

Reading Summary (or abstract)

A reading summary condenses the main points of one article or text written by another person(s). In business, the purpose is to give readers enough information to determine if they want to read the entire article and to provide an overview. A reading summary usually does not contain your evaluation or opinion of the article—only information from the article is included (see Analysis or Recommendation Report below for summaries that include opinion). When writing a reading summary for a school assignment, your instructor will be looking for your comprehension of the text, your skill at identifying the main points, and your ability to write clearly and concisely.

Reading Summary with opinion (Analysis or Recommendation Report)

In some cases, you may be asked to summarize one or more texts and provide an opinion or recommendation based on the information in the text(s). This is called an analysis or recommendation report, rather than an abstract or reading summary (a plain reading summary does not contain your opinion – see above).

Research Findings Summary

This type of summary is a stand-alone report that summarizes the findings of research you’ve conducted, including information from multiple print documents, websites, interviews, surveys,  and/or empirical research. This report includes your recommendation (if requested), as well as summaries of the main points from your research that either led to your recommendation or, if a recommendation was not requested, will allow someone else to make a decision. Depending on the type of research conducted and your instructor’s requirements, you might include the background and/or reason for the research, definitions of terms, pros and cons, benefits, drawbacks, costs, opinions from experts, test results, etc. Include a bibliography of the sources you used. The audiences for this type of summary are usually decision makers who have requested your expertise because they do not have time to do the research themselves.

Howe Writing Initiative ‧ Farmer School of Business ‧ Miami University

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