This learning resource aims to help you explore ways of improving expression in an executive summary (ES) of a research or technical design project. An ES is a short document so it’s important the writing is focused, has a clear structure and avoids repetition. The exercises are designed to help you think about ways of improving the structure of an ES from the collection.
Caveat – This is an example of a medical engineering ES from a Masters in Engineering (MEng) group project. If you are writing an ES, liaise with your project supervisor about the structure and research /design content.
But first of all…
What is an executive summary?
It’s a concise summary of what the study found; you need to present both the positive and negative aspects of the work and clearly communicate these as key findings.
It’s a persuasive document, so it’s important to recognise audience needs and expectations (different professionals may have different motivations towards the project). To entice your reader, you need to think about the positive features of the work and ensure you highlight them. You are trying to persuade readers about the value of the research / design project and engage the audience so that they will read the report. However, if the outcomes are negative, you need to clearly explain these findings and offer suggestions on what could be done instead, reflecting on the academic literature.
So think about:
Importance of audience
Who is going to read the ES? Why? How much do they know about the topic? You need to think about your audience and what knowledge you can assume they have before making choices about what to include in the ES.
Thinking about introductions.
The introduction of the ES should set the background and make claims about the relevance and purpose of the project. It should be written concisely, so you should decide carefully what topics need to be incorporated into this section. These choices will be governed by the writer’s understanding of the audience for the ES and their needs.
Try this exercise:
Recent implementation of metallic stents in urology has the potential to enhance the quality of life. Novel targeted ureteral drainage and easy removal of stents are important factors which contribute to stent design. However, encrustation following urine exposure eventually limits the efficiency of the stent, resulting in obstructed urinary flow. This has highlighted the need for the development of non-invasive techniques for the removal of deposits to restore urinary drainage. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) has recently been used for the treatment of urinary tract stones with success rates up to 92 %. However, current interventions involve frequent removal of the stents between 12-18 months, resulting in repeated invasive surgery for the patient. Significant reduction in replacement rates would considerably enhance the quality of life for patients who require long term stenting. Successful treatments with ESWL for the clearance of encrusted stents could potentially revolutionise current routine treatment in the clinical setting. This project will therefore validate the efficacy of ESWL for the removal of encrustation for future in vivo treatments.
Recent implementation of metallic stents in urology has the potential to enhance the quality of life. Novel targeted ureteral drainage and easy removal of stents are
Thinking about objectives:
Objectives need to be written clearly and concisely.
Try this exercise:
The main objectives:
To do more work on this Executive Summary, go to part two which covers writing key findings and recommendations.