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The Difference Between an Abstract and Executive Summary

Do you want to know if an abstract is the same as an executive summary? If YES, here is the key difference between an abstract and an executive summary. Abstract and Executive Summary are two terms that are to be understood with difference. Abstract is mostly a term used in the writing of research papers. On the other hand, executive summary is a term used in business for a short document that summarizes a longer report.

Both are concise, very short (often less than a page) and summarize a longer piece of work (a journal article, a formal report, etc.). They touch on the major points of the work, and address purpose, scope, and methods used to arrive at reported findings, and must accurately describe the longer piece of work. Nonetheless, there are some distinctions between these two types of summaries.

What is an Abstract?

Abstracts (independent of the documents for which they were written) are more or less published in bound and/ or computer – retrievable periodical indexes, such as the American Statistics Index. These indexes help researchers “abstract” information from specific fields of study, and enable the researchers to review a larger body of information quickly. They also usually contain all the important terms that researchers might need in order to index the original document by subject.

Abstracts may also be descriptive or informative, depending on their scope. A descriptive abstract (25 – 250 words) summarizes information about purpose, scope, and methods used to make a conclusion or summarize findings; it may be like a table of contents of the longer work in sentence form. Descriptive abstracts are crucial for progress reports and documents that compile information.

While an informative abstract is an expanded version of the descriptive abstract; it includes results, conclusions, and recommendations from the original research. An informative abstract also retains the tone and scope of the original work, and may be as lengthy as up to 10% of the original document size (though clearly it must omit background and a great deal of detail).

Informative abstracts tend to satisfy the widest possible researcher indexing needs. Most research articles and reports are prefaced by an abstract. Below is a proper breakdown of the characteristics and uniqueness of 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.
  • 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.

What is an Executive Summary

Executive Summaries are more or less a type of informative abstract aimed at busy executives. They comprehensively restate document purpose, scope, methods, findings, results, conclusions, and recommendations; their purpose is to help the executive to make personnel, funding, or policy decisions.

Below is a breakdown of the characteristics and uniqueness of an Executive Summary.

  • An executive summary is written in non – technical language whereas an abstract can be written in technical language.
  • 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.

What is the Difference Between an Abstract and an Executive Summary?

Both an abstract and executive summary can be mistaken for each other, but they both have different purposes and concepts. An abstract is written for orientation whereas an executive summary is written as a condensed version. This is one of the main differences between an abstract and an executive summary. It is indeed possible that different businesses define executive summary differently according to the nature of their business model.