In the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), communicating complex ideas and information is crucial. However, with so much information available, it can be challenging to capture the attention of readers and convey the most important details. That’s where the executive summary comes in. In this article, we discuss what executive summaries are, why they are essential, and how to write them effectively for a STEM audience.
An executive summary is a concise summary of a longer report or document. Its purpose is to provide a brief overview of the report’s most critical points, including the purpose, scope, methodology, results, and conclusions. Executive summaries are typically no longer than one page (or 1 page for every 20 pages of report), and are often used to inform decision-makers, stakeholders, and funding organizations.
Executive summaries are essential because they provide a quick and efficient way to communicate complex information to a broad audience. They allow readers to quickly assess whether a report or document is relevant to their interests or needs. In the context of STEM, where research and technical information can be complex, an executive summary can make all the difference in capturing the attention of readers and ensuring that the most critical information is communicated effectively.
Now that we understand what executive summaries are and why they are essential, let’s discuss how to write an effective executive summary for a STEM audience.
The first step in writing an effective executive summary is to clearly define the objective. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this report, and what do I want to convey to my audience?” The answer to these questions will guide the content and structure of your summary.
Once you have a clear objective, it’s time to summarize the main points of your report. This includes the purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. Be sure to include only the most critical information, and avoid including unnecessary details. Remember, your goal is to provide a concise and clear overview of your report, not repeat your entire report.
When writing for a STEM audience, it’s important to use clear and simple language. Avoid using technical terms and jargon that your audience may not understand. Use language that is accessible to a broader audience, and define any technical terms that you do use. The more accessible your language is, the easier it will be for your audience to understand and engage with your summary.
Using bullet points and headings can help make your executive summary more scannable and easier to read (but remember–don’t rely on bullet points TOO much!). This is especially important for STEM reports, which may contain complex data and technical information. Breaking your summary down into clear, concise sections can help your audience quickly identify the most critical information and understand the structure of your report.
Finally, it’s important to provide recommendations in your executive summary. This can include suggestions for future research, policy changes, or actions that should be taken based on the findings of your report. Including recommendations can help your audience understand the significance of your findings and provide a clear path forward.
Executive summaries are an essential tool for communicating complex information to a broad audience, especially in the context of STEM. By starting with a clear objective, summarizing the main points, using clear and simple language, using bullet points and headings, and providing recommendations, you can write an effective executive summary that captures the attention of your audience and communicates the most critical information. Remember, the goal of an executive summary is to provide a concise and clear overview of your report, so always focus on the most critical information and avoid unnecessary details. With these strategies in mind, you can become an expert in writing effective executive summaries for a STEM audience.
The STEM Writing Institute equips you with the tools you need to write your executive summaries with ease. Sign up for an SWI Writing Workshop today!
Photo by Kampus Production