Executive Summaries and Abstracts
Not all documents require an abstract, and most of your class papers won’t. However, all NPS theses must have an abstract, and abstracts are often required for conference papers and articles submitted for publication. Understanding how an abstract is structured can also help you as a researcher. When conducting research, get in the habit of reading abstracts carefully to determine which documents closely fit your research needs. Abstracts are limited in length (often about 200 words), and thus must be very concise, clear statement that convey a few key things:
- The topic and significance of the research
- The research question driving the inquiry
- The methods used to answer the question
- The findings and implications of the research
In order to make your research easier to find by other researchers, it is a good idea to think about what searchable keywords are associated with your project. Make sure to include them in your abstract!
Executive summaries are longer than abstracts, often running 3–7 pages. Not all theses require them, so check with your advisor or department for guidance. The following links contain further guidance on the difference between the two and on their contents.
Executive Summaries and Abstracts Links
- NPS-specific handout from the GWC and TPO: "Abstracts vs. Executive Summaries"
- Handout (printable): "Abstracts," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- Handout (printable): "How to Write an Abstract," Phil Koopman, Carnegie Mellon University
- Writing Guide: "Executive Summaries," Colorado State University
- Video (6:35): "Layering Reports - The Executive Summary 1," Zachery Koppleman, Purdue OWL
- Video (5:53): "Layering Reports - The Executive Summary A Closer Look Part 1," Zachery Koppleman, Purdue OWL
- Chapter from a book: "Technical Reports, Executive Summaries, and Abstracts" Robert Shenk, The Naval Institute Guide to Naval Writing