Introduction versus Executive Summary.

Some reports require both an Introduction and an Executive Summary. There is a difference between these that students often confuse.


As the word implies, the “Introduction” is used to introduce the report to the reader. It gives the reader an understanding of the areas that the report will discuss.

Here we summarise what the report will be about. We need to briefly describe what each section of the report does.

It is important that students do not write about the findings of their report here.

It is often written after you finish writing the body of the report. If you were to write the introduction first, when you then write the body you may find that you need to go back and add new sections to the introduction so that it makes sense. This takes extra time and effort.

By writing the introduction last you should find that, because you know what all the sections are, you can then more easily write the introduction.

The introduction is written in present or future tense.

Executive Summary

It may sound obvious but this is a summary of the findings. Students often make the mistake of writing this as you would the introduction.

The idea is that someone should be able to just read the executive summary and have a very good idea of what the report is about and what it’s conclusions are.

As you know, it is called the “Executive Summary” because in business a busy executive often only has the time to read the this summary. If they need to they will then read other sections of the report.

For reports where numbers are used (eg, finances or other quantitative reports) students should put the key numbers into the executive summary. This is the professional way to do it.

The executive summary should also highlight the key findings of the essay or report. It is written in past tense

The executive summary is also written after the report is finished. We can often simply make a copy of the report and then go through and delete everything in each section except the key sentences. We can then massage those key sentences to make it sound right.