Executive Summaries and Letters of Transmittal

The executive summary and letter of transmittal are parts of the research report assignment due at the end of the semester. (Go to http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/engl402/resrepassign.htm for the research report assignment.) They are often read first and read more carefully than any other part of the report than the conclusions and recommendations section.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is basically the report in miniature, including its conclusions and recommendations.  It typically is no longer than 10% of the total page length of the report.  The executive summary has the same formal tone and factual information of the rest of the report. See p. 241 or p. 313 for examples, or look at the examples at these links:

Letter of Transmittal

A letter or memo of transmittal conveys the report to the person requesting it, or the primary audience for the report.  It provides a context for reading the report. 

Unlike the report proper, a letter of transmittal may use “I” and be less formal in tone than the rest of the report.  Also, it provides a space for pointing out any unusual features of the report, such as unexpected findings, and for discussing the circumstances surrounding the preparation of the report, such as any difficulties or unexpected events in its preparation.  A letter of transmittal will typically conclude with thanks to the person requesting the report. See pp. 380-381 for more information or p. 312 or p. 383 for an example.

Executive Summary or Abstract Letter or Memo of Transmittal


1. To provide a summary of the material in the report.

2. To allow the reader to anticipate the conclusions and recommendations made in the last part of the report.


1. To introduce the report and provide a context for understanding its issues:

    • Identifies the specific subject of the report.
    • Typically identifies the person or agency requesting the report.
    • Identifies the scope and limitations of the report
    • Identifies what the recipient is expected to do with the information. This may take the form of simply suggesting that the recipient contact the writer for more information if there are any questions.

2. To provide a record of the report's production and transmission.

3. To alert the reader(s) to the following:

  • Issues or discrepancies that might exist between the proposal and the report
  • Decisions made about the project made after the initial proposal
  • Changes of format, changes of direction, research challenges, minor changes of research design, and so on.
Conventions Conventions

1. Typically is not more than 10% of the length of the report.

2. Uses the formal report conventions (does not use "I").

3. Addresses issues in the report but does not go beyond the report in its explanations.

1. Not usually a lengthy document (1 page or so).

2. May have a slightly less formal tone (uses "I") than the report proper.

3. Addresses issues surrounding the completion of the report: any unexpected difficulties or successes, for example, or possibly the need for further study.

4. Acknowledges the assistance of those who have helped (interviewees, etc.).

5. Concluding paragraph typically contains one or more of the following:

  • Thanks the person requesting the report for the opportunity to investigate the issue.
  • Suggests that the recipient contact the writer if there are any questions.
  • Provides contact information for follow-up information.


1.  Group work option. Even if you are working collaboratively on the final project for the class, you will still need to turn in an individual executive summary and letter of transmittal.  You should include the qualifications of those working with you in the Methods section.