Effective Guide to Citations in an Executive Summary

Citations are essential to any formal document and should be included in executive summaries whenever possible. They lend authority and professionalism to your work.

Citations in executive summaries can make the difference between a report that is taken seriously and one that is not. This article will discuss the best ways to include citations in an executive summary without compromising its readability or overall tone.

What Is an Executive Summary?

An executive summary is a concise document summarizing the most important points of a lengthy report or proposal. Executive summaries are typically used to introduce longer documents, such as business plans or research reports to upper management.

Executive summaries are not just brief versions of the original report; they must be well-written and stand on their own merit. To ensure that your executive summary is effective, including accurate and relevant citations from the original text is important.

Importance of Citations in an Executive Summary

When writing an executive summary, it is important to include citations. This will show that you have done your research and that your conclusions are based on reliable sources.

Citing your sources also lends credibility to your argument and makes it easier for readers to verify the information you present. In addition, properly formatted citations can help improve the readability of your document.

Reasons why including citations in an executive summary is important:

Shows That Your Findings Are Credible

It shows that you have conducted extensive research and that your findings are credible. When making an argument or presenting data, it is essential to back up assertions with evidence from reputable sources.

By citing references appropriately, you demonstrate to readers that all claims made in the report are substantiated by factual evidence.

Makes Your Summary More Readable

Citations make reports more readable and user-friendly. In most cases, academic papers employ a detailed referencing system which can be difficult for non-specialists to understand without accompanying explanations.

However, well-placed footnotes or endnotes featuring minimalistic citation formatting tend not to interrupt the flow of text unduly. They allow interested parties quickly access supporting information.

Demonstrates Your Professionalism

Last but not least, following accepted citation formats demonstrates that you know how to write professionally. It accentuates your knowledge by showing that you can correctly cite sources using a variety of formats.

a person writing on a white notebook with an open laptop on the side.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

How to Cite an Executive Summary

Set up your page with double spacing for your citations and the hanging indent option selected. It aligns each succeeding entry a little to the right than the first line.

Whether the summary is online or in print, start your citation with the author’s name, last name first.

If the document is printed, follow the author’s name with the document’s title in quotations with a period inside the quotation mark. For online articles, place the date of publication in parenthesis after the author’s name, followed by a period.

Then complete both citations by including the volume number of the journal or series in italics, followed by the edition in parenthesis and page numbers. Use a colon after the date and include the word Print at the end of the citation to denote that it was a physical document.

Suppose you want to cite a study by John Smith entitled Relationship between Food and Sleeping Patterns in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The print and online citations would be as follows:

Print Citation:

Smith, John. “Relationship between Food and Sleeping Patterns.” [Executive Summary]. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 18 June 2004: 36(2), 37.Print.

Online Citation:

Smith, John. (2004). Relationship between Food and Sleeping Patterns [Executive Summary]. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 36(2), 37.


It is important that all research is cited in an executive summary. Citations in an executive summary help the reader to verify the reliability of the information presented in the executive summary. This article discusses the basics of citing an executive summary, giving examples and tips on formatting.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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