Directorate of
Intelligence

Notes on Analytic
Tradecraft

Product Evaluation
Staff


    September 1995
 


Note 7

 
 

Effective Summary

 
 
This is the seventh in a series of Product Evaluation Staff notes to clarify the standards used for evaluating DI assessments and to provide tradecraft tips for putting the standards into practice.
 


The summary plays a key role in determining the kind of impact a DI report or memorandum will have on the policymaking process. Thus, within the allotted space, the summary has to make the distinctive DI value added stand out - whether consisting of special intelligence with immediate bearing on US security interests, important findings from the sifting of all-source information, or actionable judgments about pending threats and opportunities.

As with other criteria covered in this series of tradecraft notes, analysts have to tailor each summary to the circumstances of the individual assignment. One way or another. though, the analyst has to crystallize the DI expertise presented in the text in a manner that will seize the attention of the intended audience.

When the clients for the assessment are few in number and their priority interests regarding US policy and action agendas are well known to the DI, the analysts' job is to craft a summary that crisply presents the what's new and the so what.

When an assessment is broadcast to a larger and more diffuse audience, the analysts' challenge in determining the structure and content of the summary is greater. Usually, the two most important goals are:

To account for the diversity of the potential audience for broadcast assessments, other introductory sections can be put to use in flagging the full range of value added and DI expertise. In particular, an introductory textbox, placed immediately after the summary, can be used to meet the needs of specialized segments of the audience:

A preface is also a useful instrument, in longer and broadly distributed assessments, for supplementing the summary:


Tradecraft Tips

DI veterans offer the following experience-based tips for enhancing the effectiveness of summaries:

-- Use short paragraphs, bullets and sub-bullets, bold face, and italics to break up the space and to help the busy decisionmaker latch on quickly to the key information, relationships, and judgments.

-- One official reported that he did not have time for  whole sentences  - just for what it was the analyst wanted him to know.

-- This usually means policy implications. In effect, the summary is a vehicle for explaining why a busy policy official should spend time on a DI product.

-- Strive to make the summary actionable; that is, structure it to help a policy official get something started, stopped, or otherwise sorted out.

-- If the assessment makes a bottom-line predictive judgment, refer to the key assumptions and other essential elements of the argumentation.

-- If the assessment conveys important new findings, cover the reliability of the sourcing and the essence of the methodology.

Forward to "Note 8"

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