Extractive vs. Abstractive Summarization: Implications for Program Evaluation

Summarization is crucial to understanding and evaluating vast amounts of data, particularly in program evaluation. With the proliferation of data and technological advancements, methods have risen to automate the summarization process. Among them, extractive and abstractive summarization are the most popular approaches. But what’s the difference between the two, and how do they impact program evaluation? Let’s delve deeper.

Extractive Summarization

Extractive summarization involves identifying and extracting significant sentences or phrases from the original text to compose the summary. It doesn’t generate any new penalties.

Consider the passage: “Program evaluation is critical for determining the success of a program. It helps organizations understand the effectiveness of their programs. Evaluators gather data and then analyze it.” An extractive summary might be: “Program evaluation is critical for determining the success of a program. It helps organizations understand the effectiveness of their programs.”

Implications for Program Evaluation:

  • Pros: Since it retains original sentences, it ensures that the meaning isn’t lost or altered. This can be particularly important when evaluating programs, where nuances and details can significantly impact the evaluation’s results.
  • Cons: It may miss out on overarching themes or insights because it’s limited to picking existing sentences. Extractive summaries can sometimes be disjointed or lack flow.

Abstractive Summarization

Abstractive summarization involves understanding the core content of the text and generating a new summary that might contain sentences or phrases not found in the original text.

Using the same passage about program evaluation, an abstractive summary might be: “Program evaluation is essential for assessing a program’s effectiveness by analyzing collected data.”

Implications for Program Evaluation:

  • Pros: It can provide a more concise and coherent summary, focusing on the essence and themes. Abstractive methods are more adept at capturing broader implications, which can be essential for program evaluators looking for overarching insights.
  • Cons: There’s a risk of misinterpreting or altering the original meaning, especially if the summarization algorithm isn’t accurate. This could lead to skewed conclusions in program evaluations.

Use Cases

There are a few use cases when this could be valuable for evaluators.

  1. Large-Scale Evaluations: For projects where evaluators need to review extensive documentation, automated summarization can assist in understanding the main points without delving into every detail. Extractive methods might be more appropriate here to ensure details aren’t missed.
  2. Presentation to Stakeholders: A concise overview is crucial when presenting findings to stakeholders. Abstractive summarization can help craft a more coherent and brief summary of results.
  3. Real-time Feedback: Summarization can provide quick insights for programs requiring real-time feedback, such as community outreach or interventions. Extractive or abstractive methods could be used depending on the need for accuracy vs. conciseness.


Both extractive and abstractive summarization offer unique advantages and challenges, especially in program evaluation. Evaluators should understand these methods’ intricacies and choose the most appropriate for their needs. As technology evolves, the lines between these two methods might blur, but their importance in effectively evaluating programs will remain undiminished.

Are we looking to delve deeper into the world of AI-driven summarization? Stay tuned for more articles on our platform!