Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper
Definition and Purpose of Abstracts
An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:
- an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
- an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
- and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.
It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.
If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.
The Contents of an Abstract
Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.
Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:
- the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
- the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
- what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
- the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
- your research and/or analytical methods
- your main findings , results , or arguments
- the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.
Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.
When to Write Your Abstract
Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.
What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.
Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract
The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.
The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.
The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).
Sample Abstract 1
From the social sciences.
Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses
Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.
Sample Abstract 2
From the humanities.
Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications
Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.
Sample Abstract/Summary 3
From the sciences.
Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells
Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.
Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract
Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study
Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.
Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.
“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.
METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.
RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.
CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)
Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:
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Scholars often write abstracts for various applications: conference presentations may require an abstract or other short summary for a program; journal articles almost always require abstracts; invited talks and lectures are often advertised using an abstract. While the application may necessarily change the length of the abstract (a conference program may only allow for 50-75 words, for instance), the purpose and structure remains fairly constant.
Abstracts are generally kept brief (approximately 150-200 words). They differ by field, but in general, they need to summarize the article so that readers can decide if it is relevant to their work. The typical abstract includes these elements:
- A statement of the problem and objectives
- A statement of the significance of the work
- A summary of employed methods or your research approach
- A summary of findings or conclusions of the study
- A description of the implications of the findings
Regardless of field, abstract authors should explain the purpose of the work, methods used, the results and the conclusions that can be drawn. However, each field purports slightly different ways to structure the abstract. A reliable strategy is to write the abstract as a condensed version of your article, with 1-2 sentences summarizing each major section. This means that in many of the sciences and a large portion of the humanities, abstracts follow a version of the IMRAD structure: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
Most scientific journals require authors to submit such abstracts. It is generally advisable to write the abstract in the English language. That is because most papers in other languages, especially Asian nations, tend to publish an English abstract with common search engines, such as, the MLA site.
This example abstract follows the IMRAD structure closely. The first two sentences are the introduction and background information. Sentences 3-5 describe the methods used in the study. Sentence 6 summarizes the results, while the last two sentences summarize the discussion and conclusion of the study; they also indicate the significance of the results.
Usability and User-Centered Theory for 21 st Century OWLs — by Dana Lynn Driscoll, H. Allen Brizee, Michael Salvo, and Morgan Sousa from The Handbook of Research on Virtual Workplaces and the New Nature of Business Practices . Eds. Kirk St. Amant and Pavel Zemlansky. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing, 2008.
This article describes results of usability research conducted on the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). The Purdue OWL is an information-rich educational website that provides free writing resources to users worldwide. Researchers conducted two generations of usability tests. In the first test, participants were asked to navigate the OWL and answer questions. Results of the first test and user-centered scholarship indicated that a more user-centered focus would improve usability. The second test asked participants to answer writing-related questions using both the OWL website and a user-centered OWL prototype. Participants took significantly less time to find information using the prototype and reported a more positive response to the user-centered prototype than the original OWL. Researchers conclude that a user-centered website is more effective and can be a model for information-rich online resources. Researchers also conclude that usability research can be a productive source of ideas, underscoring the need for participatory invention.
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How to Write an Abstract
Last Updated: May 6, 2021 Approved
This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 60 testimonials and 86% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,889,746 times.
If you need to write an abstract for an academic or scientific paper, don't panic! Your abstract is simply a short, stand-alone summary of the work or paper that others can use as an overview.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source An abstract describes what you do in your essay, whether it’s a scientific experiment or a literary analysis paper. It should help your reader understand the paper and help people searching for this paper decide whether it suits their purposes prior to reading. To write an abstract, finish your paper first, then type a summary that identifies the purpose, problem, methods, results, and conclusion of your work. After you get the details down, all that's left is to format it correctly. Since an abstract is only a summary of the work you've already done, it's easy to accomplish!
Getting Your Abstract Started
- A thesis and an abstract are entirely different things. The thesis of a paper introduces the main idea or question, while the abstract works to review the entirety of the paper, including the methods and results.
- Even if you think that you know what your paper is going to be about, always save the abstract for last. You will be able to give a much more accurate summary if you do just that - summarize what you've already written.
- Is there a maximum or minimum length?
- Are there style requirements?
- Are you writing for an instructor or a publication?
- Will other academics in your field read this abstract?
- Should it be accessible to a lay reader or somebody from another field?
- Descriptive abstracts explain the purpose, goal, and methods of your research but leave out the results section. These are typically only 100-200 words.
- Informative abstracts are like a condensed version of your paper, giving an overview of everything in your research including the results. These are much longer than descriptive abstracts, and can be anywhere from a single paragraph to a whole page long.  X Research source
- The basic information included in both styles of abstract is the same, with the main difference being that the results are only included in an informative abstract, and an informative abstract is much longer than a descriptive one.
- A critical abstract is not often used, but it may be required in some courses. A critical abstract accomplishes the same goals as the other types of abstract, but will also relate the study or work being discussed to the writer’s own research. It may critique the research design or methods.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
Writing Your Abstract
- Why did you decide to do this study or project?
- How did you conduct your research?
- What did you find?
- Why is this research and your findings important?
- Why should someone read your entire essay?
- What problem is your research trying to better understand or solve?
- What is the scope of your study - a general problem, or something specific?
- What is your main claim or argument?
- Discuss your own research including the variables and your approach.
- Describe the evidence you have to support your claim
- Give an overview of your most important sources.
- What answer did you reach from your research or study?
- Was your hypothesis or argument supported?
- What are the general findings?
- What are the implications of your work?
- Are your results general or very specific?
Formatting Your Abstract
- Many journals have specific style guides for abstracts. If you’ve been given a set of rules or guidelines, follow them to the letter.  X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
- Avoid using direct acronyms or abbreviations in the abstract, as these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader. That uses up precious writing room, and should generally be avoided.
- If your topic is about something well-known enough, you can reference the names of people or places that your paper focuses on.
- Don’t include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract. These take up too much room and usually aren’t what your readers want from an abstract anyway.  X Research source
- For example, if you’re writing a paper on the cultural differences in perceptions of schizophrenia, be sure to use words like “schizophrenia,” “cross-cultural,” “culture-bound,” “mental illness,” and “societal acceptance.” These might be search terms people use when looking for a paper on your subject.
- Make sure to avoid jargon. This specialized vocabulary may not be understood by general readers in your area and can cause confusion.  X Research source
- Consulting with your professor, a colleague in your field, or a tutor or writing center consultant can be very helpful. If you have these resources available to you, use them!
- Asking for assistance can also let you know about any conventions in your field. For example, it is very common to use the passive voice (“experiments were performed”) in the sciences. However, in the humanities active voice is usually preferred.
Sample Abstracts and Outline
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Abstracts are typically a paragraph or two and should be no more than 10% of the length of the full essay. Look at other abstracts in similar publications for an idea of how yours should go.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Consider carefully how technical the paper or the abstract should be. It is often reasonable to assume that your readers have some understanding of your field and the specific language it entails, but anything you can do to make the abstract more easily readable is a good thing. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/abstracts/
- ↑ http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/presentations_abstracts_examples.html
- ↑ http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/656/1/
- ↑ https://www.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html
- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/656/1/
- ↑ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136027/
- ↑ http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/presentations_abstracts.html
About This Article
To write an abstract, start with a short paragraph that explains the purpose of your paper and what it's about. Then, write a paragraph explaining any arguments or claims you make in your paper. Follow that with a third paragraph that details the research methods you used and any evidence you found for your claims. Finally, conclude your abstract with a brief section that tells readers why your findings are important. To learn how to properly format your abstract, read the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the major aspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.
Writing an Abstract. The Writing Center. Clarion University, 2009; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Importance of a Good Abstract
Sometimes your professor will ask you to include an abstract, or general summary of your work, with your research paper. The abstract allows you to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Therefore, enough key information [e.g., summary results, observations, trends, etc.] must be included to make the abstract useful to someone who may want to examine your work.
How do you know when you have enough information in your abstract? A simple rule-of-thumb is to imagine that you are another researcher doing a similar study. Then ask yourself: if your abstract was the only part of the paper you could access, would you be happy with the amount of information presented there? Does it tell the whole story about your study? If the answer is "no" then the abstract likely needs to be revised.
How to Write a Research Abstract. Office of Undergraduate Research. University of Kentucky; Staiger, David L. “What Today’s Students Need to Know about Writing Abstracts.” International Journal of Business Communication January 3 (1966): 29-33; Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Abstracts and the Writing of Abstracts . Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Types of Abstracts
To begin, you need to determine which type of abstract you should include with your paper. There are four general types.
Critical Abstract A critical abstract provides, in addition to describing main findings and information, a judgment or comment about the study’s validity, reliability, or completeness. The researcher evaluates the paper and often compares it with other works on the same subject. Critical abstracts are generally 400-500 words in length due to the additional interpretive commentary. These types of abstracts are used infrequently.
Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract only describes the work being summarized. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less. Informative Abstract The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300 words in length.
Highlight Abstract A highlight abstract is specifically written to attract the reader’s attention to the study. No pretense is made of there being either a balanced or complete picture of the paper and, in fact, incomplete and leading remarks may be used to spark the reader’s interest. In that a highlight abstract cannot stand independent of its associated article, it is not a true abstract and, therefore, rarely used in academic writing.
II. Writing Style
Use the active voice when possible , but note that much of your abstract may require passive sentence constructions. Regardless, write your abstract using concise, but complete, sentences. Get to the point quickly and always use the past tense because you are reporting on a study that has been completed.
Abstracts should be formatted as a single paragraph in a block format and with no paragraph indentations. In most cases, the abstract page immediately follows the title page. Do not number the page. Rules set forth in writing manual vary but, in general, you should center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page with double spacing between the heading and the abstract. The final sentences of an abstract concisely summarize your study’s conclusions, implications, or applications to practice and, if appropriate, can be followed by a statement about the need for additional research revealed from the findings.
Composing Your Abstract
Although it is the first section of your paper, the abstract should be written last since it will summarize the contents of your entire paper. A good strategy to begin composing your abstract is to take whole sentences or key phrases from each section of the paper and put them in a sequence that summarizes the contents. Then revise or add connecting phrases or words to make the narrative flow clearly and smoothly. Note that statistical findings should be reported parenthetically [i.e., written in parentheses].
Before handing in your final paper, check to make sure that the information in the abstract completely agrees with what you have written in the paper. Think of the abstract as a sequential set of complete sentences describing the most crucial information using the fewest necessary words. The abstract SHOULD NOT contain:
- A catchy introductory phrase, provocative quote, or other device to grab the reader's attention,
- Lengthy background or contextual information,
- Redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information;
- Acronyms or abbreviations,
- References to other literature [say something like, "current research shows that..." or "studies have indicated..."],
- Using ellipticals [i.e., ending with "..."] or incomplete sentences,
- Jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader,
- Citations to other works, and
- Any sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.
Abstract. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Abstract. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Abstracts. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Borko, Harold and Seymour Chatman. "Criteria for Acceptable Abstracts: A Survey of Abstracters' Instructions." American Documentation 14 (April 1963): 149-160; Abstracts. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Hartley, James and Lucy Betts. "Common Weaknesses in Traditional Abstracts in hte Social Sciences." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60 (October 2009): 2010-2018; Procter, Margaret. The Abstract. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Riordan, Laura. “Mastering the Art of Abstracts.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 115 (January 2015 ): 41-47; Writing Report Abstracts. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Abstracts. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-First Century . Oxford, UK: 2010; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Never Cite Just the Abstract!
Citing to just a journal article's abstract does not confirm for the reader that you have conducted a thorough or reliable review of the literature. If the full-text is not available, go to the USC Libraries main page and enter the title of the article [NOT the title of the journal]. If the Libraries have a subscription to the journal, the article should appear with a link to the full-text or to the journal publisher page where you can get the article. If the article does not appear, try searching Google Scholar using the link on the USC Libraries main page. If you still can't find the article after doing this, contact a librarian or you can request it from our free i nterlibrary loan and document delivery service .
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What this handout is about
This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.
What is an abstract?
An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.
Why write an abstract?
You may write an abstract for various reasons. The two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, many online databases use abstracts to index larger works. Therefore, abstracts should contain keywords and phrases that allow for easy searching.
Say you are beginning a research project on how Brazilian newspapers helped Brazil’s ultra-liberal president Luiz Ignácio da Silva wrest power from the traditional, conservative power base. A good first place to start your research is to search Dissertation Abstracts International for all dissertations that deal with the interaction between newspapers and politics. “Newspapers and politics” returned 569 hits. A more selective search of “newspapers and Brazil” returned 22 hits. That is still a fair number of dissertations. Titles can sometimes help winnow the field, but many titles are not very descriptive. For example, one dissertation is titled “Rhetoric and Riot in Rio de Janeiro.” It is unclear from the title what this dissertation has to do with newspapers in Brazil. One option would be to download or order the entire dissertation on the chance that it might speak specifically to the topic. A better option is to read the abstract. In this case, the abstract reveals the main focus of the dissertation:
This dissertation examines the role of newspaper editors in the political turmoil and strife that characterized late First Empire Rio de Janeiro (1827-1831). Newspaper editors and their journals helped change the political culture of late First Empire Rio de Janeiro by involving the people in the discussion of state. This change in political culture is apparent in Emperor Pedro I’s gradual loss of control over the mechanisms of power. As the newspapers became more numerous and powerful, the Emperor lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people. To explore the role of the newspapers in the political events of the late First Empire, this dissertation analyzes all available newspapers published in Rio de Janeiro from 1827 to 1831. Newspapers and their editors were leading forces in the effort to remove power from the hands of the ruling elite and place it under the control of the people. In the process, newspapers helped change how politics operated in the constitutional monarchy of Brazil.
From this abstract you now know that although the dissertation has nothing to do with modern Brazilian politics, it does cover the role of newspapers in changing traditional mechanisms of power. After reading the abstract, you can make an informed judgment about whether the dissertation would be worthwhile to read.
Besides selection, the other main purpose of the abstract is for indexing. Most article databases in the online catalog of the library enable you to search abstracts. This allows for quick retrieval by users and limits the extraneous items recalled by a “full-text” search. However, for an abstract to be useful in an online retrieval system, it must incorporate the key terms that a potential researcher would use to search. For example, if you search Dissertation Abstracts International using the keywords “France” “revolution” and “politics,” the search engine would search through all the abstracts in the database that included those three words. Without an abstract, the search engine would be forced to search titles, which, as we have seen, may not be fruitful, or else search the full text. It’s likely that a lot more than 60 dissertations have been written with those three words somewhere in the body of the entire work. By incorporating keywords into the abstract, the author emphasizes the central topics of the work and gives prospective readers enough information to make an informed judgment about the applicability of the work.
When do people write abstracts?
- when submitting articles to journals, especially online journals
- when applying for research grants
- when writing a book proposal
- when completing the Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
- when writing a proposal for a conference paper
- when writing a proposal for a book chapter
Most often, the author of the entire work (or prospective work) writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract. Undergraduates are sometimes asked to draft abstracts of books/articles for classmates who have not read the larger work.
Types of abstracts
There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. They have different aims, so as a consequence they have different components and styles. There is also a third type called critical, but it is rarely used. If you want to find out more about writing a critique or a review of a work, see the UNC Writing Center handout on writing a literature review . If you are unsure which type of abstract you should write, ask your instructor (if the abstract is for a class) or read other abstracts in your field or in the journal where you are submitting your article.
A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short—100 words or less.
The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the complete article/paper/book. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it may be much less.
Here are examples of a descriptive and an informative abstract of this handout on abstracts . Descriptive abstract:
The two most common abstract types—descriptive and informative—are described and examples of each are provided.
Abstracts present the essential elements of a longer work in a short and powerful statement. The purpose of an abstract is to provide prospective readers the opportunity to judge the relevance of the longer work to their projects. Abstracts also include the key terms found in the longer work and the purpose and methods of the research. Authors abstract various longer works, including book proposals, dissertations, and online journal articles. There are two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. A descriptive abstract briefly describes the longer work, while an informative abstract presents all the main arguments and important results. This handout provides examples of various types of abstracts and instructions on how to construct one.
Which type should I use?
Your best bet in this case is to ask your instructor or refer to the instructions provided by the publisher. You can also make a guess based on the length allowed; i.e., 100-120 words = descriptive; 250+ words = informative.
How do I write an abstract?
The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:
- Reason for writing: What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
- Problem: What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
- Methodology: An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
- Results: Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
- Implications: What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?
(This list of elements is adapted with permission from Philip Koopman, “How to Write an Abstract.” )
All abstracts include:
- A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
- The most important information first.
- The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
- Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
- Clear, concise, and powerful language.
Abstracts may include:
- The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
- Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
- The same chronological structure as the original work.
How not to write an abstract:
- Do not refer extensively to other works.
- Do not add information not contained in the original work.
- Do not define terms.
If you are abstracting your own writing
When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.
This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper– see our short video . For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence. Practice grouping ideas using webbing or color coding .
For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.
Cut and paste:
To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.
If you are abstracting someone else’s writing
When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:
Identify key terms:
Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.
Highlight key phrases and sentences:
Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.
Don’t look back:
After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.
Revise, revise, revise
No matter what type of abstract you are writing, or whether you are abstracting your own work or someone else’s, the most important step in writing an abstract is to revise early and often. When revising, delete all extraneous words and incorporate meaningful and powerful words. The idea is to be as clear and complete as possible in the shortest possible amount of space. The Word Count feature of Microsoft Word can help you keep track of how long your abstract is and help you hit your target length.
Example 1: Humanities abstract
Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998
This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.
Now let’s break down this abstract into its component parts to see how the author has distilled his entire dissertation into a ~200 word abstract.
What the dissertation does This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.
How the dissertation does it The time period studied in this dissertation includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies.
What materials are used Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports.
Conclusion This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to movement demands and the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.
Keywords social movements Civil Rights Movement Mississippi voting rights desegregation
Example 2: Science Abstract
Luis Lehner, “Gravitational radiation from black hole spacetimes” Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1998 DAI-B 59/06, p. 2797, Dec 1998
The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search for and analysis of detected signals. The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm. This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.
This science abstract covers much of the same ground as the humanities one, but it asks slightly different questions.
Why do this study The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search and analysis of the detected signals.
What the study does The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm.
Results This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.
Keywords gravitational radiation (GR) spacetimes black holes
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.
Kilborn, Judith. 1998. “Writing Abstracts.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated October 20, 1998. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/bizwrite/abstracts.html .
Koopman, Philip. 1997. “How to Write an Abstract.” Carnegie Mellon University. October 1997. http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html .
Lancaster, F.W. 2003. Indexing And Abstracting in Theory and Practice , 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing.
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APA Abstract (2020) | Formatting, Length, and Keywords
Published on November 6, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on January 3, 2022.
An APA abstract is a comprehensive summary of your paper in which you briefly address the research problem , hypotheses , methods , results , and implications of your research. It’s placed on a separate page right after the title page and is usually no longer than 250 words.
Most professional papers that are submitted for publication require an abstract. Student papers typically don’t need an abstract, unless instructed otherwise.
Table of contents
How to format the abstract, how to write an apa abstract, which keywords to use, frequently asked questions, apa abstract example.
Follow these five steps to format your abstract in APA Style:
- Insert a running head (for a professional paper—not needed for a student paper) and page number.
- Set page margins to 1 inch (2.54 cm).
- Write “Abstract” (bold and centered) at the top of the page.
- Do not indent the first line.
- Double-space the text.
- Use a legible font like Times New Roman (12 pt.).
- Limit the length to 250 words.
- Indent the first line 0.5 inches.
- Write the label “Keywords:” (italicized).
- Write keywords in lowercase letters.
- Separate keywords with commas.
- Do not use a period after the keywords.
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The abstract is a self-contained piece of text that informs the reader what your research is about. It’s best to write the abstract after you’re finished with the rest of your paper.
The questions below may help structure your abstract. Try answering them in one to three sentences each.
- What is the problem? Outline the objective, research questions , and/or hypotheses .
- What has been done? Explain your research methods .
- What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions .
- What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations .
Check out our guide on how to write an abstract for more guidance and an annotated example.
Guide: writing an abstract
At the end of the abstract, you may include a few keywords that will be used for indexing if your paper is published on a database. Listing your keywords will help other researchers find your work.
Choosing relevant keywords is essential. Try to identify keywords that address your topic, method, or population. APA recommends including three to five keywords.
An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:
- To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
- To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.
Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.
An APA abstract is around 150–250 words long. However, always check your target journal’s guidelines and don’t exceed the specified word count.
In an APA Style paper , the abstract is placed on a separate page after the title page (page 2).
Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:
- The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
- The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.
There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.
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Streefkerk, R. (2022, January 03). APA Abstract (2020) | Formatting, Length, and Keywords. Scribbr. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-abstract/
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How to Write an Abstract
An abstract of a work, usually of an essay, is a concise summary of its main points. It is meant to concentrate the argument of a work, presenting it as clearly as possible.
The abstract often appears after the title and before the main body of an essay. If you are writing an abstract as part of an assignment, you should check with your instructor about where to place it.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when composing an abstract:
- In general, avoid too much copying and pasting directly from your essay, especially from the first paragraph. An abstract is often presented directly before an essay, and it will often be the first thing readers consult after your title. You wouldn’t repeat your ideas verbatim in the body of your essay, so why would you do that in an abstract? Consider the abstract part of the work itself.
- Start off strong. An abstract should be a mini essay, so it should begin with a clear statement of your argument. This should be the first sentence or two.
- Abstracts vary in length. But a good rule is to aim for five to seven sentences. The bulk of the abstract will review the evidence for your claim and summarize your findings.
- Avoid complicated syntax. Long sentences and intricate phrasing have their place in essays, but the abstract should be concise. It is not the place for ambitious grammar.
- The last sentence or two should point to any conclusions reached and the direction future research might take. Like the first sentence, the last should be provocative and direct. Leave your readers wanting to read your essay.
In what follows, the authors have written an effective abstract that adheres to the basic principles above:
Literary critics have long imagined that T. S. Eliot’s The Sacred Wood (1920) shaped the canon and methods of countless twentieth-century classrooms. This essay turns instead to the classroom that made The Sacred Wood : the Modern English Literature extension school tutorial that Eliot taught to working-class adults between 1916 and 1919. Contextualizing Eliot’s tutorial within the extension school movement shows how the ethos and practices of the Workers’ Educational Association shaped his teaching. Over the course of three years, Eliot and his students reimagined canonical literature as writing by working poets for working people—a model of literary history that fully informed his canon reformation in The Sacred Wood . This example demonstrates how attention to teaching changes the history of English literary study. It further reveals how all kinds of institutions, not just elite universities, have shaped the discipline’s methods and canons. (Buurma and Heffernan)
This abstract uses the first two sentences to establish the essay’s place in its field of study and to suggest how it intervenes in existing scholarship. The syntax is direct and simple. The third sentence begins to outline how the authors will support their argument. They aim to demonstrate the relevance of Eliot’s teaching to his ideas about literature, and so they move next to discuss some of the details of that teaching. Finally, the abstract concludes by telling us about the consequences of this argument. The conclusion both points to new directions for research and tells us why we should read the essay.
Buurma, Rachel Sagner, and Laura Heffernan. Abstract of “The Classroom in the Canon: T. S. Eliot’s Modern English Literature Extension Course for Working People and The Sacred Wood. ” PMLA , vol. 133, no. 2, Mar. 2018, p. 463.
Estate Best 18 July 2021 AT 05:07 AM
Please how will I write an abstract for my own poem collections?
Your e-mail address will not be published
Marc Simoes 01 April 2022 AT 04:04 PM
I am teaching students how to format and write an abstract, but I find no precise guidelines in the MLA Handbook. Should the first word of the abstract body text begin with the word "Abstract" followed by a period or colon and then the abstract content? Should the word "Abstract" be underlined? Over the years, I was taught both of these ways by different instructors, but I haven't found any definitive instructions, and now my students are asking me the correct format. Please help! Thank you!
Joseph Wallace 12 April 2022 AT 01:04 PM
Although publishers like the MLA will use their own house style guidelines for abstracts in published material, there is no one correct way for students to format their abstracts. Instructors should decide what works best for their classes and assignments.
Lorraine Belo 17 April 2022 AT 10:04 PM
Can you write a brief abstract about your MLA writing
Subrata Biswas 13 July 2023 AT 10:07 AM
Generally, the abstract is written in Italics. Is there any rule as such?
Joseph Wallace 31 July 2023 AT 10:07 AM
Thanks for your question. There is no rule saying that abstracts need to be written in italics. Some publications use italics for abstracts and some do not.
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- How to Write an Abstract
Expedite peer review, increase search-ability, and set the tone for your study
The abstract is your chance to let your readers know what they can expect from your article. Learn how to write a clear, and concise abstract that will keep your audience reading.
How your abstract impacts editorial evaluation and future readership
After the title , the abstract is the second-most-read part of your article. A good abstract can help to expedite peer review and, if your article is accepted for publication, it’s an important tool for readers to find and evaluate your work. Editors use your abstract when they first assess your article. Prospective reviewers see it when they decide whether to accept an invitation to review. Once published, the abstract gets indexed in PubMed and Google Scholar , as well as library systems and other popular databases. Like the title, your abstract influences keyword search results. Readers will use it to decide whether to read the rest of your article. Other researchers will use it to evaluate your work for inclusion in systematic reviews and meta-analysis. It should be a concise standalone piece that accurately represents your research.
What to include in an abstract
The main challenge you’ll face when writing your abstract is keeping it concise AND fitting in all the information you need. Depending on your subject area the journal may require a structured abstract following specific headings. A structured abstract helps your readers understand your study more easily. If your journal doesn’t require a structured abstract it’s still a good idea to follow a similar format, just present the abstract as one paragraph without headings.
Background or Introduction – What is currently known? Start with a brief, 2 or 3 sentence, introduction to the research area.
Objectives or Aims – What is the study and why did you do it? Clearly state the research question you’re trying to answer.
Methods – What did you do? Explain what you did and how you did it. Include important information about your methods, but avoid the low-level specifics. Some disciplines have specific requirements for abstract methods.
- CONSORT for randomized trials.
- STROBE for observational studies
- PRISMA for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Results – What did you find? Briefly give the key findings of your study. Include key numeric data (including confidence intervals or p values), where possible.
Conclusions – What did you conclude? Tell the reader why your findings matter, and what this could mean for the ‘bigger picture’ of this area of research.
The main challenge you may find when writing your abstract is keeping it concise AND convering all the information you need to.
- Keep it concise and to the point. Most journals have a maximum word count, so check guidelines before you write the abstract to save time editing it later.
- Write for your audience. Are they specialists in your specific field? Are they cross-disciplinary? Are they non-specialists? If you’re writing for a general audience, or your research could be of interest to the public keep your language as straightforward as possible. If you’re writing in English, do remember that not all of your readers will necessarily be native English speakers.
- Focus on key results, conclusions and take home messages.
- Write your paper first, then create the abstract as a summary.
- Check the journal requirements before you write your abstract, eg. required subheadings.
- Include keywords or phrases to help readers search for your work in indexing databases like PubMed or Google Scholar.
- Double and triple check your abstract for spelling and grammar errors. These kind of errors can give potential reviewers the impression that your research isn’t sound, and can make it easier to find reviewers who accept the invitation to review your manuscript. Your abstract should be a taste of what is to come in the rest of your article.
- Sensationalize your research.
- Speculate about where this research might lead in the future.
- Use abbreviations or acronyms (unless absolutely necessary or unless they’re widely known, eg. DNA).
- Repeat yourself unnecessarily, eg. “Methods: We used X technique. Results: Using X technique, we found…”
- Contradict anything in the rest of your manuscript.
- Include content that isn’t also covered in the main manuscript.
- Include citations or references.
Tip: How to edit your work
Editing is challenging, especially if you are acting as both a writer and an editor. Read our guidelines for advice on how to refine your work, including useful tips for setting your intentions, re-review, and consultation with colleagues.
- How to Write a Great Title
- How to Write Your Methods
- How to Report Statistics
- How to Write Discussions and Conclusions
- How to Edit Your Work
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How to Write an Abstract (With Examples)
Table of Contents
What is an abstract in a paper, how long should an abstract be, 5 steps for writing an abstract, examples of an abstract, how prowritingaid can help you write an abstract.
If you are writing a scientific research paper or a book proposal, you need to know how to write an abstract, which summarizes the contents of the paper or book.
When researchers are looking for peer-reviewed papers to use in their studies, the first place they will check is the abstract to see if it applies to their work. Therefore, your abstract is one of the most important parts of your entire paper.
In this article, we’ll explain what an abstract is, what it should include, and how to write one.
An abstract is a concise summary of the details within a report. Some abstracts give more details than others, but the main things you’ll be talking about are why you conducted the research, what you did, and what the results show.
When a reader is deciding whether to read your paper completely, they will first look at the abstract. You need to be concise in your abstract and give the reader the most important information so they can determine if they want to read the whole paper.
Remember that an abstract is the last thing you’ll want to write for the research paper because it directly references parts of the report. If you haven’t written the report, you won’t know what to include in your abstract.
If you are writing a paper for a journal or an assignment, the publication or academic institution might have specific formatting rules for how long your abstract should be. However, if they don’t, most abstracts are between 150 and 300 words long.
A short word count means your writing has to be precise and without filler words or phrases. Once you’ve written a first draft, you can always use an editing tool, such as ProWritingAid, to identify areas where you can reduce words and increase readability.
If your abstract is over the word limit, and you’ve edited it but still can’t figure out how to reduce it further, your abstract might include some things that aren’t needed. Here’s a list of three elements you can remove from your abstract:
Discussion : You don’t need to go into detail about the findings of your research because your reader will find your discussion within the paper.
Definition of terms : Your readers are interested the field you are writing about, so they are likely to understand the terms you are using. If not, they can always look them up. Your readers do not expect you to give a definition of terms in your abstract.
References and citations : You can mention there have been studies that support or have inspired your research, but you do not need to give details as the reader will find them in your bibliography.
Good writing = better grades
ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of all your assignments.
If you’ve never written an abstract before, and you’re wondering how to write an abstract, we’ve got some steps for you to follow. It’s best to start with planning your abstract, so we’ve outlined the details you need to include in your plan before you write.
Remember to consider your audience when you’re planning and writing your abstract. They are likely to skim read your abstract, so you want to be sure your abstract delivers all the information they’re expecting to see at key points.
1. What Should an Abstract Include?
Abstracts have a lot of information to cover in a short number of words, so it’s important to know what to include. There are three elements that need to be present in your abstract:
Your context is the background for where your research sits within your field of study. You should briefly mention any previous scientific papers or experiments that have led to your hypothesis and how research develops in those studies.
Your hypothesis is your prediction of what your study will show. As you are writing your abstract after you have conducted your research, you should still include your hypothesis in your abstract because it shows the motivation for your paper.
Throughout your abstract, you also need to include keywords and phrases that will help researchers to find your article in the databases they’re searching. Make sure the keywords are specific to your field of study and the subject you’re reporting on, otherwise your article might not reach the relevant audience.
2. Can You Use First Person in an Abstract?
You might think that first person is too informal for a research paper, but it’s not. Historically, writers of academic reports avoided writing in first person to uphold the formality standards of the time. However, first person is more accepted in research papers in modern times.
If you’re still unsure whether to write in first person for your abstract, refer to any style guide rules imposed by the journal you’re writing for or your teachers if you are writing an assignment.
3. Abstract Structure
Some scientific journals have strict rules on how to structure an abstract, so it’s best to check those first. If you don’t have any style rules to follow, try using the IMRaD structure, which stands for Introduction, Methodology, Results, and Discussion.
Following the IMRaD structure, start with an introduction. The amount of background information you should include depends on your specific research area. Adding a broad overview gives you less room to include other details. Remember to include your hypothesis in this section.
The next part of your abstract should cover your methodology. Try to include the following details if they apply to your study:
What type of research was conducted?
How were the test subjects sampled?
What were the sample sizes?
What was done to each group?
How long was the experiment?
How was data recorded and interpreted?
Following the methodology, include a sentence or two about the results, which is where your reader will determine if your research supports or contradicts their own investigations.
The results are also where most people will want to find out what your outcomes were, even if they are just mildly interested in your research area. You should be specific about all the details but as concise as possible.
The last few sentences are your conclusion. It needs to explain how your findings affect the context and whether your hypothesis was correct. Include the primary take-home message, additional findings of importance, and perspective. Also explain whether there is scope for further research into the subject of your report.
Your conclusion should be honest and give the reader the ultimate message that your research shows. Readers trust the conclusion, so make sure you’re not fabricating the results of your research. Some readers won’t read your entire paper, but this section will tell them if it’s worth them referencing it in their own study.
4. How to Start an Abstract
The first line of your abstract should give your reader the context of your report by providing background information. You can use this sentence to imply the motivation for your research.
You don’t need to use a hook phrase or device in your first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. Your reader will look to establish relevance quickly, so readability and clarity are more important than trying to persuade the reader to read on.
5. How to Format an Abstract
Most abstracts use the same formatting rules, which help the reader identify the abstract so they know where to look for it.
Here’s a list of formatting guidelines for writing an abstract:
Stick to one paragraph
Use block formatting with no indentation at the beginning
Put your abstract straight after the title and acknowledgements pages
Use present or past tense, not future tense
There are two primary types of abstract you could write for your paper—descriptive and informative.
An informative abstract is the most common, and they follow the structure mentioned previously. They are longer than descriptive abstracts because they cover more details.
Descriptive abstracts differ from informative abstracts, as they don’t include as much discussion or detail. The word count for a descriptive abstract is between 50 and 150 words.
Here is an example of an informative abstract:
A growing trend exists for authors to employ a more informal writing style that uses “we” in academic writing to acknowledge one’s stance and engagement. However, few studies have compared the ways in which the first-person pronoun “we” is used in the abstracts and conclusions of empirical papers. To address this lacuna in the literature, this study conducted a systematic corpus analysis of the use of “we” in the abstracts and conclusions of 400 articles collected from eight leading electrical and electronic (EE) engineering journals. The abstracts and conclusions were extracted to form two subcorpora, and an integrated framework was applied to analyze and seek to explain how we-clusters and we-collocations were employed. Results revealed whether authors’ use of first-person pronouns partially depends on a journal policy. The trend of using “we” showed that a yearly increase occurred in the frequency of “we” in EE journal papers, as well as the existence of three “we-use” types in the article conclusions and abstracts: exclusive, inclusive, and ambiguous. Other possible “we-use” alternatives such as “I” and other personal pronouns were used very rarely—if at all—in either section. These findings also suggest that the present tense was used more in article abstracts, but the present perfect tense was the most preferred tense in article conclusions. Both research and pedagogical implications are proffered and critically discussed.
Wang, S., Tseng, W.-T., & Johanson, R. (2021). To We or Not to We: Corpus-Based Research on First-Person Pronoun Use in Abstracts and Conclusions. SAGE Open, 11(2).
Here is an example of a descriptive abstract:
From the 1850s to the present, considerable criminological attention has focused on the development of theoretically-significant systems for classifying crime. This article reviews and attempts to evaluate a number of these efforts, and we conclude that further work on this basic task is needed. The latter part of the article explicates a conceptual foundation for a crime pattern classification system, and offers a preliminary taxonomy of crime.
Farr, K. A., & Gibbons, D. C. (1990). Observations on the Development of Crime Categories. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 34(3), 223–237.
If you want to ensure your abstract is grammatically correct and easy to read, you can use ProWritingAid to edit it. The software integrates with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and most web browsers, so you can make the most of it wherever you’re writing your paper.
Before you edit with ProWritingAid, make sure the suggestions you are seeing are relevant for your document by changing the document type to “Abstract” within the Academic writing style section.
You can use the Readability report to check your abstract for places to improve the clarity of your writing. Some suggestions might show you where to remove words, which is great if you’re over your word count.
We hope the five steps and examples we’ve provided help you write a great abstract for your research paper.
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Abstract Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips & Examples
Table of Contents
Abstracts of research papers have always played an essential role in describing your research concisely and clearly to researchers and editors of journals, enticing them to continue reading. However, with the widespread availability of scientific databases, the need to write a convincing abstract is more crucial now than during the time of paper-bound manuscripts.
Abstracts serve to "sell" your research and can be compared with your "executive outline" of a resume or, rather, a formal summary of the critical aspects of your work. Also, it can be the "gist" of your study. Since most educational research is done online, it's a sign that you have a shorter time for impressing your readers, and have more competition from other abstracts that are available to be read.
The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) articulates 12 issues or points considered during the final approval process for conferences & journals and emphasises the importance of writing an abstract that checks all these boxes (12 points). Since it's the only opportunity you have to captivate your readers, you must invest time and effort in creating an abstract that accurately reflects the critical points of your research.
With that in mind, let’s head over to understand and discover the core concept and guidelines to create a substantial abstract. Also, learn how to organise the ideas or plots into an effective abstract that will be awe-inspiring to the readers you want to reach.
What is Abstract? Definition and Overview
The word "Abstract' is derived from Latin abstractus meaning "drawn off." This etymological meaning also applies to art movements as well as music, like abstract expressionism. In this context, it refers to the revealing of the artist's intention.
Based on this, you can determine the meaning of an abstract: A condensed research summary. It must be self-contained and independent of the body of the research. However, it should outline the subject, the strategies used to study the problem, and the methods implemented to attain the outcomes. The specific elements of the study differ based on the area of study; however, together, it must be a succinct summary of the entire research paper.
Abstracts are typically written at the end of the paper, even though it serves as a prologue. In general, the abstract must be in a position to:
- Describe the paper.
- Identify the problem or the issue at hand.
- Explain to the reader the research process, the results you came up with, and what conclusion you've reached using these results.
- Include keywords to guide your strategy and the content.
Furthermore, the abstract you submit should not reflect upon any of the following elements:
- Examine, analyse or defend the paper or your opinion.
- What you want to study, achieve or discover.
- Be redundant or irrelevant.
After reading an abstract, your audience should understand the reason - what the research was about in the first place, what the study has revealed and how it can be utilised or can be used to benefit others. You can understand the importance of abstract by knowing the fact that the abstract is the most frequently read portion of any research paper. In simpler terms, it should contain all the main points of the research paper.
What is the Purpose of an Abstract?
Abstracts are typically an essential requirement for research papers; however, it's not an obligation to preserve traditional reasons without any purpose. Abstracts allow readers to scan the text to determine whether it is relevant to their research or studies. The abstract allows other researchers to decide if your research paper can provide them with some additional information. A good abstract paves the interest of the audience to pore through your entire paper to find the content or context they're searching for.
Abstract writing is essential for indexing, as well. The Digital Repository of academic papers makes use of abstracts to index the entire content of academic research papers. Like meta descriptions in the regular Google outcomes, abstracts must include keywords that help researchers locate what they seek.
Types of Abstract
Informative and Descriptive are two kinds of abstracts often used in scientific writing.
A descriptive abstract gives readers an outline of the author's main points in their study. The reader can determine if they want to stick to the research work, based on their interest in the topic. An abstract that is descriptive is similar to the contents table of books, however, the format of an abstract depicts complete sentences encapsulated in one paragraph. It is unfortunate that the abstract can't be used as a substitute for reading a piece of writing because it's just an overview, which omits readers from getting an entire view. Also, it cannot be a way to fill in the gaps the reader may have after reading this kind of abstract since it does not contain crucial information needed to evaluate the article.
To conclude, a descriptive abstract is:
- A simple summary of the task, just summarises the work, but some researchers think it is much more of an outline
- Typically, the length is approximately 100 words. It is too short when compared to an informative abstract.
- A brief explanation but doesn't provide the reader with the complete information they need;
- An overview that omits conclusions and results
An informative abstract is a comprehensive outline of the research. There are times when people rely on the abstract as an information source. And the reason is why it is crucial to provide entire data of particular research. A well-written, informative abstract could be a good substitute for the remainder of the paper on its own.
A well-written abstract typically follows a particular style. The author begins by providing the identifying information, backed by citations and other identifiers of the papers. Then, the major elements are summarised to make the reader aware of the study. It is followed by the methodology and all-important findings from the study. The conclusion then presents study results and ends the abstract with a comprehensive summary.
In a nutshell, an informative abstract:
- Has a length that can vary, based on the subject, but is not longer than 300 words.
- Contains all the content-like methods and intentions
- Offers evidence and possible recommendations.
Informative Abstracts are more frequent than descriptive abstracts because of their extensive content and linkage to the topic specifically. You should select different types of abstracts to papers based on their length: informative abstracts for extended and more complex abstracts and descriptive ones for simpler and shorter research papers.
What are the Characteristics of a Good Abstract?
- A good abstract clearly defines the goals and purposes of the study.
- It should clearly describe the research methodology with a primary focus on data gathering, processing, and subsequent analysis.
- A good abstract should provide specific research findings.
- It presents the principal conclusions of the systematic study.
- It should be concise, clear, and relevant to the field of study.
- A well-designed abstract should be unifying and coherent.
- It is easy to grasp and free of technical jargon.
- It is written impartially and objectively.
What are the various sections of an ideal Abstract?
By now, you must have gained some concrete idea of the essential elements that your abstract needs to convey . Accordingly, the information is broken down into six key sections of the abstract, which include:
An Introduction or Background
Research methodology, objectives and goals, limitations.
Let's go over them in detail.
The introduction, also known as background, is the most concise part of your abstract. Ideally, it comprises a couple of sentences. Some researchers only write one sentence to introduce their abstract. The idea behind this is to guide readers through the key factors that led to your study.
It's understandable that this information might seem difficult to explain in a couple of sentences. For example, think about the following two questions like the background of your study:
- What is currently available about the subject with respect to the paper being discussed?
- What isn't understood about this issue? (This is the subject of your research)
While writing the abstract’s introduction, make sure that it is not lengthy. Because if it crosses the word limit, it may eat up the words meant to be used for providing other key information.
Research methodology is where you describe the theories and techniques you used in your research. It is recommended that you describe what you have done and the method you used to get your thorough investigation results. Certainly, it is the second-longest paragraph in the abstract.
In the research methodology section, it is essential to mention the kind of research you conducted; for instance, qualitative research or quantitative research (this will guide your research methodology too) . If you've conducted quantitative research, your abstract should contain information like the sample size, data collection method, sampling techniques, and duration of the study. Likewise, your abstract should reflect observational data, opinions, questionnaires (especially the non-numerical data) if you work on qualitative research.
The research objectives and goals speak about what you intend to accomplish with your research. The majority of research projects focus on the long-term effects of a project, and the goals focus on the immediate, short-term outcomes of the research. It is possible to summarise both in just multiple sentences.
In stating your objectives and goals, you give readers a picture of the scope of the study, its depth and the direction your research ultimately follows. Your readers can evaluate the results of your research against the goals and stated objectives to determine if you have achieved the goal of your research.
In the end, your readers are more attracted by the results you've obtained through your study. Therefore, you must take the time to explain each relevant result and explain how they impact your research. The results section exists as the longest in your abstract, and nothing should diminish its reach or quality.
One of the most important things you should adhere to is to spell out details and figures on the results of your research.
Instead of making a vague assertion such as, "We noticed that response rates varied greatly between respondents with high incomes and those with low incomes", Try these: "The response rate was higher for high-income respondents than those with lower incomes (59 30 percent vs. 30 percent in both cases; P<0.01)."
You're likely to encounter certain obstacles during your research. It could have been during data collection or even during conducting the sample . Whatever the issue, it's essential to inform your readers about them and their effects on the research.
Research limitations offer an opportunity to suggest further and deep research. If, for instance, you were forced to change for convenient sampling and snowball samples because of difficulties in reaching well-suited research participants, then you should mention this reason when you write your research abstract. In addition, a lack of prior studies on the subject could hinder your research.
Your conclusion should include the same number of sentences to wrap the abstract as the introduction. The majority of researchers offer an idea of the consequences of their research in this case.
Your conclusion should include three essential components:
- A significant take-home message.
- Corresponding important findings.
- The Interpretation.
Even though the conclusion of your abstract needs to be brief, it can have an enormous influence on the way that readers view your research. Therefore, make use of this section to reinforce the central message from your research. Be sure that your statements reflect the actual results and the methods you used to conduct your research.
Good Abstract Examples
Abstract example #1.
Children’s consumption behavior in response to food product placements in movies.
"Almost all research into the effects of brand placements on children has focused on the brand's attitudes or behavior intentions. Based on the significant differences between attitudes and behavioral intentions on one hand and actual behavior on the other hand, this study examines the impact of placements by brands on children's eating habits. Children aged 6-14 years old were shown an excerpt from the popular film Alvin and the Chipmunks and were shown places for the item Cheese Balls. Three different versions were developed with no placements, one with moderately frequent placements and the third with the highest frequency of placement. The results revealed that exposure to high-frequency places had a profound effect on snack consumption, however, there was no impact on consumer attitudes towards brands or products. The effects were not dependent on the age of the children. These findings are of major importance to researchers studying consumer behavior as well as nutrition experts as well as policy regulators."
Abstract Example #2
Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood. The abstract:
"The research conducted in this study investigated the effects of Facebook use on women's moods and body image if the effects are different from an internet-based fashion journal and if the appearance comparison tendencies moderate one or more of these effects. Participants who were female ( N = 112) were randomly allocated to spend 10 minutes exploring their Facebook account or a magazine's website or an appearance neutral control website prior to completing state assessments of body dissatisfaction, mood, and differences in appearance (weight-related and facial hair, face, and skin). Participants also completed a test of the tendency to compare appearances. The participants who used Facebook were reported to be more depressed than those who stayed on the control site. In addition, women who have the tendency to compare appearances reported more facial, hair and skin-related issues following Facebook exposure than when they were exposed to the control site. Due to its popularity it is imperative to conduct more research to understand the effect that Facebook affects the way people view themselves."
Abstract Example #3
The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students
"The cellphone is always present on campuses of colleges and is often utilised in situations in which learning takes place. The study examined the connection between the use of cell phones and the actual grades point average (GPA) after adjusting for predictors that are known to be a factor. In the end 536 students in the undergraduate program from 82 self-reported majors of an enormous, public institution were studied. Hierarchical analysis ( R 2 = .449) showed that use of mobile phones is significantly ( p < .001) and negative (b equal to -.164) connected to the actual college GPA, after taking into account factors such as demographics, self-efficacy in self-regulated learning, self-efficacy to improve academic performance, and the actual high school GPA that were all important predictors ( p < .05). Therefore, after adjusting for other known predictors increasing cell phone usage was associated with lower academic performance. While more research is required to determine the mechanisms behind these results, they suggest the need to educate teachers and students to the possible academic risks that are associated with high-frequency mobile phone usage."
Quick tips on writing a good abstract
There exists a common dilemma among early age researchers whether to write the abstract at first or last? However, it's recommended to compose your abstract when you've completed the research since you'll have all the information to give to your readers. You can, however, write a draft at the beginning of your research and add in any gaps later.
If you find abstract writing a herculean task, here are the few tips to help you with it:
1. Always develop a framework to support your abstract
Before writing, ensure you create a clear outline for your abstract. Divide it into sections and draw the primary and supporting elements in each one. You can include keywords and a few sentences that convey the essence of your message.
2. Review Other Abstracts
Abstracts are among the most frequently used research documents, and thousands of them were written in the past. Therefore, prior to writing yours, take a look at some examples from other abstracts. There are plenty of examples of abstracts for dissertations in the dissertation and thesis databases.
3. Avoid Jargon To the Maximum
When you write your abstract, focus on simplicity over formality. You should write in simple language, and avoid excessive filler words or ambiguous sentences. Keep in mind that your abstract must be readable to those who aren't acquainted with your subject.
4. Focus on Your Research
It's a given fact that the abstract you write should be about your research and the findings you've made. It is not the right time to mention secondary and primary data sources unless it's absolutely required.
Conclusion: How to Structure an Interesting Abstract?
Abstracts are a short outline of your essay. However, it's among the most important, if not the most important. The process of writing an abstract is not straightforward. A few early-age researchers tend to begin by writing it, thinking they are doing it to "tease" the next step (the document itself). However, it is better to treat it as a spoiler.
The simple, concise style of the abstract lends itself to a well-written and well-investigated study. If your research paper doesn't provide definitive results, or the goal of your research is questioned, so will the abstract. Thus, only write your abstract after witnessing your findings and put your findings in the context of a larger scenario.
The process of writing an abstract can be daunting, but with these guidelines, you will succeed. The most efficient method of writing an excellent abstract is to centre the primary points of your abstract, including the research question and goals methods, as well as key results.
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How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries? pp 179–184 Cite as
How to Write an Abstract?
- Samiran Nundy 4 ,
- Atul Kakar 5 &
- Zulfiqar A. Bhutta 6
- Open Access
- First Online: 24 October 2021
An abstract is a crisp, short, powerful, and self-contained summary of a research manuscript used to help the reader swiftly determine the paper’s purpose. Although the abstract is the first paragraph of the manuscript it should be written last when all the other sections have been addressed.
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. — Zora Neale Hurston, American Author, Anthropologist and Filmmaker (1891–1960)
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1 What is an Abstract?
An abstract is usually a standalone document that informs the reader about the details of the manuscript to follow. It is like a trailer to a movie, if the trailer is good, it stimulates the audience to watch the movie. The abstract should be written from scratch and not ‘cut –and-pasted’ [ 1 ].
2 What is the History of the Abstract?
An abstract, in the form of a single paragraph, was first published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1960 with the idea that the readers may not have enough time to go through the whole paper, and the first abstract with a defined structure was published in 1991 [ 2 ]. The idea sold and now most original articles and reviews are required to have a structured abstract. The abstract attracts the reader to read the full manuscript [ 3 ].
3 What are the Qualities of a Good Abstract?
The quality of information in an abstract can be summarized by four ‘C’s. It should be:
4 What are the Types of Abstract?
Before writing the abstract, you need to check with the journal website about which type of abstract it requires, with its length and style in the ‘Instructions to Authors’ section.
The abstract types can be divided into:
Descriptive: Usually written for psychology, social science, and humanities papers. It is about 50–100 words long. No conclusions can be drawn from this abstract as it describes the major points in the paper.
Informative: The majority of abstracts for science-related manuscripts are informative and are surrogates for the research done. They are single paragraphs that provide the reader an overview of the research paper and are about 100–150 words in length. Conclusions can be drawn from the abstracts and in the recommendations written in the last line.
Critical: This type of abstract is lengthy and about 400–500 words. In this, the authors’ own research is discussed for reliability, judgement, and validation. A comparison is also made with similar studies done earlier.
Highlighting: This is rarely used in scientific writing. The style of the abstract is to attract more readers. It is not a balanced or complete overview of the article with which it is published.
Structured: A structured abstract contains information under subheadings like background, aims, material and methods, results, conclusion, and recommendations (Fig. 15.1 ). Most leading journals now carry these.
Example of a structured abstract (with permission editor CMRP)
5 What is the Purpose of an Abstract?
An abstract is written to educate the reader about the study that follows and provide an overview of the science behind it. If written well it also attracts more readers to the article. It also helps the article getting indexed. The fate of a paper both before and after publication often depends upon its abstract. Most readers decide if a paper is worth reading on the basis of the abstract. Additionally, the selection of papers in systematic reviews is often dependent upon the abstract.
6 What are the Steps of Writing an Abstract?
An abstract should be written last after all the other sections of an article have been addressed. A poor abstract may turn off the reader and they may cause indexing errors as well. The abstract should state the purpose of the study, the methodology used, and summarize the results and important conclusions. It is usually written in the IMRAD format and is called a structured abstract [ 4 , 5 ].
I: The introduction in the opening line should state the problem you are addressing.
M: Methodology—what method was chosen to finish the experiment?
R: Results—state the important findings of your study.
D: Discussion—discuss why your study is important.
Mention the following information:
Important results with the statistical information ( p values, confidence intervals, standard/mean deviation).
Arrange all information in a chronological order.
Do not repeat any information.
The last line should state the recommendations from your study.
The abstract should be written in the past tense.
7 What are the Things to Be Avoided While Writing an Abstract?
Cut and paste information from the main text
Hold back important information
Tables or Figures
Arguments about the study
8 What are Key Words?
These are important words that are repeated throughout the manuscript and which help in the indexing of a paper. Depending upon the journal 3–10 key words may be required which are indexed with the help of MESH (Medical Subject Heading).
9 How is an Abstract Written for a Conference Different from a Journal Paper?
The basic concept for writing abstracts is the same. However, in a conference abstract occasionally a table or figure is allowed. A word limit is important in both of them. Many of the abstracts which are presented in conferences are never published in fact one study found that only 27% of the abstracts presented in conferences were published in the next five years [ 6 ].
Table 15.1 gives a template for writing an abstract.
10 What are the Important Recommendations of the International Committees of Medical Journal of Editors?
The recommendations are [ 7 ]:
An abstract is required for original articles, metanalysis, and systematic reviews.
A structured abstract is preferred.
The abstract should mention the purpose of the scientific study, how the procedure was carried out, the analysis used, and principal conclusion.
Clinical trials should be reported according to the CONSORT guidelines.
The trials should also mention the funding and the trial number.
The abstract should be accurate as many readers have access only to the abstract.
An Abstract should be written last after all the other sections of the manuscript have been completed and with due care and attention to the details.
It should be structured and written in the IMRAD format.
For many readers, the abstract attracts them to go through the complete content of the article.
The abstract is usually followed by key words that help to index the paper.
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Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplantation, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
Department of Internal Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
Institute for Global Health and Development, The Aga Khan University, South Central Asia, East Africa and United Kingdom, Karachi, Pakistan
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write an Abstract?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_15
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_15
Published : 24 October 2021
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How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation that Captivates Readers
Did you know that the first scientific abstracts can be traced back to the 17th century when scholars like Sir Francis Bacon began to condense their research findings into concise summaries? Abstracts have come a long way since then, becoming an essential component of scholarly articles, research papers, and conference presentations. Learning how to write an abstract for a dissertation is a skill that can greatly enhance the visibility and impact of your work.
In this informative article, our dissertation writer will delve into the world of abstracts and uncover their significance in the realm of academic and scientific writing. Discover what an abstract is, why it's essential, and how to craft one effectively. We'll provide you with practical tips and expert guidance to ensure your abstracts not only meet the mark but also captivate your audience. Whether you're a seasoned researcher or just starting out, this article has something valuable to offer.
Are You Tired of Drowning in a Sea of Academic Jargon?
Look no further! Dive into the world of precision with our Dissertation Abstracts!
Understanding What is a Dissertation Abstract
At its core, a dissertation abstract is a brief but comprehensive overview of the main points, findings, and contributions of a larger piece of work. Its primary goal is to convey the essence of the research in a condensed form.
It typically covers key aspects of the research, such as the problem or question being addressed, the methodology used, the main results or findings, and the broader implications of the work. It's the appetizer before the main course, the map before the journey, and it plays an integral role in helping others decide if your research is worth their time and attention. Let's explore this in more detail:
- Conciseness: A brief summary, typically 150 to 250 words, must adhere to precise and economical writing, where each word carries weight. Authors must distill the core of their research into this restricted word count, making each sentence a vital element.
- Self-Sufficient Synopsis: This self-contained summary offers a comprehensive understanding of the research, even when read independently from the main document. It should encompass key elements such as the research query, methodology, primary findings, and broader implications.
- Impersonality: Abstracts are generally composed in the third person, avoiding personal pronouns. The focus is on the research itself, maintaining objectivity to help readers evaluate the work without authorial bias.
- Transparency and Accessibility: A well-crafted summary should be lucid and approachable to a wide audience. While it may include technical jargon, it should strive for comprehensibility by both experts and non-specialists.
- Precision: Accuracy is paramount in a summary. It's crucial to faithfully represent the research without exaggeration or unsupported claims.
- Framework: Summaries often adhere to a structured format, encompassing sections like an introduction (introducing the research problem), methodology (detailing the research approach), results (highlighting main findings), and conclusion (addressing research implications). The specific format may vary according to publication or conference guidelines.
- Key Terms: Summaries frequently incorporate a list of relevant keywords or phrases. These aid readers and search engines in locating the work efficiently. Selecting appropriate keywords is pivotal for effective indexing and discoverability.
Exploring What's the Purpose of the Dissertation Abstract
Understanding the purpose of an abstract of dissertation is essential for any academic or scientific writer. It serves as the compass that guides the composition of this concise summary. Let's delve into the specific reasons behind the creation of this piece:
- Information Filtering: In today's information-rich age, researchers, students, and professionals often face a deluge of academic papers and articles. Abstracts play a pivotal role in helping individuals sift through this sea of information. They serve as a swift evaluation mechanism, allowing individuals to discern whether a specific research paper focuses on subjects that align with their interests and requirements.
- Decision-Making Tool: These summaries aid decision-making at various stages, helping readers decide whether to invest time in reading the full document. Journal editors and conference organizers use descriptive and informative abstracts to select an entire paper for publication or presentation. Thus, the quality and appeal of an abstract can significantly impact the visibility and recognition of a research contribution.
- Search and Retrieval: Abstracts facilitate the organization, cataloging, and retrieval of academic works in databases and libraries. They are key elements for search engines, enabling precise indexing, categorization, and accessibility. When you search for scholarly articles on a specific topic, the presence of keywords in abstracts greatly influences the results you receive.
- Quick Reference: A descriptive abstract offers a swift reference point for scholars who want to recall the core findings and insights of a particular study. Researchers and students often use abstracts to determine whether a work is worth exploring in-depth for their own research.
- Global Accessibility: In an increasingly globalized academic community, English has become the lingua franca for scholarly communication. Descriptive abstracts provide a bridge for non-English speakers to access research findings, enabling a wider dissemination of knowledge.
Dissertation Abstract Example
In our exploration of dissertation abstract examples, we've crafted a practical sample, which, in this case, would span approximately 100 pages. This abstract of dissertation example showcases the key components of a comprehensive research summary and demonstrates how to effectively condense extensive research into a concise yet informative format.
How to Write a Dissertation Abstract with 4 Key Steps
In the world of academia and research, your dissertation abstract is your first impression, your elevator pitch, and your ticket to engaging your audience. But crafting the one that truly captivates can be an art form in itself. In this guide, we'll unveil the key steps to help you master this art, from deciphering the essential components to weaving a compelling narrative that leaves a lasting impact.
Step 1: Introduction
The introduction in your dissertation abstract is the gateway, the moment you capture your audience's attention and set the tone for what follows. It's where you frame the research question, highlight its relevance, and give your readers a compelling reason to delve further into your work.
Imagine your research paper is about a groundbreaking energy-efficient building material. Instead of a mundane start, consider opening with a captivating question: 'What if we told you that buildings of the future could be constructed with a material that not only slashes energy costs but also helps combat climate change?'
The introduction is your chance to engage, inspire, and intrigue your audience while writing an abstract, prompting them to explore the innovative and significant research that lies ahead.
Step 2: Methods
If you are wondering how to write an abstract for a dissertation, remember to provide a concise but informative glimpse into how you conducted your research in the methods section. This is where you let your readers know the tools and techniques you employed to gather your data or evidence.
For instance, if your research involves using advanced machine learning algorithms to predict financial market trends, you would describe your methods as 'We harnessed cutting-edge machine learning algorithms to analyze market data from the past decade.'
In a scientific paper on the impact of a new teaching approach on student learning, your informative abstract could state, 'Our research involved implementing a novel blended learning model, combining in-person instruction with interactive online modules.'
By offering a brief but explicit insight into your research methods, you allow your audience to grasp the rigor and innovation behind your work, setting the stage for forthcoming results and discussions.
Step 3: Results
In the results section of your dissertation abstract, you showcase the heart of your research – the findings and outcomes. This is where you provide a glimpse of the impact of your work.
Instead of vague terms like 'significant' or 'notable,' be precise and quantitative. For example, if your research has identified a reduction in energy consumption due to a new lighting technology, you might say, 'Our study revealed a remarkable 40% reduction in energy consumption when implementing the innovative LED lighting system.'
Or, for a dissertation topic on the effects of a vaccination program, you could state, 'The vaccination initiative led to a substantial 65% decrease in the incidence of the target disease within the studied population.'
By quantifying your findings and presenting specific measurements or statistics, you make your results more tangible and impactful, allowing your audience to grasp the significance of your research at a glance.
Step 4: Discussion
The discussion section of your dissertation abstract is where you connect the dots, providing insights into the broader implications of your research. It's your opportunity to convey the 'So what?' of your findings.
For example, in a study exploring the environmental impact of urban transportation changes, your abstract could conclude, 'These findings highlight the potential for sustainable urban planning to significantly reduce carbon emissions, offering a blueprint for cities to combat climate change.'
Or, in a study on the psychological effects of art therapy in elderly populations, your discussion might emphasize, 'Our research underscores the value of art therapy as an innovative approach to enhancing the mental well-being of the aging population, with implications for a more holistic and effective approach to senior care.'
In the discussion section, you should address the long-term consequences and the significance of your research, whether it's in terms of policy changes, practical applications, or fundamental shifts in the field. It's where you convey the transformative power of your work and inspire your audience to recognize its value.
3 Useful Strategies for Writing a Dissertation Abstract
In the vast landscape of academic and research publications, a dissertation abstract is often your first and, sometimes, only chance to make an impact. It's the trailer that either entices the audience to watch the full movie or lets them move on. But writing dissertation abstract is not just about summarizing your work; it's about engaging your readers, leaving them curious and eager to explore further.
To help you navigate this intricate process, we gathered three indispensable strategies. These practical approaches are designed to not only make your abstract informative but also to give it a unique edge that will linger in the minds of your audience.
Recall the WWHS Principle
Crafting an effective abstract requires you to recall the WWHS principle: 'What, Why, How, and So What.' These four pillars from our professional essay writing service are the foundation of an abstract that informs, engages, and leaves a lasting impression on your readers.
Articulating the 'What' with Context
- In the 'What' segment, provide a succinct yet comprehensive overview of your research. This is where you outline the central focus of your study, encompassing not only the 'what' but also the 'who' and 'where.' Clarify the subject matter of your research and introduce the key participants or elements involved. Additionally, establish the geographical context by specifying where your research took place. By presenting this contextual information, you paint a vivid picture of the setting and the essential actors within your study.
Significance Unveiled: The 'Why' in Your Research
- Within the 'Why' section, dive into the importance of your research. Explore the motivations that fueled your research journey. What critical questions or knowledge gaps ignited your curiosity and propelled your investigation? Reveal the rationale behind your study, emphasizing its relevance to your field, practical applications, or its role in addressing pressing issues. This portion acts as the driving force behind your research, bridging the objectives of your study with the larger academic or practical context.
Mastering Research Methodology: The 'How' of Your Study
- The 'How' component delves into the mechanics of your research methodology. Succinctly describe the methods you employed, whether it involved a qualitative case study, a quantitative survey, or an experimental design. Offer sufficient detail to grant readers a glimpse into your methodological approach without overwhelming them. This is where you underscore the rigor of your methodology, assuring your audience of the sound foundation of your research.
Discovering Meaning: The 'So What' in Your Findings
- Finally, the 'So What' segment encapsulates the pivotal findings and the broader implications of your research. Even if you prefer the option to buy dissertations , you should remember to highlight the significant discoveries, results, or insights uncovered in your study. Explain the broader implications of these findings and their potential influence in the larger context. How might your research shape future inquiries, contribute to practical applications, or expand the existing knowledge in your field? The 'So What' segment elevates your abstract beyond mere information, transforming it into a source of invaluable knowledge.
Simplicity enhances clarity. It ensures that your abstract can be understood by experts and non-experts alike. Complex language or convoluted sentences can obscure your core message, so using clear and simple language is essential. Furthermore, when you're working with a limited word count, simplicity is your ally. It allows you to convey your message efficiently, ensuring that every word serves a purpose. In contrast, using complex language can quickly eat up your word limit.
An abstract isn't just for the academic community. Policymakers, journalists, and individuals from diverse backgrounds may take an interest in your work. So, simple dissertation abstracts broaden the audience, making the research relevant beyond academia.
Lastly, simplicity helps you distill the essence of scientific journals. It forces you to identify the key findings, implications, and fundamental message. In a world flooded with information, simplicity ensures that your research stands out and effectively informs, engages, and inspires.
Precision is Key
Precision plays a pivotal role in ensuring that your message is not just heard but understood with utmost clarity. It's not about verbosity or complexity; rather, it's the art of choosing the right words and framing your ideas with meticulous accuracy. Precision eliminates ambiguity, allowing your readers to grasp your message precisely as intended. Whether in a dissertation abstract, academic paper, or any form of communication, it is the beacon that guides your audience through the intricate maze of ideas, ensuring that your message lands with the impact it deserves.
Ready to Enchant Your Readers from the First Glance?
Our expert writers are here to distill your thesis into a concise and engaging summary that will leave your readers intrigued and eager to delve deeper!
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