How to Write an Abstract - A Step by Step Guide
Abstracts have played a critical role in describing the research study to journal editors and researchers. It also encourages them to continue reading the entire research paper.
However, writing a convincing abstract is much more important today than it was before. Thus, it is essential to spend enough time and energy in crafting an abstract that presents the central arguments of your paper.
Similarly, it must also include the key information e.g., summary, results, observations, and trends. Such elements will allow the audience to examine your work easily.
Read this easy guide to master the art of how to write an abstract. Also, learn to come up with unique ideas for captivating readers.
What is an Abstract?
It is a well-defined and short summary of longer research work. Moreover, an abstract serves the purpose of informing the readers about the central theme and points of your research. It also describes the aims and outcomes that tell the audience what the full paper is about.
A strong abstract further allows the reader to decide whether he wants to continue with your paper or not. It is an essential part of a research paper and a thesis, and no paper is considered complete without it.
It is about 150 to 250 words long and must be written after completing the paper. Moreover, an abstract comes after the title page and acknowledgments but before the table of content.
Types of an Abstract
There are four main types of an abstract given below:
- Critical Abstract - This type of abstract allows the reader to critically evaluate the paper for analyzing its reliability. It is about 400-500 words in length.
- Descriptive Abstract - It usually states the type of information found in the research work in less than 100 words.
- Informative Abstract - Like the descriptive abstract, it also mentions the information along with the results, conclusion, and recommendation. The length of the abstract is no more than 300 words.
- Highlight Abstract - It is written to provide the complete picture of the research study to attract the readers.
How to Write an Abstract?
Professors usually require students to include an abstract in the research paper. However, this section is often overlooked by the students. Thus, papers with weak abstracts are likely to be rejected by the reviewers.
To write a good abstract, follow the important steps given below.
Check Out the Instructions
Every research paper comes with a set of instructions. These instructions serve as guidelines that every student must follow when writing an abstract. Therefore, before starting a research paper, check out the instructions mentioned by your teacher.
These guidelines may include:
- The type of abstract that you need to write
- A proper structure or pattern that should be followed
- Any specific organization rules to apply
- The required word count
- Style and formatting requirements
Following these instructions will engage the readers to move forward with your paper.
Write the Research Paper First
It is better to write the abstract at the end and after completing the rest of your paper. It is because this section aims to present the important points of your work briefly. Thus, you cannot expect to know them before completing the paper.
Thus, write the research paper before moving to a detail-oriented and good abstract.
Add the Background of the Research Study
Add some background information of your research topic into the abstract. However, avoid adding irrelevant information and lengthy details. Instead, keep the information brief, concise, and focused on the main research question and topic.
Moreover, only choose the facts that are related to your study. It will help you explain the significance of the expected outcome of your research.
Describe the Research Problem and Objectives
Start your abstract by clearly describing the purpose and objectives of your research. Explain its significance to the people, society, and a field of study. Also, discuss which research question(s) do you aim to answer in your paper.
For this, use words such as evaluate, analyze, and investigate. Moreover, this section can be written in simple past or present tense but can never be in the future.
Similarly, to state your research problem, answer the following questions:
- Why are you conducting this research?
- How will the study contribute to the field?
- Why should the audience read the entire paper?
- What is the main problem that your research is trying to solve?
- What is the scope of the study i.e., specific or general?
- What is the major argument?
Mention the Research Methods
Every research work follows a specific methodology. Here, mention the research methods that you have used to answer the research question.
It consists of 1 to 2 sentences that are usually written in the past tense. Do not try to explain everything in it. Rather, be concise and brief.
The main goal here is to give an overall idea of the approaches, procedures, and sources that you have used. It can be qualitative, quantitative, case study, etc. Simply state your reasons for choosing a particular method and why it benefits your research.
Discuss the Previous Researches
Some abstracts discuss the relevant and previous researches on the chosen topic. However, after identifying them, you must also mention a unique perspective you are working on.
Make sure it should not be too detailed and lengthy. Instead, just provide a brief overview to indicate that your research study is different from others.
An abstract is considered as a mini version of the research. Thus, add enough information to keep the reader engaged. Nevertheless, ensure that you mention the key points only if the explanation comes later in the body of your paper.
Summarize Findings and Results
Summarize the major findings and results of your study in this section. Write in simple past and present tense and avoid using vague qualitative terms.
Also, identify the contribution of your study in concrete terms i.e., percentage, trends, figures, etc. Similarly, also compare the methods and results with the hypothesis by stating whether the study was successful or not.
State Your Conclusion
State the conclusion of your research in the last section of the abstract. It must explain the answer to your research question and problem.
Also, mention research limitations briefly, if there are any. It can be related to the sample size or the methodology. It will enable the audience to understand the credibility of the research work and the circumstances in which it has been carried out.
Similarly, a writer can also make suggestions and recommendations for future research and a call to action in this section. Make sure your results add value to the respective field of knowledge.
Use Keywords to Attract the Audience
Add a list of keywords at the end of your abstract to attract the audience. These should be the most common and relevant terms.
By referencing such keywords with your research, the potential readers can find your paper easily during their searches. Thus, include 5 to 10 short words that are central to your research study.
Remember, the Publication Manuals of the American Psychological (APA) style has some specific requirements for formatting these keywords.
Read Some Abstract Samples
Learning through examples is the best and fastest way of learning anything. Before writing your paper’s abstract, read some online samples related to different subjects. These disciplines may include science, social sciences, and humanities.
Reading samples while writing a literature review gives a good idea of the type of abstract that each subject should have.
Here is a document that contains sample abstracts of different subjects.
Sample Abstracts (PDF)
Make a Rough Draft First
Make a rough draft of your abstract. At this stage, do not think of the word limit or the type of content you are using. Just focus on the main theme of your paper and write down everything that crosses your mind.
However, avoid adding the following elements in the abstract.
- Lengthy background details
- Unnecessary phrases, adverbs, and adjectives
- Repetitive information
- Acronyms or abbreviations
- References to other research work
- Incomplete sentences
- Ellipticals or jargon language
- Citations to others work
- Any type of image, table, or illustration
- Definitions of the keywords and terms
After writing, review and revise it thoroughly. Remove everything that gives away too much of details. Make sure it is concise and just give a hint of the information included in the main sections.
Proofread Before Submission
No writing process is complete without the final and detailed proofreading. Once you are done writing the abstract, proofread and edit it carefully.
Many students try to avoid this part and submit the paper without proper proofreading. As a result, they end up with low grades.
Also, read the rest of the paper and double-check the results section before you hand it over to your teacher. Refer to the below-given document to get a detailed idea of writing an abstract for a research paper.
How to Write An Abstract For A Research Paper (PDF)
Tips to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper
To write an effective abstract for a paper, follow the useful tips given below.
- Write the abstract by using a reverse outlining process. Make a list of keywords for each section. Draft a few sentences that summarize the central argument. Revise them to get a clear framework of your research abstract.
- Read other sample abstracts to get a better idea of the style and structure.
- Write clearly and concisely by avoiding unnecessary words and jargon language. Make sure that each sentence should present one major argument. It will make it easy for readers to understand the topic.
- Present the original contributions of your research instead of discussing other’s work.
Abstract Page Template and Examples
Below given are the abstract examples and a template. Have a look at them for a better understanding.
Abstract Template (PDF)
Sample Research Paper Abstract APA (PDF)
Sample Research Paper Abstract MLA (PDF)
Abstract Example (PDF)
Scientific Research Paper Abstract (PDF)
Writing an abstract for a paper is not as hard as you think. It requires proper structure and detail. But, it is definitely something that you can achieve with practice and hard work. Following this above-given step by step guide will help you write a perfect abstract of your research paper.
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