How to Write an Abstract? A Step-by-step Guide

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An abstract is a summary of your project, and must be stated clearly and concisely. It states in brief the main argument(s) and the structure of your dissertation/thesis. Although there is no set word limit, the usual practice is to limit it to a maximum of 300 words. Please note that all abstracts are written in the simple present tense only. For example, instead of saying, “This dissertation/thesis will look at . . ..”, say, “This dissertation/thesis looks at . . ..” Before you begin, it’s best to do your research on how to write an abstract for a research paper. Many institutes prefer a one page abstract. But, it is important that you check with your supervisor or instructor regarding the abstract of research or better to ask your seniors for an abstract introduction sample.

In the event that you need to compose an abstract for a research essay, dissertation or research paper, don’t worry! Your abstract is essentially a short, distinct summary of the work or paper that others can use as an outline. An abstract describes what you do in your research, regardless of whether it’s a scientific research or a humanities paper.

It should help the reader in understanding the paper and help readers looking for this paper choose whether it suits their own theoretical endeavours. In order to write an abstract, it is important that you finish your paper first. After finishing your research project, you should compose a summary which describes the purpose, problem, methodologies and conclusion of your research work. When you have written down the details, you start formatting it correctly.  Since an abstract is only a summary of the work you’ve already done, it’s easy to accomplish! An abstract explains the aim of the paper in very brief. In the introduction, you write the background of your topic, explain the purpose of the paper more broadly, and explain the hypothesis, and the research question(s). Usually, there are three steps to writing your abstract:

  • Pre Writing 
  • Writing
  • Formatting

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Pre Writing

  • Write your Paper First

Despite the fact that an abstract goes toward the start of the work, it goes about as a summary of your whole paper. But it does not serve as an introduction of your work. Rather, it overviews and summarizes your whole research project. Therefore, you should save the task of writing your abstract at last after you have finished your paper. A research project and its respective abstract are entirely different things. The body of a research paper portrays the problem statement or research 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. Because your research may take a different direction over the course of writing. You will be able to give a much more accurate summary if you do just that – summarize what you’ve already written.

  • Review the Requirements

Before you begin to write your abstract, make sure that you understand any requirements given to you by your concerned instructor or supervisor. Moreover, the paper you are writing may have some particular guidelines if it is for publication or a journal. Before you start writing, it is best to consult the rubric you were presented with to identify important issues to keep in mind. Ask yourself:

Is there a maximum or minimum length?

Are there style requirements?

Are you writing for an instructor or a publication?

  • Consider your Audience

Abstracts are written to help researchers discover your work. For instance, in academic journals, abstracts permit readers to determine if your research is applicable to their own research interests or not. Abstracts also help your readers get at your main argument quickly. Keep the needs of your readers in mind as you write the abstract. 

  • Determine the Type of Abstract 

Despite the fact that all abstracts serve the same purpose, they have been classified into two different styles as following:

  • Descriptive Abstracts
  • Informative Abstracts

If your respective instructor or journal has assigned you a particular style then you must follow that style. But in case it hasn’t you will have to decide which one is best for your research. Usually, informative abstracts are incorporated in longer and scientific research whereas descriptive abstracts are used for shorter research projects. Whereas descriptive abstracts are used to describe the purpose, goals and methods of your research paper. They can leave out the section which describes the results. There is a lesser used, third type of abstract called a critical abstract. 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.

Get To The Writing

  • Identify Your Purpose

When you begin the actual writing, you must identify the purpose of your research first. For this purpose, you also have to describe the importance of your research. Do not shy away from explaining the importance of your research. You can start off your descriptive abstract by considering the following questions:

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?

  • Explain the Problem at Hand

Abstracts express the “research problem” behind your work. Consider this the particular issue that your examination or research project addresses. You can now and then combine the issue with your inspiration, however it is ideal to separate the two. Before identifying your research problem, ask yourself these questions:

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?

  • Explain Your Methods

 This is the part where you give a summary of how you have carried out your research. You can add a description of your lab work or field work here. Moreover, you also have to introduce the methodology of your research. You have to follow the following checklist to fully acquaint the reader with your research methodology:

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.

  • Describe Your Results

This is the part where you describe the findings of your research. This section is only included in an informative abstract. You answer the following questions in this section:

What is it that you found?

What answer did you reach from your research or study?

Was your hypothesis or argument supported?

What are the general findings?

  • Give Your Conclusion

This should wrap up your summary and provide a sense of finality to your abstract. In it, address the significance of your discoveries just as the significance of your research paper. This format can be utilized in both descriptive and informative abstracts. However, you will just address the accompanying inquiries in an informative concept.

What are the implications of your work?

Are your results general or very specific?

Get to the Formatting

  • Keep it in Order

As you begin to format your abstract, be vary of the fact that there are specific questions your abstract must provide answers for. But, these answers should be in a particular format as well. If you are submitting your paper to a journal then you should follow the guidelines given by the journal itself. Generally, most journals follow ‘introduction, ‘body,’ and ‘conclusion.’ In case your instructor or journal hasn’t given you any guidelines, you should follow the same. 

  • Provide Helpful Information

Unlike the introductory paragraph, which may be intentionally unclear, an abstract should provide a helpful explanation of your paper and your research. Word your abstract so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about, and isn’t left hanging with ambiguous references or phrases. 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.

  • Write it from Scratch

Your abstract is an outline, indeed, yet it ought to be written totally separate from your paper. Try not to rearrange direct statements from yourself, and try not to just reword your own sentences from somewhere else in your abstract. Write your abstract using totally new language and expressions to keep it intriguing and excess free.

  • Use Keywords and Terms

Adding your research keywords and phrases makes your research 100% easier to find. Therefore, it is important to add keywords to your abstract. Usually, it is a research practice that budding researchers use keywords to find relevant papers etc. 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.

  • Avoid Citations

Your abstract should always be reflective of your original idea. Unlike the rest of the research paper, it does not need to have any citations included in it. Therefore, it is extremely important that you do not refer to any other researchers or academics in your abstract. Citing material that you don’t use in your work will mislead readers and ultimately lower your viewership.

  • Avoid Being too Specific

An abstract is a summary, and as such should not refer to specific points of your research other than possibly names or locations. You should not need to explain or define any terms in your abstract, a reference is all that is needed. Avoid being too explicit in your summary and stick to a very broad overview of your work. Make sure to avoid jargon. This specialized vocabulary may not be understood by general readers in your area and can cause confusion.

  • Be Sure to Do Basic Revisions

Do adequate revisions after you finish writing your abstract. Read it multiple times and rephrase and revise any sentences where need be. Run it for any grammatical and spelling errors as well.

  • Get Feedback from Someone

Having another person read your abstract is an incredible route for you to realize whether you’ve summed up your research well. Try to find somebody who does not have a deep understanding of your venture. Request that the person in question read your abstract and afterward mention to you what s/he comprehended from it. This will tell you whether you’ve satisfactorily conveyed your central issues in a reasonable way. Talking with your educator, a partner in your field, or a guide or composing focus specialist can be useful. In the event that you have these assets accessible to you, use them! Requesting help can likewise tell you about any shows in your field.

Extra Tips:

An APA abstract ought to be 1 passage and around 250 words in length. Put the title of your paper at the highest point of the page, adjusted left in all covers, and the page number on the right. On the principal line, express “Theoretical” and focus it over the body of the content. Compose your theoretical under that as a solitary passage without any spaces. In the event that you like, you can add a rundown of catchphrases identifying with the substance of your paper at the lower part of the theoretical. Though, a MLA abstract ought to be around 150-250 words in length. Momentarily present the points and goals of your work and end with 1-2 sentences examining your decisions. The real designing will rely upon the particular task or distribution, yet overall the theoretical should pursue the title and before the fundamental body of the work. In all the depiction of what you did, a straightforward past tense is ideal; since you’re portraying what you did, neither present nor future would be fitting as well.

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Austin has 10+ years of experience in teaching. He has researched on thousands of students-related topics, issues, and concerns. You will often find him writing about the common concerns of students, their nutrition, and what is beneficial for their academics and health both.