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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper | Examples
What is a research paper abstract?
Research paper abstracts summarize your study quickly and succinctly to journal editors and researchers and prompt them to read further. But with the ubiquity of online publication databases, writing a compelling abstract is even more important today than it was in the days of bound paper manuscripts.
Abstracts exist to “sell” your work, and they could thus be compared to the “executive summary” of a business resume: an official briefing on what is most important about your research. Or the “gist” of your research. With the majority of academic transactions being conducted online, this means that you have even less time to impress readers–and increased competition in terms of other abstracts out there to read.
The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) notes that there are 12 questions or “points” considered in the selection process for journals and conferences and stresses the importance of having an abstract that ticks all of these boxes. Because it is often the ONLY chance you have to convince readers to keep reading, it is important that you spend time and energy crafting an abstract that faithfully represents the central parts of your study and captivates your audience.
With that in mind, follow these suggestions when structuring and writing your abstract, and learn how exactly to put these ideas into a solid abstract that will captivate your target readers.
Before Writing Your Abstract
How long should an abstract be.
All abstracts are written with the same essential objective: to give a summary of your study. But there are two basic styles of abstract: descriptive and informative . Here is a brief delineation of the two:
Of the two types of abstracts, informative abstracts are much more common, and they are widely used for submission to journals and conferences. Informative abstracts apply to lengthier and more technical research and are common in the sciences, engineering, and psychology, while descriptive abstracts are more likely used in humanities and social science papers. The best method of determining which abstract type you need to use is to follow the instructions for journal submissions and to read as many other published articles in those journals as possible.
Research Abstract Guidelines and Requirements
As any article about research writing will tell you, authors must always closely follow the specific guidelines and requirements indicated in the Guide for Authors section of their target journal’s website. The same kind of adherence to conventions should be applied to journal publications, for consideration at a conference, and even when completing a class assignment.
Each publisher has particular demands when it comes to formatting and structure. Here are some common questions addressed in the journal guidelines:
- Is there a maximum or minimum word/character length?
- What are the style and formatting requirements?
- What is the appropriate abstract type?
- Are there any specific content or organization rules that apply?
There are of course other rules to consider when composing a research paper abstract. But if you follow the stated rules the first time you submit your manuscript, you can avoid your work being thrown in the “circular file” right off the bat.
Identify Your Target Readership
The main purpose of your abstract is to lead researchers to the full text of your research paper. In scientific journals, abstracts let readers decide whether the research discussed is relevant to their own interests or study. Abstracts also help readers understand your main argument quickly. Consider these questions as you write your abstract:
- Are other academics in your field the main target of your study?
- Will your study perhaps be useful to members of the general public?
- Do your study results include the wider implications presented in the abstract?
Outlining and Writing Your Abstract
What to include in an abstract.
Just as your research paper title should cover as much ground as possible in a few short words, your abstract must cover all parts of your study in order to fully explain your paper and research. Because it must accomplish this task in the space of only a few hundred words, it is important not to include ambiguous references or phrases that will confuse the reader or mislead them about the content and objectives of your research. Follow these dos and don’ts when it comes to what kind of writing to include:
- Avoid acronyms or abbreviations since these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader, which takes up valuable abstract space. Instead, explain these terms in the Introduction section of the main text.
- Only use references to people or other works if they are well-known. Otherwise, avoid referencing anything outside of your study in the abstract.
- Never include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract; you will have plenty of time to present and refer to these in the body of your paper.
Use keywords in your abstract to focus your topic
A vital search tool is the research paper keywords section, which lists the most relevant terms directly underneath the abstract. Think of these keywords as the “tubes” that readers will seek and enter—via queries on databases and search engines—to ultimately land at their destination, which is your paper. Your abstract keywords should thus be words that are commonly used in searches but should also be highly relevant to your work and found in the text of your abstract. Include 5 to 10 important words or short phrases central to your research in both the abstract and the keywords section.
For example, if you are writing a paper on the prevalence of obesity among lower classes that crosses international boundaries, you should include terms like “obesity,” “prevalence,” “international,” “lower classes,” and “cross-cultural.” These are terms that should net a wide array of people interested in your topic of study. Look at our nine rules for choosing keywords for your research paper if you need more input on this.
Research Paper Abstract Structure
As mentioned above, the abstract (especially the informative abstract) acts as a surrogate or synopsis of your research paper, doing almost as much work as the thousands of words that follow it in the body of the main text. In the hard sciences and most social sciences, the abstract includes the following sections and organizational schema.
Each section is quite compact—only a single sentence or two, although there is room for expansion if one element or statement is particularly interesting or compelling. As the abstract is almost always one long paragraph, the individual sections should naturally merge into one another to create a holistic effect. Use the following as a checklist to ensure that you have included all of the necessary content in your abstract.
1) Identify your purpose and motivation
So your research is about rabies in Brazilian squirrels. Why is this important? You should start your abstract by explaining why people should care about this study—why is it significant to your field and perhaps to the wider world? And what is the exact purpose of your study; what are you trying to achieve? Start by answering the following questions:
- What made you decide to do this study or project?
- Why is this study important to your field or to the lay reader?
- Why should someone read your entire article?
In summary, the first section of your abstract should include the importance of the research and its impact on related research fields or on the wider scientific domain.
2) Explain the research problem you are addressing
Stating the research problem that your study addresses is the corollary to why your specific study is important and necessary. For instance, even if the issue of “rabies in Brazilian squirrels” is important, what is the problem—the “missing piece of the puzzle”—that your study helps resolve?
You can combine the problem with the motivation section, but from a perspective of organization and clarity, it is best to separate the two. Here are some precise questions to address:
- What is your research trying to better understand or what problem is it trying to solve?
- What is the scope of your study—does it try to explain something general or specific?
- What is your central claim or argument?
3) Discuss your research approach
Your specific study approach is detailed in the Methods and Materials section . You have already established the importance of the research, your motivation for studying this issue, and the specific problem your paper addresses. Now you need to discuss how you solved or made progress on this problem—how you conducted your research. If your study includes your own work or that of your team, describe that here. If in your paper you reviewed the work of others, explain this here. Did you use analytic models? A simulation? A double-blind study? A case study? You are basically showing the reader the internal engine of your research machine and how it functioned in the study. Be sure to:
- Detail your research—include methods/type of the study, your variables, and the extent of the work
- Briefly present evidence to support your claim
- Highlight your most important sources
4) Briefly summarize your results
Here you will give an overview of the outcome of your study. Avoid using too many vague qualitative terms (e.g, “very,” “small,” or “tremendous”) and try to use at least some quantitative terms (i.e., percentages, figures, numbers). Save your qualitative language for the conclusion statement. Answer questions like these:
- What did your study yield in concrete terms (e.g., trends, figures, correlation between phenomena)?
- How did your results compare to your hypothesis? Was the study successful?
- Where there any highly unexpected outcomes or were they all largely predicted?
5) State your conclusion
In the last section of your abstract, you will give a statement about the implications and limitations of the study . Be sure to connect this statement closely to your results and not the area of study in general. Are the results of this study going to shake up the scientific world? Will they impact how people see “Brazilian squirrels”? Or are the implications minor? Try not to boast about your study or present its impact as too far-reaching, as researchers and journals will tend to be skeptical of bold claims in scientific papers. Answer one of these questions:
- What are the exact effects of these results on my field? On the wider world?
- What other kind of study would yield further solutions to problems?
- What other information is needed to expand knowledge in this area?
After Completing the First Draft of Your Abstract
Revise your abstract.
The abstract, like any piece of academic writing, should be revised before being considered complete. Check it for grammatical and spelling errors and make sure it is formatted properly.
Get feedback from a peer
Getting a fresh set of eyes to review your abstract is a great way to find out whether you’ve summarized your research well. Find a reader who understands research papers but is not an expert in this field or is not affiliated with your study. Ask your reader to summarize what your study is about (including all key points of each section). This should tell you if you have communicated your key points clearly.
In addition to research peers, consider consulting with a professor or even a specialist or generalist writing center consultant about your abstract. Use any resource that helps you see your work from another perspective.
Consider getting professional editing and proofreading
While peer feedback is quite important to ensure the effectiveness of your abstract content, it may be a good idea to find an academic editor to fix mistakes in grammar, spelling, mechanics, style, or formatting. The presence of basic errors in the abstract may not affect your content, but it might dissuade someone from reading your entire study. Wordvice provides English editing services that both correct objective errors and enhance the readability and impact of your work.
Additional Abstract Rules and Guidelines
Write your abstract after completing your paper.
Although the abstract goes at the beginning of your manuscript, it does not merely introduce your research topic (that is the job of the title), but rather summarizes your entire paper. Writing the abstract last will ensure that it is complete and consistent with the findings and statements in your paper.
Keep your content in the correct order
Both questions and answers should be organized in a standard and familiar way to make the content easier for readers to absorb. Ideally, it should mimic the overall format of your essay and the classic “introduction,” “body,” and “conclusion” form, even if the parts are not neatly divided as such.
Write the abstract from scratch
Because the abstract is a self-contained piece of writing viewed separately from the body of the paper, you should write it separately as well. Never copy and paste direct quotes from the paper and avoid paraphrasing sentences in the paper. Using new vocabulary and phrases will keep your abstract interesting and free of redundancies while conserving space.
Don’t include too many details in the abstract
Again, the density of your abstract makes it incompatible with including specific points other than possibly names or locations. You can make references to terms, but do not explain or define them in the abstract. Try to strike a balance between being specific to your study and presenting a relatively broad overview of your work.
If you think your abstract is fine now but you need input on abstract writing or require English editing services (including paper editing ), then head over to the Wordvice academic resources page, where you will find many more articles, for example on writing the Results , Methods , and Discussion sections of your manuscript, on choosing a title for your paper , or on how to finalize your journal submission with a strong cover letter .
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Examples of abstract for research paper for online essay contests
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How to write a research paper abstract.
In her unfinished novella, Diana and Persis , Louisa May Alcott, according Whitney Chadwick, "explores the connections between art, politics, spinsterhood, and the female community in late 19th-century Paris" (212). The character, Persis represents Alcott's sister May, whom Alcott supported as an artist in Paris beginning in 1873 -- at the same time Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and other women artists were making their mark in the Impressionist movement. Both characters, like real women artists in this milieu, are essentially faced with a choice between their art and domesticity -- marriage and motherhood. Using the novella, originally written in 1879 but first published in 1978, as a framework, this paper will explore how the lives of the real women artists of the period, particularly the Morisot sisters, aligned with Alcott's depiction. Because she based the story on May and herself, Alcott abandoned it when her sister died a month after giving birth to her only child, a daughter, named after Louisa. The paper will examine the question of whether the ending that one scholar believes Alcott intended is plausible in the context of the lives of real women artists in late 19th-century Paris.
The implementation and/or de-emphasis of dress codes in the workplace communicates various attributes about a firm's corporate culture and organizational philosophies. The use of codes can positively or negatively influence the operations and image of a firm. Codes can be formal, (outlined and enforced by an employee code of conduct) or informal (those that are not written but "understood." A large component of a code's success rests with a firm's corporate culture and its management. In demonstrating the significance of dress codes, this paper will analyze management's decision-making process and its impact upon the business. The initial step in investigating dress codes is the determination of management's motivating factors and the procedures necessary to effectively implement a code. The next step is to analyze the code and its influence on the organization. This part of the analysis includes determining the effectiveness of the code in accomplishing the organization's goals and objectives. Finally, this paper will assess the importance of dress codes in various industries and careers and what they communicate to fellow employees and external entities.
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How To Write An Effective Research Abstract
What is an Abstract?
When you have written a research pape r, a thesis, or a dissertation, it is common practice to provide a summary of the work contained in the document. Research supervisors will often recommend that you wait until you have finished the document before writing the abstract to ensure that it accurately represents what the work contains. This is good advice, because the abstract isn’t written for you to remind yourself of what you have done. It is written for a specific purpose and for specific audiences. An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that covers the main points of a piece of writing.
What is the Purpose of an Abstract?
Since academic research documents can run from 2000-word journal articles up to dissertations of tens of thousands of words, it is helpful to provide a brief summary of what the work contains, to avoid the frustration of reading the document in full only to realize that it doesn’t meet your needs as a fellow researcher. By reading the abstract at the beginning, assuming it is well written, you are given enough information to decide whether or not to invest time in reading the work in full. Broadly, the two main reasons for writing an abstract are:
- Selection – to help readers decide if they want to read your article
- Indexing – for quick recovery and cross-referencing.
The Audiences for an Abstract
Database searches , even targeted ones, can produce hundreds of results. Research students then face the ominous task of slogging through that list to identify articles and papers that are relevant to their specific research topic. Abstracts make that process more manageable by succinctly summarizing the paper so that the researcher can make a decision in minutes rather than hours.
Since abstracts are sorted and categorized into indexes to facilitate searching in larger academic databases, librarians are greatly appreciative of well-written abstracts. Correct use of search keywords is important here but of greater value is an accurate reflection of what your article or paper is about.
If you choose to submit your research to a local or national conference, your abstract will be requested as part of your application packet.
Key Components of an Effective Abstract
- Concise: It’s a concise description of your research: 150-200 words
- Tense Usage: Since you’re describing completed work, it should be written in the past tense
- Choose the Right Voice: Since you’re describing the work you performed, it should be written in an active rather than passive voice
- Problem Statement: Why the research topic is important and why you chose to investigate it
- Methodology: How you went about investigating it
- Results: What you learned
- Conclusion: The implications of what you found
- Avoid Jargons: Assume no previous knowledge on the part of your reader – avoid acronyms and explain any topic specific terminology
- Summarize your Research: Leave any judgments as to the relevance of the research to your reader. This is a summary document, not a critique and should be written as such
- Keep in Context: Stay within the confines of your document – don’t include any information that can’t be found in the research paper /article
- Keywords: Use relevant keywords to facilitate correct classification in appropriate indexes
- When Should You Write One? Write the abstract as soon as you have finished your research, while the information is still fresh in your mind
Types & Examples of Abstracts
Descriptive Abstract : Usually a short summary of a 100 words or less without any conclusions
“It is an important and difficult job to write an eye catching abstract. A large percentage of the manuscripts that are submitted to academic journals are rejected because their abstracts are poorly written. This paper provides a new and step by step approach for writing a good structured abstract.”
Informative Abstract: Also called as a structured abstract
“Research reported by Daly, Miller, and their colleagues suggests that writing apprehension is related to a number of factors we do not yet fully understand. This study suggests that included among those factors should be the belief that writing ability is a gift. Giftedness, as it is referred to in the study, is roughly equivalent to the Romantic notion of original genius. Results from a survey of 247 postsecondary students enrolled in introductory writing courses at two institutions indicate that higher levels of belief in giftedness are correlated with higher levels of writing apprehension, lower self-assessments of writing ability, lower levels of confidence in achieving proficiency in certain writing activities and genres, and lower self-assessments of prior experience with writing instructors. Significant differences in levels of belief in giftedness were also found among students who differed in their perceptions of the most important purpose for writing, with students who identified “to express your own feelings about something” as the most important purpose for writing having the highest mean level of belief in giftedness. Although the validity of the notion that writing ability is a special gift is not directly addressed, the results suggest that belief in giftedness may have deleterious effects on student writers.”
Since your abstract will be the key to finding the complete work, take the extra time to double check it before submission . Better still, have someone who knows nothing about your research take a look at it – that way you can be sure you have hit the appropriate level of assuming no previous knowledge.
How to Write a Research Paper Abstract: Guide With Examples
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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper
A research paper is more than a summary of a topic with credible sources, it is an expanded essay that presents a writer’s interpretation and evaluation or argument. The purpose of writing this paper is to analyze a perspective or argue a point thus demonstrating your knowledge, writing and vocabulary skills, and ability to do a great research on a given topic.
What is an Abstract?
In order to write one, you have to know what abstracts are exactly. Well, an abstract is defined as a concise summary of a larger project; it describes the content and scope of the project while identifying objective, methodology, findings, and conclusion.
The purpose of an abstract is to summarize the major aspects of a argumentative essay topics or paper, but it is important to bear in mind they are descriptions of your project, not the topic in general.
Basically, you use abstract to describe what specifically you are doing, not the topic your project is based upon. For example, if your research paper is about the bribe, the abstract is about survey or investigation you carry out about the prevalence of bribe, how people are likely to offer it to someone, do people take bribe etc. In this case, the abstract is not about the bribe itself, its definition, why people do it, and other related things. If you don` know, what the research work should look like – look at the example of a research paper .
Types of Abstracts
- Critical abstract – describes main information and findings while providing a comment or judgment about the study’s reliability, validity, and completeness. Here, the researcher evaluates some paper and compares it to other works and papers on the same topic
- Descriptive abstract – only describes the work being summarized without comparing it to other papers on the given subject
- Informative abstract – most common type of abstracts, the researcher explains and presents the main arguments and most important results. While it doesn’t compare one work to others on the same subject, informative abstract includes conclusions of the research and recommendations of the author
- Highlight abstract – written to catch the reader’s attention, rarely used in academic writing
Elements the Abstract has to Contain
Even though there are different types of abstracts, one thing is in common for all of them – they contain the same elements i.e. four types of information presented to the reader. Before you learn how to write an abstract for a research paper, make sure your abstract should comprise of the following:
Objective or the main rationale of the project introduces readers with the research you carried out. This section accounts for the first few sentences of the abstract and announces the problem you set out to solve or the issue you have explored. The objective can also explain a writer’s motivation for the project.
Once the objective is described, it’s time to move to the next section – methods. Here, a writer explains how he/she decided to solve a problem or explore some issue i.e. methods or steps they used to get the answers. Of course, your approach or methods depend on the topic, your field of expertise, subject etc. For example:
- Hard science or social science – a concise description of the processes used to conduct a research
- Service project – to outline types of services performed and the processes followed
- Humanities project – to identify methodological assumptions or theoretical framework
- Visual or performing arts project – to outline media and processes used to develop the project
In other words, regardless of the field or subject, the methods section serves to identify any process you used to reach the results and conclusions.
This section is self-explanatory; your goal is to list the outcomes or results of the research. If the research isn’t complete yet, you can include preliminary results or a theory about the potential outcome.
Just like in every other work, the conclusion is a sentence or two wherein you summarize everything you’ve written above. In the abstract, a writer concludes or summarizes the results. When writing the conclusion, think of the question “what do these results mean”, and try to answer it in this section.
Submit instructions, choose a writer, and pay only if satisfied.
NOTE: More extensive research papers can also include a brief introduction before objective section. The introduction features one-two sentences that act as a basis or foundation for the objective. A vast majority of abstracts simply skip this section.
The Abstract Should not Contain
A common mistake regarding abstracts is writing them the same way you would write the rest of a research paper. Besides some elements that your abstract has to contain, there are some things you should avoid. They are:
- Fluff, abstracts should be relatively short, no need to pump up the word volume
- Images, illustration figures, tables
- Incomplete sentences
- Lengthy background information, that’s what research paper is for, abstracts should be concise
- New information that is not present in the research paper
- Phrases like “current research shows” or “studies confirm”
- Terms that reader might find confusing
- Unnecessary details that do not contribute to the overall intention of the abstract
Writing the Abstract
Now that you know what the abstract is, elements it should contain and what to avoid, you are ready to start writing. The first thing to bear in mind is that your abstract doesn’t need a certain “flow”. Keep in mind that abstract should be precise and concise, you don’t need to worry about making it seem bigger. Ideally, you should focus on introducing facts and making sure a reader will get the clear picture of the topic presented through your research paper. Follow these steps to create a strong, high-quality abstract.
Start writing the abstract only when you complete the research paper. By the time you finish the essay writing process, you will know what to use in abstract to perfectly describe your work. Choosing to write an abstract first is highly impractical, takes ages, and it doesn’t represent the research paper adequately.
For your objective and conclusion sections, you can use the most important information from introduction and conclusion section of the research paper. Rather than wasting your time on trying to figure out what to include, just use the important premises and summarize them into one-two sentences in the abstract.
While researching or carrying out surveys for your paper, write down everything you do. Use these notes to create methods sections for the abstract. This particular section just has to inform a reader about the process you implemented to find the answers from the objective. No need to introduce unnecessary information.
Make sure the abstract answers these questions:
1) How was the research conducted? 2) How did I get my answers? 3) What answers did I get? 4) What is the purpose of this research? 5) What do these results mean?
When the abstract is complete, read everything you have written from top to bottom. Then, eliminate all extra information in order to keep it as concise as possible.
Read the abstract thoroughly again. Make sure there is the consistency of information presented in the abstract and in the research paper. Basically, information included in both abstract and research paper shouldn’t be different. After all, the abstract is a summary or a short description of the research paper itself. This is why you shouldn’t introduce new details into abstract as well.
Once you ensure the abstract contains only relevant information and describes the research paper concisely, read it again. This time, you should look for grammar and spelling mistakes, punctuation, sentence structures, and tense consistency. Never submit the abstract (and research paper or any other type of work) without proofreading and editing first.
Don’t Forget to…
- Vary sentence structures to avoid choppiness. Don’t include too many long sentences one after another and avoid doing the same with short sentences as well. Mixture of longer and shorter sentences work the best
- To avoid adding too many long sentences, just break them up into shorter structures
- Use active voice whenever possible. Also, ask your professor whether it is okay to use passive voice when necessary. Every professor has his/her criteria, asking is a great way to avoid mistakes
- Use past tense to describe the work you have already done
- Read the abstract aloud or to someone else in order to make sure the content is readable and easy to understand
The research paper is a common assignment in college education, and beyond. Writing these papers usually involves creating an abstract, a brief summary or description of the subject or argument you discussed throughout the paper. Abstracts are a major source of concern for many students, but they are incredibly easy to write when you’re familiar with the steps. As seen throughout this post, the ideal way to write an abstract is to keep it concise without pumping up word count with unnecessary information. If you don`t know what about you can write – look at different research paper topics ! Now you’re ready to start writing the abstracts for research papers, good luck. Don’t forget to see another guide about abstract research paper !
Improve your writing with our guides
Writing a Great Research Summary and where to Get Help on it
How to Write a Synthesis Essay
How To Write A Process Essay: Essay Outline, Tips, Topics and Essay Help
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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
One important mission an abstract accomplishes is to describe your purpose for writing the paper (other than the fact that it's a class requirement); in other words, it states your thesis, the problem your paper will explore
An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that covers the main points of a piece of writing. Abstracts make that process more manageable by succinctly summarizing the paper so that the
Jalalian (2012) states that writing an abstract is a vital part of any academic paper. An abstract facilitates scanning the paper to determine whether the reader finds it relevant to their own research or study
The purpose of an abstract is to summarize the major aspects of a argumentative essay topics or paper, but it is important to bear in mind they are descriptions of your project, not the topic in general