Like an appetizer, an abstract piques the interest of potential readers in a piece of academic writing. In this article on how to write an abstract, we explain what an abstract is, discuss the typical elements of an abstract, and state how to begin and end an abstract. Additionally, we share tips for writing abstracts and provide some abstract examples to help you during the writing process.
A well-written abstract can prompt readers to look over an entire paper or cite it in their own work. Furthermore, an abstract can be beneficial for indexing as a search engine can spot keywords and rank a paper more highly in its search results.
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What Is an Abstract?
An abstract is a standalone summary that provides a broad overview of a piece of writing, especially an academic paper or journal article. Abstracts contain keywords closely related to the project topic and offer information about important elements like the methods and major findings of the research. An article abstract typically must adhere to a strict word limit.
Creating an informative and punchy abstract for a dissertation, thesis, or journal article requires an understanding of an abstract’s purpose. Abstracts spotlight the most relevant details of a research article in a single paragraph, giving readers insight into what the work is about in concise form.
What Are the 5 Elements of an Abstract?
A well-written abstract contains four elements that parallel the main headings present in the larger work. It also features keywords.
- Introduction. Briefly highlight the background of your research and state the aim of your study. If you become an environmental scientist, for instance, you need to be able to explain how your work fits into one or more of the larger scholarly conversations in that field.
- Methods. Explain how you conducted your research. In this section of your abstract, you state how you deployed instruments, experiments, processes, and analytic tools such as spreadsheet software, coding languages, and frameworks to achieve results.
- Results. Present your results, which can be qualitative or quantitative. In your abstract, focus on your major findings.
- Discussion. Think of the discussion as being similar to a two-minute elevator pitch for your research to a broad audience. Clearly communicate how your research contributes to your field and its implications for readers.
- Keywords. Every discipline has certain concepts or terminologies particular to it. For instance, an essay on upgrading computer systems might include keywords such as system applications and hardware components. Carefully researched keywords using a keyword planner can drive more potential readers to your writing.
How to Write an Abstract: Beginning and Ending
The structure of your abstract should mirror that of your entire paper. Begin with the introduction and conclude with the implications of your study, or what you describe in the discussion section of your piece of writing.
How to Begin an Abstract
To begin an abstract, you should first concisely establish the background of your study. Take care not to provide an extended literature review here. Then, in a single sentence, state your research question.
How to End an Abstract
You should conclude your abstract with one to two sentences of discussion of your key findings and their implications for the field of study.
How to Write an Abstract: 5 More Useful Tips
Check for Requirements
Scientific journals generally have specific requirements for how to format article submissions. These requirements tend to include a strict word count limit for the abstract. They may even lay out a structure that your abstract must follow. Check the journal’s submission requirements for additional information.
Be Brief and Clear
An abstract is a standalone section that gives potential readers a quick overview of your project and its key findings. Omit unnecessary filler or redundant details.
Review Other Abstracts
Consider reviewing the abstracts of other works in your field of study. These can guide you and provide clarity and inspiration as you write your own abstract.
Keep the Focus on Your Research
The primary goal is to summarize your own research and findings. The ideal abstract succeeds in conveying the background of your study while containing no references to external sources. Save citations and discussion of other studies for the literature review and introduction of your article.
Write the Abstract Last
Some people write the abstract first because it appears immediately below the title in a manuscript. However, because your abstract summarizes your introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections, you should write it last, after completing the main body of your paper.
Abstract Examples to Help You Craft Concise Abstracts
Below are two sample abstracts that are good examples of what a concise abstract is. You can look at the links below to help you write an abstract of your own.
Sample Abstract 1: Impact of COVID-19 on Industries
This is a good example of a well-written abstract because it introduces the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and goes over the most significant facts and figures extracted through the research. The researchers used data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct quantitative analysis and show what industries were most impacted by COVID-19.
Sample Abstract 2: Rapid SNP Discovery and Genetic Mapping Using Sequenced RAD Markers
This abstract is about genetic mapping. In simple terms, it explains how the researchers used sequencing in DNA to map traits. This example explains how the ultimate goal of the research is for this approach to genetic mapping to be applied to a variety of organisms.
How to Use Abstract Examples to Write Your Own
These examples illustrate how to follow a clear introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRaD) structure in an abstract. They each proceed from the introduction and methods to the results and discussion. You may find it helpful to look at the abstracts of papers written in your field. You can also improve your overall writing skills by writing every day.
How to Write an Abstract FAQ
A thesis abstract is usually between 100 and 250 words in length. However, you should check to see if your institution has any specific requirements for the length and structure of thesis abstracts.
You should use the past and present verb tenses in an abstract. Use the present tense in sentences in your abstract where you summarize your introduction and discussion sections. Conversely, use the past tense when you discuss your methods and results.
There are several types of abstracts. Informative and descriptive abstracts are two common kinds. An informative abstract is data-oriented, focusing heavily on key points. By contrast, a descriptive abstract aims to attract readers and is usually shorter than an informative abstract.
An abstract is a standalone summary of an entire work that appears near the beginning of a manuscript. An introduction is the work’s opening. It establishes a study’s background, its aims and objects, and its scope.
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