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An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long.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.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

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.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

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.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

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:

a abstract for research paper

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SciSpace Resources

Abstract Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips & Examples

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

step-by-step-guide-to-abstract-writing

Introduction

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.

purpose-of-abstract-writing

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.

the-various-sections-of-abstract-writing

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.

examples-of-good-abstract-writing

Good Abstract Examples

Abstract example #1.

Children’s consumption behavior in response to food product placements in movies.

The abstract:

"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

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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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. 

a abstract for research paper

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. 

Writing tips

The main challenge you may find when writing your abstract is keeping it concise AND convering all the information you need to.

a abstract for research paper

  • 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.

a abstract for research paper

Don’t

  • 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

The contents of the Peer Review Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …

The contents of the Writing Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …

There’s a lot to consider when deciding where to submit your work. Learn how to choose a journal that will help your study reach its audience, while reflecting your values as a researcher…

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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.

Descriptive abstracts

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.

Informative abstracts

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.

Informative abstract:

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.

Reverse outlining:

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

Works consulted

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.

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.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to write an abstract

a abstract for research paper

What is an abstract?

General format of an abstract, the content of an abstract, abstract example, abstract style guides, frequently asked questions about writing an abstract, related articles.

An abstract is a summary of the main contents of a paper.

The abstract is the first glimpse that readers get of the content of a research paper. It can influence the popularity of a paper, as a well-written one will attract readers, and a poorly-written one will drive them away.

➡️ Different types of papers may require distinct abstract styles. Visit our guide on the different types of research papers to learn more.

Tip: Always wait until you’ve written your entire paper before you write the abstract.

Before you actually start writing an abstract, make sure to follow these steps:

  • Read other papers : find papers with similar topics, or similar methodologies, simply to have an idea of how others have written their abstracts. Notice which points they decided to include, and how in depth they described them.
  • Double check the journal requirements : always make sure to review the journal guidelines to format your paper accordingly. Usually, they also specify abstract's formats.
  • Write the abstract after you finish writing the paper : you can only write an abstract once you finish writing the whole paper. This way you can include all important aspects, such as scope, methodology, and conclusion.

➡️ Read more about  what is a research methodology?

The general format of an abstract includes the following features:

  • Between 150-300 words .
  • An independent page , after the title page and before the table of contents.
  • Concise summary including the aim of the research, methodology , and conclusion .
  • Keywords describing the content.

As mentioned before, an abstract is a text that summarizes the main points of a research. Here is a break down of each element that should be included in an abstract:

  • Purpose : every abstract should start by describing the main purpose or aim of the research.
  • Methods : as a second point, the methodology carried out should be explained.
  • Results : then, a concise summary of the results should be included.
  • Conclusion : finally, a short outline of the general outcome of the research should be given.
  • Keywords : along with the abstract, specific words and phrases related to the topics discussed in the research should be added. These words are usually around five, but the number can vary depending on the journal's guidelines.

This abstract, taken from ScienceDirect , illustrates the ideal structure of an abstract. It has 155 words, it's concise, and it clearly shows the division of elements necessary to write a successful abstract.

This paper explores the implicit assumption in the growing body of literature that social media usage is fundamentally different in business-to-business (B2B) companies than in the extant business-to-consumer (B2C) literature. Sashi's (2012) customer engagement cycle is utilized to compare organizational practices in relation to social media marketing in B2B, B2C, Mixed B2B/B2C and B2B2C business models. Utilizing 449 responses to an exploratory panel based survey instrument, we clearly identify differences in social media usage and its perceived importance as a communications channel. In particular we identify distinct differences in the relationship between social media importance and the perceived effectiveness of social media marketing across business models. Our results indicate that B2B social media usage is distinct from B2C, Mixed and B2B2C business model approaches. Specifically B2B organizational members perceive social media to have a lower overall effectiveness as a channel and identify it as less important for relationship oriented usage than other business models.

The exact format of an abstract depends on the citation style you implement. Whether it’s a well-known style (like APA, IEEE, etc.) or a journal's style, each format has its own guidelines, so make sure you know which style you are using before writing your abstract.

APA is one of the most commonly used styles to format an abstract. Therefore, we created a guide with exact instructions on how to write an abstract in APA style, and a template to download:

📕 APA abstract page: format and template

Additionally, you will find below an IEEE and ASA abstract guide by Purdue Online Writing Lab :

📗 IEEE General Format - Abstract

📘 ASA Manuscript Formatting - Abstract

No. You should always write an abstract once you finish writing the whole paper. This way you can include all important aspects of the paper, such as scope, methodology, and conclusion.

The length of an abstract depends on the formatting style of the paper. For example, APA style calls for 150 to 250 words. Generally, you need between 150-300 words.

No. An abstract has an independent section after the title page and before the table of contents, and should not be included in the table of contents.

Take a look at APA abstract page: format and template for exact details on how to format an abstract in APA style.

You can access any paper through Google Scholar or any other search engine; pick a paper and read the abstract. Abstracts are always freely available to read.

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Home » Research Paper Abstract – Writing Guide and Examples

Research Paper Abstract – Writing Guide and Examples

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Research Paper Abstract

Research Paper Abstract

Research Paper Abstract is a brief summary of a research pape r that describes the study’s purpose, methods, findings, and conclusions . It is often the first section of the paper that readers encounter, and its purpose is to provide a concise and accurate overview of the paper’s content. The typical length of an abstract is usually around 150-250 words, and it should be written in a concise and clear manner.

Research Paper Abstract Structure

The structure of a research paper abstract usually includes the following elements:

  • Background or Introduction: Briefly describe the problem or research question that the study addresses.
  • Methods : Explain the methodology used to conduct the study, including the participants, materials, and procedures.
  • Results : Summarize the main findings of the study, including statistical analyses and key outcomes.
  • Conclusions : Discuss the implications of the study’s findings and their significance for the field, as well as any limitations or future directions for research.
  • Keywords : List a few keywords that describe the main topics or themes of the research.

How to Write Research Paper Abstract

Here are the steps to follow when writing a research paper abstract:

  • Start by reading your paper: Before you write an abstract, you should have a complete understanding of your paper. Read through the paper carefully, making sure you understand the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Identify the key components : Identify the key components of your paper, such as the research question, methods used, results obtained, and conclusion reached.
  • Write a draft: Write a draft of your abstract, using concise and clear language. Make sure to include all the important information, but keep it short and to the point. A good rule of thumb is to keep your abstract between 150-250 words.
  • Use clear and concise language : Use clear and concise language to explain the purpose of your study, the methods used, the results obtained, and the conclusions drawn.
  • Emphasize your findings: Emphasize your findings in the abstract, highlighting the key results and the significance of your study.
  • Revise and edit: Once you have a draft, revise and edit it to ensure that it is clear, concise, and free from errors.
  • Check the formatting: Finally, check the formatting of your abstract to make sure it meets the requirements of the journal or conference where you plan to submit it.

Research Paper Abstract Examples

Research Paper Abstract Examples could be following:

Title : “The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Treating Anxiety Disorders: A Meta-Analysis”

Abstract : This meta-analysis examines the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in treating anxiety disorders. Through the analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials, we found that CBT is a highly effective treatment for anxiety disorders, with large effect sizes across a range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Our findings support the use of CBT as a first-line treatment for anxiety disorders and highlight the importance of further research to identify the mechanisms underlying its effectiveness.

Title : “Exploring the Role of Parental Involvement in Children’s Education: A Qualitative Study”

Abstract : This qualitative study explores the role of parental involvement in children’s education. Through in-depth interviews with 20 parents of children in elementary school, we found that parental involvement takes many forms, including volunteering in the classroom, helping with homework, and communicating with teachers. We also found that parental involvement is influenced by a range of factors, including parent and child characteristics, school culture, and socio-economic status. Our findings suggest that schools and educators should prioritize building strong partnerships with parents to support children’s academic success.

Title : “The Impact of Exercise on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”

Abstract : This paper presents a systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing literature on the impact of exercise on cognitive function in older adults. Through the analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials, we found that exercise is associated with significant improvements in cognitive function, particularly in the domains of executive function and attention. Our findings highlight the potential of exercise as a non-pharmacological intervention to support cognitive health in older adults.

When to Write Research Paper Abstract

The abstract of a research paper should typically be written after you have completed the main body of the paper. This is because the abstract is intended to provide a brief summary of the key points and findings of the research, and you can’t do that until you have completed the research and written about it in detail.

Once you have completed your research paper, you can begin writing your abstract. It is important to remember that the abstract should be a concise summary of your research paper, and should be written in a way that is easy to understand for readers who may not have expertise in your specific area of research.

Purpose of Research Paper Abstract

The purpose of a research paper abstract is to provide a concise summary of the key points and findings of a research paper. It is typically a brief paragraph or two that appears at the beginning of the paper, before the introduction, and is intended to give readers a quick overview of the paper’s content.

The abstract should include a brief statement of the research problem, the methods used to investigate the problem, the key results and findings, and the main conclusions and implications of the research. It should be written in a clear and concise manner, avoiding jargon and technical language, and should be understandable to a broad audience.

The abstract serves as a way to quickly and easily communicate the main points of a research paper to potential readers, such as academics, researchers, and students, who may be looking for information on a particular topic. It can also help researchers determine whether a paper is relevant to their own research interests and whether they should read the full paper.

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a abstract for research paper

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  • Writing Your Abstract
  • How to Use Keywords

An APA abstract is a concise but comprehensive summary of a scientific paper. It is typically a paragraph long, or about 150 to 250 words. The goal of the abstract is to provide the reader with a brief and accurate idea of what a paper is about.

The APA abstract should appear on a separate page immediately after the title page and before the main content of your paper. While professional papers that appear in scientific journals and other publications require an APA abstract, they may not be required for student papers. However, you should always check with your instructor for specific requirements.

What Is APA Format?

APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association. It is used in writing for psychology and other social sciences. These style guidelines specify different aspects of a document's presentation and layout, including how pages are structured, how references are organized, and how sources are cited.

This article explains how to create an abstract in APA format for your psychology papers or other types of scientific writing. It covers the basic rules you should follow as well as specific guidelines for writing abstracts for experimental reports, literature reviews, and other articles.

What Is an Abstract in APA Format?

In addition to providing guidance for the general style and organization of a paper, APA format also stipulates using an abstract designed to briefly summarize the key details in a paper.

While it is sometimes overlooked or only an afterthought, an abstract is an integral part of any academic or professional paper. The abstract is a critical component of an APA-formatted paper. This brief overview summarizes what your paper contains. It should succinctly and accurately represent what your paper is about and what the reader can expect to find.

Following a few simple guidelines, you can create an abstract following the format. Done well, an abstract generates interest in your work and helps readers learn if the paper will interest them.

APA Format Abstract Basics

The abstract is the second page of a lab report or APA-format paper and should immediately follow the title page . Think of an abstract as a highly condensed summary of your entire paper.

The purpose of your abstract is to provide a brief yet thorough overview of your paper. It should function much like your title page—it should allow the person reading it to quickly determine what your paper is all about. Your abstract is the first thing that most people will read, and it is usually what informs their decision to read the rest of your paper.

The abstract is the single most important paragraph in your entire paper, according to the APA Publication Manual. A good abstract lets the reader know that your paper is worth reading.

According to the official guidelines of the American Psychological Association, an abstract should be brief but packed with information. Each sentence must be written with maximum impact in mind. To keep your abstract short, focus on including just four or five of the essential points, concepts, or findings.

An abstract must also be objective and accurate. The abstract's purpose is to report rather than provide commentary. It should accurately reflect what your paper is about. Only include information that is also included in the body of your paper.

Key Elements of an APA Abstract

Your abstract page should include:

  • A running head , which is a shortened version of your title that appears in all caps at the top left of each page of your paper
  • A section label , which should be the word "Abstract" centered and bolded at the top of the page
  • A page number , which should be the second page of your paper (the title page should be page 1)
  • A double-spaced paragraph of about 150 to 250 words
  • An indented list of keywords related to your paper's content. Include the label "Keywords:" in italics and list three to five keywords that are separated by commas

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

Before you write your abstract, you first need to write your paper in its entirety. In order to write a good abstract, you need to have a finished draft of your paper so you can summarize it accurately.

While the abstract will be at the beginning of your paper, it should be the last section you write.

Once you have completed the final draft of your psychology paper , use it as a guide for writing your abstract.

  • Begin your abstract on a new page . Place your running head and page number 2 in the top right-hand corner. Center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page.
  • Know your target word count . An abstract should be between 150 and 250 words. Exact word counts vary from journal to journal . If you are writing your paper for a psychology course, your professor may have specific word requirements, so be sure to ask. The abstract should be written as only one paragraph with no indentation.
  • Structure the abstract in the same order as your paper . Begin with a brief summary of the introduction , and then continue on with a summary of the method , results , and discussion sections of your paper.
  • Look at other abstracts in professional journals for examples of how to summarize your paper . Notice the main points that the authors chose to mention in the abstract. Use these examples as a guide when choosing the main ideas in your own paper.
  • Write a rough draft of your abstract . Use the format required for your type of paper (see next sections). While you should aim for brevity, be careful not to make your summary too short. Try to write one to two sentences summarizing each section of your paper. Once you have a rough draft, you can edit for length and clarity.
  • Ask a friend to read over the abstract . Sometimes, having someone look at your abstract with fresh eyes can provide perspective and help you spot possible typos and other errors.

The abstract is vital to your paper, so it should not be overlooked or treated as an afterthought. Spend time writing this section carefully to ensure maximum readability and clarity.

It is important to remember that while the abstract is the last thing you write, it is often the most read part of your paper.

Experimental Report Abstracts

The format of your abstract also depends on the type of paper you are writing. For example, an abstract summarizing an experimental paper will differ from that of a meta-analysis or case study . For an experimental report, your abstract should:

  • Identify the problem . In many cases, you should begin by stating the question you sought to investigate and your hypothesis .
  • Describe the participants in the study . State how many participants took part and how they were selected. For example: "In this study, 215 undergraduate student participants were randomly assigned to [the experimental condition] or [the control condition]."
  • Describe the study method . For example, identify whether you used a within-subjects, between-subjects, or mixed design.
  • Give the basic findings . This is essentially a brief preview of the results of your paper. 
  • Provide any conclusions or implications of the study . What might your results indicate, and what directions does it point to for future research?

Literature Review Abstracts

If your paper is a meta-analysis or literature review, your abstract should:

  • Describe the problem of interest . In other words, what is it that you set out to investigate in your analysis or review?
  • Explain the criteria used to select the studies included in the paper . There may be many different studies devoted to your topic. Your analysis or review probably only looks at a portion of these studies. For what reason did you select these specific studies to include in your research?
  • Identify the participants in the studies . Inform the reader about who the participants were in the studies. Were they college students? Older adults? How were they selected and assigned?
  • Provide the main results . Again, this is essentially a quick peek at what readers will find when they read your results section. Don't try to include everything. Just provide a very brief summary of your main findings. 
  • Describe any conclusions or implications . What might these results mean and what do they reveal about the body of research that exists on this particular topic?

Lab Reports and Articles

Psychology papers such as lab reports and APA format articles also often require an abstract. In these cases as well, the abstract should include all of the major elements of your paper, including an introduction, hypothesis, methods, results, and discussion.

Remember, although the abstract should be placed at the beginning of your paper (right after the title page), you will write the abstract last after you have completed a final draft of your paper.

To ensure that all of your APA formatting is correct, consider consulting a copy of the  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association .

Keywords in an APA Abstract

After the paragraph containing the main elements of your abstract, you can also include keywords related to your paper. Such keywords are used when indexing your paper in databases and can help researchers and students locate your paper when searching for information about those topics.

Because keywords help people find your paper, it is essential to choose the right ones. The APA suggests including between three and five keywords.

You can identify keywords by thinking about what your paper is about. For example, if your paper focuses on how social media use is related to depression in teenagers, you might include the keywords: social media, mood, depression, adolescents, social networking sites 

A Word From Verywell

The abstract may be very brief, but it is so important that the official APA style manual identifies it as the most important paragraph in your entire paper. Careful attention to detail can ensure that your abstract does a good job representing the contents of your paper. If possible, take your paper to your school's writing lab for assistance.

Nagda S. How to write a scientific abstract. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;13(3):382–383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x

Kumar A. Writing an abstract: Revealing the essence with eloquence .  J Indian Soc Periodontol . 2022;26(1):1-2. doi:10.4103/jisp.jisp_634_21

American Psychological Association. APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards: Reporting Standards for Studies With an Experimental Manipulation .

American Psychological Association. APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards: Quantitative Meta-Analysis Article Reporting Standards .

Tullu MS. Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: Being concise, precise, and meticulous is the key .  Saudi J Anaesth . 2019;13(Suppl 1):S12-S17. doi:10.4103/sja.SJA_685_18

American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). American Psychological Association; 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

How to Write an Abstract APA Format

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

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Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

An APA abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article, research paper, dissertation, or report.

It is written in accordance with the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is a widely used format in social and behavioral sciences. 

An APA abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of between 150–250 words, the major aspects of a research paper or dissertation in a prescribed sequence that includes:
  • The rationale: the overall purpose of the study, providing a clear context for the research undertaken.
  • Information regarding the method and participants: including materials/instruments, design, procedure, and data analysis.
  • Main findings or trends: effectively highlighting the key outcomes of the hypotheses.
  • Interpretations and conclusion(s): solidify the implications of the research.
  • Keywords related to the study: assist the paper’s discoverability in academic databases.

The abstract should stand alone, be “self-contained,” and make sense to the reader in isolation from the main article.

The purpose of the abstract is to give the reader a quick overview of the essential information before reading the entire article. The abstract is placed on its own page, directly after the title page and before the main body of the paper.

Although the abstract will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s good practice to write your abstract after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

Note : This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), released in October 2019.

Structure of the Abstract

[NOTE: DO NOT separate the components of the abstract – it should be written as a single paragraph. This section is separated to illustrate the abstract’s structure.]

1) The Rationale

One or two sentences describing the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated. You are basically justifying why this study was conducted.

  • What is the importance of the research?
  • Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
  • For example, are you filling a gap in previous research or applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data?
  • Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer can experience an array of psychosocial difficulties; however, social support, particularly from a spouse, has been shown to have a protective function during this time. This study examined the ways in which a woman’s daily mood, pain, and fatigue, and her spouse’s marital satisfaction predict the woman’s report of partner support in the context of breast cancer.
  • The current nursing shortage, high hospital nurse job dissatisfaction, and reports of uneven quality of hospital care are not uniquely American phenomena.
  • Students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are more likely to exhibit behavioral difficulties than their typically developing peers. The aim of this study was to identify specific risk factors that influence variability in behavior difficulties among individuals with SEND.

2) The Method

Information regarding the participants (number, and population). One or two sentences outlining the method, explaining what was done and how. The method is described in the present tense.

  • Pretest data from a larger intervention study and multilevel modeling were used to examine the effects of women’s daily mood, pain, and fatigue and average levels of mood, pain, and fatigue on women’s report of social support received from her partner, as well as how the effects of mood interacted with partners’ marital satisfaction.
  • This paper presents reports from 43,000 nurses from more than 700 hospitals in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and Germany in 1998–1999.
  • The study sample comprised 4,228 students with SEND, aged 5–15, drawn from 305 primary and secondary schools across England. Explanatory variables were measured at the individual and school levels at baseline, along with a teacher-reported measure of behavior difficulties (assessed at baseline and the 18-month follow-up).

3) The Results

One or two sentences indicating the main findings or trends found as a result of your analysis. The results are described in the present or past tense.

  • Results show that on days in which women reported higher levels of negative or positive mood, as well as on days they reported more pain and fatigue, they reported receiving more support. Women who, on average, reported higher levels of positive mood tended to report receiving more support than those who, on average, reported lower positive mood. However, average levels of negative mood were not associated with support. Higher average levels of fatigue but not pain were associated with higher support. Finally, women whose husbands reported higher levels of marital satisfaction reported receiving more partner support, but husbands’ marital satisfaction did not moderate the effect of women’s mood on support.
  • Nurses in countries with distinctly different healthcare systems report similar shortcomings in their work environments and the quality of hospital care. While the competence of and relation between nurses and physicians appear satisfactory, core problems in work design and workforce management threaten the provision of care.
  • Hierarchical linear modeling of data revealed that differences between schools accounted for between 13% (secondary) and 15.4% (primary) of the total variance in the development of students’ behavior difficulties, with the remainder attributable to individual differences. Statistically significant risk markers for these problems across both phases of education were being male, eligibility for free school meals, being identified as a bully, and lower academic achievement. Additional risk markers specific to each phase of education at the individual and school levels are also acknowledged.

4) The Conclusion / Implications

A brief summary of your conclusions and implications of the results, described in the present tense. Explain the results and why the study is important to the reader.

  • For example, 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?

Implications of these findings are discussed relative to assisting couples during this difficult time in their lives.

  • Resolving these issues, which are amenable to managerial intervention, is essential to preserving patient safety and care of consistently high quality.
  • Behavior difficulties are affected by risks across multiple ecological levels. Addressing any one of these potential influences is therefore likely to contribute to the reduction in the problems displayed.

The above examples of abstracts are from the following papers:

Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J. A., Busse, R., Clarke, H., … & Shamian, J. (2001). Nurses’ reports on hospital care in five countries . Health affairs, 20(3) , 43-53.

Boeding, S. E., Pukay-Martin, N. D., Baucom, D. H., Porter, L. S., Kirby, J. S., Gremore, T. M., & Keefe, F. J. (2014). Couples and breast cancer: Women’s mood and partners’ marital satisfaction predicting support perception . Journal of Family Psychology, 28(5) , 675.

Oldfield, J., Humphrey, N., & Hebron, J. (2017). Risk factors in the development of behavior difficulties among students with special educational needs and disabilities: A multilevel analysis . British journal of educational psychology, 87(2) , 146-169.

5) Keywords

APA style suggests including a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. This is particularly common in academic articles and helps other researchers find your work in databases.

Keywords in an abstract should be selected to help other researchers find your work when searching an online database. These keywords should effectively represent the main topics of your study. Here are some tips for choosing keywords:

Core Concepts: Identify the most important ideas or concepts in your paper. These often include your main research topic, the methods you’ve used, or the theories you’re discussing.

Specificity: Your keywords should be specific to your research. For example, suppose your paper is about the effects of climate change on bird migration patterns in a specific region. In that case, your keywords might include “climate change,” “bird migration,” and the region’s name.

Consistency with Paper: Make sure your keywords are consistent with the terms you’ve used in your paper. For example, if you use the term “adolescent” rather than “teen” in your paper, choose “adolescent” as your keyword, not “teen.”

Jargon and Acronyms: Avoid using too much-specialized jargon or acronyms in your keywords, as these might not be understood or used by all researchers in your field.

Synonyms: Consider including synonyms of your keywords to capture as many relevant searches as possible. For example, if your paper discusses “post-traumatic stress disorder,” you might include “PTSD” as a keyword.

Remember, keywords are a tool for others to find your work, so think about what terms other researchers might use when searching for papers on your topic.

The Abstract SHOULD NOT contain:

Lengthy background or contextual information: The abstract should focus on your research and findings, not general topic background.

Undefined jargon, abbreviations,  or acronyms: The abstract should be accessible to a wide audience, so avoid highly specialized terms without defining them.

Citations: Abstracts typically do not include citations, as they summarize original research.

Incomplete sentences or bulleted lists: The abstract should be a single, coherent paragraph written in complete sentences.

New information not covered in the paper: The abstract should only summarize the paper’s content.

Subjective comments or value judgments: Stick to objective descriptions of your research.

Excessive details on methods or procedures: Keep descriptions of methods brief and focused on main steps.

Speculative or inconclusive statements: The abstract should state the research’s clear findings, not hypotheses or possible interpretations.

  • Any illustration, figure, table, or references to them . All visual aids, data, or extensive details should be included in the main body of your paper, not in the abstract. 
  • Elliptical or incomplete sentences should be avoided in an abstract . The use of ellipses (…), which could indicate incomplete thoughts or omitted text, is not appropriate in an abstract.

APA Style for Abstracts

An APA abstract must be formatted as follows:

Include the running head aligned to the left at the top of the page (professional papers only) and page number. Note, student papers do not require a running head. On the first line, center the heading “Abstract” and bold (do not underlined or italicize). Do not indent the single abstract paragraph (which begins one line below the section title). Double-space the text. Use Times New Roman font in 12 pt. Set one-inch (or 2.54 cm) margins. If you include a “keywords” section at the end of the abstract, indent the first line and italicize the word “Keywords” while leaving the keywords themselves without any formatting.

Example APA Abstract Page

Download this example as a PDF

APA Style Abstract Example

Further Information

  • APA 7th Edition Abstract and Keywords Guide
  • Example APA Abstract
  • How to Write a Good Abstract for a Scientific Paper or Conference Presentation
  • How to Write a Lab Report
  • Writing an APA paper

How long should an APA abstract be?

An APA abstract should typically be between 150 to 250 words long. However, the exact length may vary depending on specific publication or assignment guidelines. It is crucial that it succinctly summarizes the essential elements of the work, including purpose, methods, findings, and conclusions.

Where does the abstract go in an APA paper?

In an APA formatted paper, the abstract is placed on its own page, directly after the title page and before the main body of the paper. It’s typically the second page of the document. It starts with the word “Abstract” (centered and not in bold) at the top of the page, followed by the text of the abstract itself.

What are the 4 C’s of abstract writing?

The 4 C’s of abstract writing are an approach to help you create a well-structured and informative abstract. They are:

Conciseness: An abstract should briefly summarize the key points of your study. Stick to the word limit (typically between 150-250 words for an APA abstract) and avoid unnecessary details.

Clarity: Your abstract should be easy to understand. Avoid jargon and complex sentences. Clearly explain the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions of your study.

Completeness: Even though it’s brief, the abstract should provide a complete overview of your study, including the purpose, methods, key findings, and your interpretation of the results.

Cohesion: The abstract should flow logically from one point to the next, maintaining a coherent narrative about your study. It’s not just a list of disjointed elements; it’s a brief story of your research from start to finish.

What is the abstract of a psychology paper?

An abstract in a psychology paper serves as a snapshot of the paper, allowing readers to quickly understand the purpose, methodology, results, and implications of the research without reading the entire paper. It is generally between 150-250 words long.

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Writing an abstract - a six point checklist (with samples)

Posted in: abstract , dissertations

a abstract for research paper

The abstract is a vital part of any research paper. It is the shop front for your work, and the first stop for your reader. It should provide a clear and succinct summary of your study, and encourage your readers to read more. An effective abstract, therefore should answer the following questions:

  • Why did you do this study or project?
  • What did you do and how?
  • What did you find?
  • What do your findings mean?

So here's our run down of the key elements of a well-written abstract.

  • Size - A succinct and well written abstract should be between approximately 100- 250 words.
  • Background - An effective abstract usually includes some scene-setting information which might include what is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question (a few short sentences).
  • Purpose  - The abstract should also set out the purpose of your research, in other words, what is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present).
  • Methods - The methods section should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. It should include brief details of the research design, sample size, duration of study, and so on.
  • Results - The results section is the most important part of the abstract. This is because readers who skim an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.
  • Conclusion - This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcomes of the study. However, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:
  • The primary take-home message.
  • Any additional findings of importance.
  • Implications for future studies.

abstract 1

Example Abstract 2: Engineering Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone.

bone

Abstract from: Dalstra, M., Huiskes, R. and Van Erning, L., 1995. Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone. Journal of biomechanical engineering, 117(3), pp.272-278.

And finally...  A word on abstract types and styles

Abstract types can differ according to subject discipline. You need to determine therefore which type of abstract you should include with your paper. Here are two of the most common types with examples.

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.

Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgements 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 summarised. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less.

Adapted from Andrade C. How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;53(2):172-5. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.82558. PMID: 21772657; PMCID: PMC3136027 .

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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; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century . Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010;

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.

Farkas, David K. “A Scheme for Understanding and Writing Summaries.” Technical Communication 67 (August 2020): 45-60;  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 the Social Sciences." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60 (October 2009): 2010-2018; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010; 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.

Writing Tip

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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How to Write an Abstract

  • Research Process

Abstracts are the first thing people read when they come across your manuscript on online databases. It's also a deciding factor in peer reviews. Do not overlook its importance.

Updated on March 24, 2022

How to Write an Abstract

You've finished your entire paper. All those hours put into your research have finally paid off. Research writing can be tough .

But hold on; you're not quite finished yet. You forgot to write your abstract!

The abstract can sometimes be overlooked, but that does not mean it's unimportant. In fact, some researchers argue that the abstract is the most important part of your manuscript. It's the first thing people read when they come across your manuscript on online databases. Depending on how well written it is, it could also be the first and last thing your audience reads.

It's also what publications and journals use to determine whether they want to publish your research. Continue reading to learn how to write an abstract and how AJE can help you with your writing.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of the major findings in your research paper. It is usually found at the beginning of your research paper. A good abstract should be able to give the average lay reader a strong sense of the main findings within your full-text paper.

Abstracts are typically one paragraph depending on how you decide to structure it. Your target publication could have specific guidelines that determine the structure of your abstract. However, all abstracts have the commonality of being brief summaries of your longer research.

Types of abstracts

Informative abstracts.

A good informative abstract acts as a thorough summary for your full paper. It should be a structured abstract. It includes sections for the introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion. Each section should only be a couple sentences each. The total number of words should typically be around 250, but they can be longer, too.

Informative abstracts are typically meant for psychology, science, and engineering papers.

Components of an informative abstract

Introduction.

The introduction should only be one or two sentences. This is where you state your thesis and why your research is important. The introduction should state:

  • Your paper's purpose
  • The problems your research solves
  • Historical references

Start writing your methods sections by explaining what you did in the experiment. Begin by setting the scene. The methods section should only be a couple sentences long.

Who/what was involved in the study?

  • State who or what was used in the experiment. Include the population studied; mention any plants, animals, or humans and how many were involved.

When did the experiment take place?

  • State the time frame or duration of the experiment.

Where did the experiment take place?

  • Give the geographical location of the experiment.

Tips for writing the methods section

  • Write your research methods section as you are doing your experimentation. Some details of your experiment could be left out if you wait too long between the experiment and writing an abstract.
  • If you're having trouble structuring your methods, look at what others have done. Look at an abstract from a study in your target publication.

The results section should describe your most important findings with the data to back it up. Write this section in the past tense.

Conclusions

Your conclusions section should only be two to three sentences. In this short amount of space, you should include your interpretation of the experiment to answer the main question of your research. It should answer this question: How do these results have an effect on my area of study or the wider population?

Descriptive abstracts

A descriptive abstract is also called a limited abstract for a good reason. It's much shorter than an informative abstract - about half the size. It's a very brief summary.

It should include background information, the study's purpose, the focus of the paper, and an optional overview of the contents.

A descriptive abstract is generally used for psychology, social sciences, and humanities papers.

Tip for writing a descriptive abstract

If you're having trouble writing a descriptive abstract, take your main headings from your table of contents and write them into a paragraph format.

Critical abstracts

A critical abstract is less common than the other abstracts, but it's still worth knowing. It still includes your general findings, but it also has a section devoted to the completeness, validity, and readability of your paper. In a critical abstract, your work is compared with other studies on your subject matter.

Incorporate keywords found in your research paper

It is wise to list the key phrases and words in your research paper for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes. Your key terms section helps search engines like Google and Bing direct readers and other researchers to your work. The key words section comes at the bottom of your abstract. It can be formatted as follows:

Keywords: example 1, example 2, example 3

How to format the abstract

Some researchers make their abstract a single paragraph that looks like one giant block of text. If you wish to make it easier on your readers, you can break your abstract into sections depending on your target journal's specifications.

It should immediately follow the title page. There should be no page number on the abstract page.

When should you write your abstract?

Since the abstract is the first thing your audience reads, it would make sense to write an abstract first, right?

Not exactly.

Trying to summarize your research before you've written your research paper can be incredibly challenging.

Instead, the abstract should be the last thing you write. Your research should still be fresh in your mind and you should have no problem summarizing the important findings.

There are plenty of other tips for writing your abstract as well.

Final Thoughts

Abstract writing can be difficult. Luckily, AJE's editing staff can edit your abstract . If your target journal requests a graphic abstract, our Figure Formatting team can make you one for you.

Jonny Rhein, BA

Jonny Rhein, BA

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Apr 27, 2024

How to Write an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Did you know that many people decide whether or not to read your entire research paper based on the abstract alone? Make sure yours packs a punch!

This guide will break down the elements of an effective abstract, helping you showcase your research and attract the right readership.

Purpose of an Abstract

Think of your abstract as a multi-purpose tool:

Snapshot for Readers:

Quick Overview: Potential readers can get the gist of your research (problem, methods, results, significance) in a matter of minutes.

Decision-Making Tool: They can quickly decide if your paper goes deep enough into their area of interest to warrant reading it in full.

Discoverability Beacon:

Keywords: Strategic keywords increase the chance of your paper appearing in relevant database searches.

Indexing: Abstracts play a role in how journals index your research, improving its visibility within your field.

Crafting a Research Paper Abstract

While brief, a well-written abstract packs a punch. Here's what to include:

Research Problem: Briefly state the question, issue, or gap in knowledge that your research addresses.

Methodology : Summarize your approach in a sentence or two (e.g., experimental design, survey, qualitative analysis).

Main Results: Highlight your most important findings or key discoveries.

Conclusion/Significance: Concisely explain the impact or implications of your findings for the field.

Be Specific: Avoid vague or overly general statements.

Self-Contained: A reader should understand the abstract without having read the whole paper.

Word Count Matters: Follow any guidelines on word limits (typically around 150-250 words).

IMPORTANT: Abstracts often have strict formatting requirements (no citations, headings, etc.). Always consult the specific instructions from your instructor or publication.

Types of Abstracts

The two primary types of abstracts differ in their level of detail:

Descriptive Abstract

Purpose: Outlines the main purpose, scope, and focus of your research.

Omissions: Does NOT include specific results, conclusions, or recommendations.

Best For: Papers where the research question and methodology are the most interesting, or when the findings are complex and would be overwhelming to fully summarize in a short abstract.

Informative Abstract

Purpose: Acts as a mini version of your paper, including all major elements.

Includes: Problem statement, methods, key results, conclusions, and potential implications.

Best For: Empirical studies with straightforward results and clear conclusions, or papers where the findings are themselves the main contribution.

How to Write Each Type

Descriptive Abstract:

State the research problem/question

Briefly outline your methods

Highlight the type of data examined or the theoretical perspective used

Indicate the scope or focus of the research

All the elements of the descriptive abstract

Succinctly present your key findings

Conclude with significance or recommendations

Is an Informative Abstract Suitable for All Types of Research Papers?

No. Here's why:

Length: Informative abstracts can become lengthy. Some publications have stricter word limits.

Complexity: Papers with nuanced results or less conclusive findings might be better served by a descriptive abstract that focuses on the motivation of the research.

Audience: Consider who the likely readers are. A highly specialized audience might appreciate a detailed informative abstract, while a wider readership might find a descriptive abstract less intimidating.

Note: Always follow guidelines provided by your instructor or target publication. Some disciplines have strong preferences for one type of abstract over the other.

Structuring Your Abstract

While there's no single "perfect" structure, a common approach is to mirror the organization of the paper itself, presenting elements in a condensed form:

Problem Statement (1-2 sentences): Clearly outline the research question, the gap in the literature, or the specific issue addressed.

Methodology (1-2 sentences): Briefly describe the approach (experimental design, survey type, qualitative methodology, etc.).

Results (2-3 sentences): Present your most important or significant findings.

Conclusion/Significance (1-2 sentences): Summarize the main takeaway and the implications of your work for the field.

Should an Abstract Always Follow a Standard Structure?

No. While a standard structure provides familiarity, prioritizing the most compelling aspects of your research is key. Consider:

Groundbreaking Results: If your findings offer a significant breakthrough, it may be worth leading with those to immediately capture attention, even if it means slightly deviating from the standard structure.

Unique Methodology: If your research employs a novel or innovative methodology, highlighting this upfront can draw in readers intrigued by your approach.

Key Components to Include

While the order might shift slightly, make sure you touch on all of these:

Purpose: The "why" of your research. What were you aiming to achieve?

Method: How did you go about answering your question or exploring the issue?

Results: What did you find? (This should be the most substantial part of your abstract)

Significance: Why does your research matter? What does it contribute to the field?

Adapt Based on Type: A descriptive abstract might omit specific results, while an informative one must have them.

Word Count Matters: Strive for conciseness. Avoid wordiness or unnecessary jargon.

Abstract Writing Tips

Write it Last: It's often easier to write a strong abstract once you've finished your paper and can distill the most important points.

Keywords Carefully: Choose keywords that accurately reflect your research focus to increase discoverability in databases.

Get Feedback: Ask a peer, instructor, or mentor to read your abstract. They can ensure it makes sense even to someone unfamiliar with your specific topic.

Revise, Revise, Revise: Don't settle for your first draft. Refine your word choices for clarity and maximum impact within the word limit.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Too Much Jargon: Keep your language accessible to a broader audience within your field. Overuse of discipline-specific terminology can make your work seem inaccessible.

Excessive Detail: An abstract should entice the reader to explore your full paper for the details. Don't try to cram everything in.

Vagueness: Use specific terms and phrases. Avoid generic statements that could apply to any research paper.

Introducing New Material: Your abstract should summarize existing content from your paper, not introduce entirely new arguments or data.

Can Using Technical Jargon in an Abstract Benefit the Reader's Understanding?

Rarely. Here's why excessive jargon is detrimental:

Alienates Readers: Even within a field, readers have varying levels of specialization. Jargon creates a barrier and might discourage potential readers who could otherwise benefit from your work.

Obscures the Core Ideas: Jargon sometimes masks imprecise thinking. Plain language forces you to articulate complex concepts clearly.

Limits Reach: Using accessible language makes your research discoverable by a wider audience, potentially increasing citations and sparking interdisciplinary discussions.

When Jargon is Necessary:

Define Your Terms: If a technical term is unavoidable, provide a brief, clear definition the first time it's used.

Strike a Balance: Maintain a focus on readability while showcasing your grasp of the field's terminology.

Evaluating Abstract Quality

Ask yourself these key questions:

Does it accurately reflect the paper? Anyone reading your abstract should have a clear idea of what your full paper will contain, with no misleading promises.

Is it self-contained? The abstract should make sense on its own, without forcing the reader to consult your paper for clarification.

Is it engaging? Does your opening sentence grab attention? Does the abstract leave the reader curious to learn more?

Is it free of errors? A polished abstract signals attention to detail and professionalism. Proofread carefully!

Does it follow guidelines? Adherence to word limits and any formatting requirements mandated by your instructor or publisher is essential.

How Abstract Quality Impacts Reception

Your abstract has these important functions:

Gatekeeper: Researchers will often decide whether to read your full paper based on the abstract alone. A weak abstract means lost potential readers.

Search Optimizer: Your abstract, with its keywords, plays a crucial role in whether your paper surfaces when people search databases relevant to your field.

First Impression: The abstract sets the reader's expectations for the entire paper. A well-crafted abstract creates a positive anticipation for your work.

Feedback and Revisions

Here's how to strategically use feedback:

Multiple Readers: Get feedback from people with varying levels of familiarity with your topic. This helps you assess clarity for a wider audience.

Specific Questions: Ask your reviewers:

Did the abstract make you want to read the full paper?

Were any parts confusing or overly technical?

Does it accurately represent the paper's focus and conclusions?

Open to Change: Don't be afraid to significantly revise your abstract based on feedback. Sometimes a fresh opening sentence or rephrased result statement makes a world of difference.

Conclusion: Perfecting the Research Paper Abstract

Your abstract serves as a beacon, guiding readers to the heart of your research. It's a testament to the rigor of your study and a testament to your ability to synthesize complex ideas into a concise, compelling format. By carefully crafting your abstract, you showcase the following:

Understanding of Your Work: An effective abstract demonstrates that you have a strong grasp of your own research, its purpose, methodology, and key findings.

Communicative Clarity: The ability to articulate your research succinctly is a valuable skill across academic and professional settings.

Respect for Your Audience: A well-written abstract makes your work accessible to a broader readership, maximizing its potential impact within your field.

Remember, your abstract is often the first, and sometimes the only, encounter a potential reader will have with your research. Invest time and effort into refining this crucial component. In doing so, you open doors for meaningful engagement with your work, invite collaboration, and propel both your own scholarship and the broader scholarly landscape forward.

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  • How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on 1 March 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

  • Introduction

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the UK during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

  • Completing a thesis or dissertation
  • Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s easiest to write your abstract last, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
  • Be fully understandable on its own
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your topic, but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialised terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyse,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

  • This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

  • Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
  • Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

Next, summarise the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.

  • Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.

Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

  • We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
  • We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalisability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarise the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

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 summarises the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 150–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.

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.

The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

McCombes, S. (2022, October 10). How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 29 April 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/abstract/

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How to Write an Abstract?

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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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Additional Commentaries

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:

C: Condensed

C: Critical

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.

figure 1

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

Use abbreviations

Tables or Figures

Generalized statements

Arguments about the study

figure a

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.

11 Conclusions

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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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

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Initial value formulation of a quantum damped harmonic oscillator

Nishant agarwal and yi-zen chu, phys. rev. research 6 , 023113 – published 1 may 2024.

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  • INTRODUCTION
  • IN-IN GENERATING FUNCTIONAL
  • GREEN'S FUNCTIONS
  • TIME-LOCAL DISSIPATION
  • TIME-NONLOCAL DISSIPATION
  • BEYOND GAUSSIAN INITIAL STATES
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The in-in formalism and its influence functional generalization are widely used to describe the out-of-equilibrium dynamics of unitary and open quantum systems, respectively. In this paper, we build on these techniques to develop an effective theory of a quantum damped harmonic oscillator and use it to study initial state-dependence, decoherence, and thermalization. We first consider a Gaussian initial state and quadratic influence functional and obtain general equations for the Green's functions of the oscillator. We solve the equations in the specific case of time-local dissipation and use the resulting Green's functions to obtain the purity and unequal-time two-point correlations of the oscillator. We find that the dynamics must include a nonvanishing noise term to yield physical results for the purity and that the oscillator decoheres in time such that the late-time density operator is thermal. We show that the frequency spectrum or unequal-time correlations can, however, distinguish between the damped oscillator and an isolated oscillator in thermal equilibrium and obtain a generalized fluctuation-dissipation relation for the damped oscillator. We briefly consider time-nonlocal dissipation as well, to show that the fluctuation-dissipation is satisfied for a specific choice of dissipation kernels. Lastly, we develop a double in-out path integral approach to go beyond Gaussian initial states and show that our equal-time results for time-local dissipation are in fact nonperturbative in the initial state.

Figure

  • Received 25 July 2023
  • Accepted 27 March 2024

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevResearch.6.023113

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Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.

Published by the American Physical Society

Physics Subject Headings (PhySH)

  • Research Areas

Authors & Affiliations

  • 1 Department of Physics and Applied Physics, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854, USA
  • 2 Department of Physics, National Central University, Chungli 32001, Taiwan, Republic of China
  • 3 Center for High Energy and High Field Physics (CHiP), National Central University, Chungli 32001, Taiwan, Republic of China
  • * [email protected]
  • [email protected]

Article Text

Vol. 6, Iss. 2 — May - July 2024

Subject Areas

  • Particles and Fields
  • Quantum Physics
  • Statistical Physics

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Equal-time two-point correlations 〈 X ̂ 2 ( t ) 〉 c (top, left), ( 1 / 2 ) 〈 { X ̂ ( t ) , P ̂ ( t ) } 〉 c (top, right), and 〈 P ̂ 2 ( t ) 〉 c (bottom, left) and purity (bottom, right) as a function of time for three different choices of initial state—(i) a coherent state with c x x = 1 / ( 2 ω ) ,   c x p = 0 , and c p p = ω / 2 ; (ii) a squeezed state with c x x = e − 2 r / ( 2 ω ) ,   c x p = 0 ,   c p p = e 2 r ω / 2 , and r = 1 ; and (iii) a thermal state with c x x = coth ( β ω / 2 ) / ( 2 ω ) ,   c x p = 0 ,   c p p = coth ( β ω / 2 ) ω / 2 , and β = 1 / ( 2 ω ) —in the presence of time-local dissipation with γ = ω / 2 and α = 10 ω 2 in each case and setting ω t 0 = 0 for simplicity. We also show the result for an isolated harmonic oscillator at temperature β = ( 2 / ω ) tanh − 1 ( 2 γ ω / α ) ≈ 0.2 / ω for comparison.

Unequal-time two-point correlations, symmetric (left) and antisymmetric (right), for a quantum DHO compared to an isolated harmonic oscillator in a thermal state. The DHO is initialized in a coherent state with c x x = 1 / ( 2 ω ) ,   c x p = 0 , and c p p = ω / 2 at ω t 0 = − 10 , and undergoes time-local dissipation with γ = ω / 2 and α = 10 ω 2 , while the isolated harmonic oscillator is at the temperature β = ( 2 / ω ) tanh − 1 ( 2 γ ω / α ) ≈ 0.2 / ω .

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