How to write an abstract

An academic abstract is a brief reclassification of all the essential points of a research article. The abstract is a single paragraph and is subject to specific word limits, typically below 300 words. It stands alone and bellows the title or at the end of the paper. Note that an abstract is NOT an introduction or plan to the paper. In the words of Craig W. Allin, “abstracts are a written exercise with precision and efficiency.”

In fact, the abstract is written after the study and the entire article is completed. It must be written in the same language as the paper and must be translated into one of the world’s languages. We can say that the primary purpose of an abstract is to allow a quick assessment of the usefulness, significance and validity of a research paper. But always remember that the reader KNOWS the subject but has NOT read the paper.

The summary presents the information in four general sections: INTRODUCTION. METHODS. RESULTS and CONCLUSION. It is worth noting that an abstract is text only and strictly follows the logical order of the paper. That is, the abstract should parallel the structure of original paper. At the same time, it does NOT add any new information, ie. e. it does not appear in the paper. Now, note that the abstract can be seen as an independent document. It is because of this that it must be unified, coherent (i.e. providing appropriate transitions or logical connection between the included information), concise and able to stand alone. In other words, the abstract must be complete in itself.

It is certainly sometimes the case that an abstract is read along with the title, and generally it is probably read without the rest of the document. In fact, we may consider that the abstract is the most important part of a scientific article. Thus, it is an absolute must to include all keywords related to the study. Note that keywords (also called search terms) represent the most important terms or concepts (words or phrases) that are relevant to your topic.

There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. the descriptive or guiding abstract, identifying the content of the research or basic topic of the article, demonstrating the organization of the paper without giving results or conclusions. Thus, it is not very informative. This type of abstract is always very short, usually under 100 words; and it is useful for a long report. On the other hand informative abstract, also known as a summary, provides the main argument and summarizes the most important data and gives the reader an overview of the study’s goals, methods, results and conclusions. So be specific. You may also have heard of a “structured abstract” – this is a subtype of the informational abstract that has more than one paragraph.

What should be included?

The contents of the summary include:

  • Motivation and purpose: main topic or research questions and review of the relevant literature.
  • specifically,: problem, approach, goals, hypothesis, research methodology (method (s) adopted or search strategies).
  • results: main findings (suggested solutions to the problem) and discussion.
  • Conclusions and implications / results: what the results mean and additional points.

As we can see, the abstract should state:

  • Problem addressed and some background information.
  • The proposed solution or insight (newly observed facts).
  • An example that shows how it works.
  • An evaluation: a comparison with existing answers / techniques.

Then an abstract should answer the following questions:

  • What and why.
  • What you found.
  • How you did it.

But how do we get started?

What would be an effective way to begin an abstract? Let’s consider some introductory phrases to help you along your way.

First, let’s see some opening sentences that do NOT offer real information:

  1. This paper reports on a method for …
  2. The paper explores the notions of …
  3. The purpose of our research is to consider how …
  4. The purpose of this study is to determine …

Thus, it is clear that you should avoid writing a reach statement.

On the other hand, the sentences below represent good examples of introductory statements, for they go directly into the topic. They give something to the reader. Let’s see how it works:

  1. The development process for hypermedia and web systems presents very specific problems that do not appear in other software applications such as …
  2. Given a large set of data, a common data recovery problem is to extract the frequent patterns that occur in this set..
  3. According to many recent studies, the effect of learning style on academic performance has been found to be significant, and discrepancy between teaching and learning styles leads to learning failure and frustration..

Do not and do not for abstract writing

  • Write a single paragraph.
  • Fill in the specific word length.
  • Answer the questions: what, why and how.
  • Use familiar language to the reader.
  • Use a few keywords.
  • Write short sentences.
  • Improve transitions between sentences.
  • Use active voice.
  • Use third-person singular.
  • Begin with a clear introductory statement written in the present.
  • Use past in the main body.
  • Write a concluding statement in the present: just tell us what the results mean (e.g. “These results suggest …”).
  • Fix grammar.
  • Use headings, subheadings, and tables as a guide for writing.
  • Write and reread the abstract again.
  • Do not quote parts of the paper.
  • Do not include references to literature and to figures and tables.
  • Do not use abbreviations.
  • Do not add new information.
  • Do not add redundant information.
  • Do not add statements.
  • Do not repeat information.
  • Do not repeat the title of the article.