4 easy steps to write a winning abstract for your academic research

In many fields of research, a report, essay, or study begins with an abstract. An abstract is meant to sell your work; it should explain the topic of your paper, the problem your research is trying to solve or the question you are trying to answer, how you went about doing this, and the conclusion you reached. Writing an abstract is an important part of publishing your research, and you should make the effort to make this portion of your paper detailed and well-written. Many people do not realize the importance of abstracts and of knowing how to write an abstract properly and that what inspired us to write this article.

 Who needs to write an abstract?

  • Researchers who are submitting their articles to be published on journals.
  • Post-graduate Students after completing their Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis.
  • Researchers submitting their papers to participate in a conference.
  • Anyone wants to apply for research grants.

Types of Abstracts:

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.


4 Steps to write a winning abstract:

Step 1: Write the research paper first

As I’m sure you know, when you write and revise, your plans change. You might move or delete words, paragraphs, and even entire arguments. This means it’s almost impossible to write a summary of your work before you’ve written it. Makes sense, right? Right. So write your research paper first.

Step 2: Identify the key sections of the paper

In basic research essays, you might simply review resources and create an argument based solely on what you’ve read. If this is the case, you’ll need to look for the main arguments of your paper and summarize them to write your abstract.

If, however, you’re writing a more detailed research essay based on the results of your own survey, study, or experiment, you’ll need to identify the following sections.

Problem and why you’re researching the problem: This section will include a brief overview of the problem and explain why the problem is worth researching. It may also perhaps explain why readers should care about this topic.

Methods or procedures used: This section will focus on how you completed your research. For example, did you interview people, complete an experiment, survey people, or complete some other type of research? Though it should be brief and concise, it also needs to be specific. If you surveyed 12 college students or interviewed 19 senior citizens, include that in this section.

Results or findings: This section will include a short description of the results of your study. In other words, what did you learn through your research?

Conclusions or implications: This section will discuss the conclusions of your research. Think about the larger implications of your work. What does it mean in the broad scope of things?

Step 3: Draft a description of the key sections

In can be challenging to write the abstract all at once. Start by sketching out your ideas in a rough draft format.

Problem and why you’re researching the problem

Most college students have income from a full- or part-time job, money from parents, student loans, or other financial aid. By the end of the week (or by the end of the month), many students are broke. Do students not have enough money to meet their basic needs, or are these students just not able to stay on budget? Do they simply spend more money than they should on things that aren’t really necessary?

Methods or procedures used

Twenty-two students at a local university agreed to volunteer for the survey. These students completed a questionnaire regarding their sources of income, their monthly expenses, and how much money they spent (both necessary and unnecessary expenses). Students were also asked to track all money spent for one month.

Results or findings

Based on the results, all 22 students had enough money to meet their monthly required expenses (including money budgeted for entertainment). After looking at the survey results, most students ran out of money because they over-spent on the following four areas: eating out, clothing, alcohol, and music/video games.

Conclusions or implications

Most students surveyed spent more money than they should have on entertainment. When the students surveyed ran out of money, they asked their parents for more money or charged more on their credit cards. (Some did both.) This implies that students need more education about how to budget their money.

Step 4: Put it all together

Drafting each section separately helps ease the stress a little and gives you a chance to outline your ideas, especially when you’re first learning how to write an abstract.

Writing the actual abstract can be a bit trickier though. You need to not only fit all that stuff in one concise paragraph, but you also need to fit it all in within a set number of words.

That means word choice matters, so make every word count!

Here are a few quick tips to help you turn your draft into a respectable abstract:

  • Copy and paste each section together into one paragraph. This will help you see how it sounds as one piece of writing rather than individual sections.
  • Look for awkward wording and places where you might replace vague words with more concrete words.
  • Ask yourself what’s not needed. Can you eliminate any unnecessary content?
  • Ask yourself what’s missing. Do readers need to know anything else in order to understand my research paper?
  • Once you’ve completed a draft of your abstract, set it aside before you revise. When you return to it (hopefully at least 24 hours later), review your draft to make sure you’ve avoided any pitfalls.

Avoid doing these common mistakes:

  • Don’t include any information in your abstract that’s not in your paper.
  • Don’t use jargon or acronyms that readers may not understand.
  • Don’t start sentences with phrases like “It appears that…” or “It is believed…” Cutting these phrases creates a stronger statement (and deletes unnecessary wording).

Revise your abstract and answer these questions:

During the abstract selection process the following 12 points are used as a guide. We strongly recommend that you ensure your abstract satisfies these points.

  1. Does the abstract capture the interest of a potential reader of the paper?
  2. Is the abstract well written in terms of language, grammar, etc.?
  3. Does the abstract engage the reader by telling him or her what the paper is about and why they should read it?
  4. Does the abstract title describe the subject being written about?
  5. Does the abstract make a clear statement of the topic of the paper and the research question?
  6. Does the abstract say how the research was/is being undertaken?
  7. Does the abstract indicate the value of the findings and to whom will they be of use?
  8. Does the abstract describe the work to be discussed in the paper?
  9. Does the abstract give a concise summary of the findings?
  10. Does the abstract conform to the word limit of 300 words?
  11. Does the abstract have between 5 and 10 keywords or phrases that closely reflect the content of the paper?
  12. Should the abstract be accepted?

Authors who do not follow these guidelines are more likely to have their work rejected.



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