How to Write a Perfect Abstract: Full Guide and Expert Tips
You have probably seen an abstract in all the scientific articles during your studying; it is indeed a widespread section of the academic papers which has its specific requirements. Even though there are no uniform demands to the abstract of the research paper, it can still be either successful or weak. However, with our tips, you will definitely manage to complete the best possible abstract for your paper.
What is an Abstract?
Generally, an abstract is the opening section of the research paper that provides a brief summary of what is discussed further in the text. The abstract is usually no longer than 250 words and definitely no longer than a double-spaced page. It ends with the list of keywords that are essential for the paper. In other words, the abstract refers to the piece of text that briefly tells about your paper and main findings, so that the reader could get the general idea without further reading.
Expert Tips for Writing an Abstract for a Research Paper
Never Start Writing a Paper with an Abstract
Abstract refers to the final stage of the writing process, so be sure to craft it after you have completed the whole paper. As your abstract tends to summarize everything written and provide the major points, there is no way you know your conclusion before actually coming up with it.
Don't Be Afraid to Articulate Your Conclusion
You are not working on the intriguing novel here, so there is no need to hide the ending of your paper on the very last page. It is perfectly fine to indicate the results of your research in the abstract; moreover, it is usually a must for the students.
Keep it Short
First of all, the abstract is not included in the overall word count of the paper, so you would not be able to fit the limit with it. Secondly, by trying to make your abstract longer, you will definitely add too many unnecessary details. At the same time, you will be likely to omit the rest of the essential information, having not enough space to write all your thoughts.
You should not refer to any other sources in your abstract unless you are completing an analysis of the specific one. Focus on the aims and results of your research — you will have plenty of space in the background or literature review section to use the outside sources.
Read Other Abstracts
It is always a good idea to get inspired by reading other authors' abstracts. While doing so, pay attention to the format of the abstract, its structure, and typical phrases that are used there. Be sure to choose credible authors only, whose works have a similar structure to yours. You will not get a lot of hints from the informative abstract if you are writing an argumentative essay.
Give One Sentence to Each Idea
You will have 6-7 sentences only for your abstract, so don't be too broad in your writing. Try to keep the rule "one sentence = one idea" and make sure that there are no unnecessary phrases in your abstract. Remember that being concise is essential for completing this section successfully.
Write an Abstract in a Present or Past Tense
An abstract is written when the research is already completed, so it should not use the future tense. Present Simple is the most typical option for such texts.
Types of Abstracts
What you will write in your abstract depends on the nature of the research paper you have been working on. There is no specific list of abstract types; however, there are three main variations that you should be aware of.
This is the shortest type of abstract that usually is no longer than 100-150 words. It briefly introduces the main aim and methodology of the research paper while not mentioning the results.
This is the prolonged version of the descriptive abstract and the most common type in general. Having up to 250 words in length, informative abstract also mentions goals and methodology, while also informing the reader on the results of the research.
The least common type, critical abstract, focuses on the weaknesses of the results and shows the ways for further development. You might never write such an abstract as it is scarce in the academic field.
The Essential Parts of the Research Paper Abstract
We have mentioned that there is no uniform structure of the abstract, as it much depends on the content of your research paper. Nevertheless, there are fundamental parts of this section that are obligatory to include. Please note that the recommendations below refer to the most typical informative abstract; if you have a different type of an abstract to write, you can omit some of the sentences.
1. Indicate your aims
Let the reader know what the research question of your work or what you are going to discuss further is. Clearly articulate the problem you are investigating, its scope, and your hypothesis (if there is any).
2. Identify the importance of your topic
Simply put, answer two questions here: (1) why did you decide to research this issue? (2) why should anyone care about it? So, you should explain your rationale, as well as determine the significance of your topic to others.
Note! It may be challenging here not to write too much: try to maintain the whole idea in 1-2 sentences without providing the details on background and context.
3. Explain your methodology
Tell the reader how you have conducted the research. There is no need to tell everything about your methods — you will have the whole section for that. However, you should mention the critical points of your methodology: your approach, significant sources, sample, and variables. If you have some space left, you can also explain why this methodology is suitable for your research.
4. Mention your results
Once again, this section is necessary for the informative abstracts only. Briefly indicate the main findings of your research and discuss them in a few words. You may also suggest future implications if you have enough space for that.
5. Don't forget about the keywords
Indicate the keywords at the very end of your research paper abstract — there should be up to 5-10 of such words and phrases. Consider the main ideas and terms that you have used in the paper when writing this part.
How to Format an Abstract in the Research Paper
Quite often, research papers with abstracts are formatted according to APA style, so we will refer to it when giving the guidelines. The rest of the writing styles, though, do not have much difference: still, be sure to check your institution's requirements to formatting when completing your text.
1. Insert your abstract after the title page
There may be some alterations, but generally, this is the very first section the reader sees. Many scholarly articles, though, write an abstract right after the title of the research: this is also common for the IEEE style.
2. Start the abstract from the new page
Again, this is the most typical case, which is especially often used with APA formatting style. Your institution or professor, though, may require to exclude the title page and write an abstract right after the title of your work.
3. Write the word "Abstract" in the first line
It should be centered, but not bold or italic. There is no need to write a title of the paper if you are writing an abstract on a separate page.
4. Start writing a text without indentation
Usually, an abstract is written as a single paragraph: it is quite short and concise, so there are not many options to divide it into a few separate paragraphs. You might wish to write the results of the research and the conclusion in a different paragraph, though.
5. Write the keywords in a separate line
Write the word "Keywords" in italics and indicate all your key terms after that. You will not need more than 10 words or phrases for that.
Informative Abstract for the Research Paper Sample
Below you will find the example of an abstract for a 10-page research paper. Please note that the structure and the content of the abstract may vary greatly, depending on the topic.
Descriptive Abstract for the Research Paper Sample
If you do not aim to conduct substantial research, you might wish to write a descriptive abstract, which is much shorter and easier. You can find an example to our Abraham Lincoln essay below:
We hope that these hints and examples will help you in creating a perfect abstract for the research paper. If you still have doubts, you can always refer to our experts and order an outstanding abstract or the whole research paper for the lowest possible price!