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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper or Dissertation

Writing an abstract is not difficult once you understand the purpose and structure. Read our helpful guide on how to write a research abstract.

What is an Abstract?

An abstract is a brief overview of your research article or dissertation (published or unpublished), usually in one paragraph of 100-250 words.

There are different types of abstract:

Descriptive Abstract

  • describes the type of information in the paper
  • briefly describes the paper's background, goal, and objective
  • leaves out the results, methodology, and, occasionally, the conclusion
  • Will only need to be around 100-200 words

Informative Abstract

  • explains every component of the investigation, including the results in one paragraph
  • will include results, methodology, and a conclusion.
  • will be longer than a descriptive abstract (up to around 250 words)

IMRaD Paper or Presentation Abstract

  • will include the research's goal and significance, methodology, results, and the research's ramifications
  • can be longer than a descriptive or informative abstract (up to around 500 words)

Executive Summary/Abstract

  • a simplified form of a full business plan or proposal,
  • largely used in business, although sometimes required in academia
  • length varies according to the length of the business plan so can exceed 500 words

Abstract Structure and Contents

Normally, abstracts will contain four or five sections:

  1. Research Goal/Objectives and Significance (25%): States why others should be interested in the study, why it is important to the field, and possibly the rest of the world. Defines the exact goal, issue, or problem, and what is hoped to be accomplished. Explain how the researcher reviewed other people's work.
  2. Methods/methodology (25%): includes details the methods/type of study, the variables, and the scope of effort in the research. Presents evidence to support the point/issue in a concise manner. Highlights the most important sources of information.
  3. Summary of Findings/Results/Arguments (35%): Give an overview of the study's findings which often includes some quantitative terms (i.e., percentages, figures, numbers).
  4. Conclusion/Final Statement (15%): Comments on the study's implications and limitations. Connects to the outcomes/proposed accomplishments/goals.

Your professor or employer may additionally request or expect a list of keywords immediately after you abstract to help with indexing and retrieval from search engines and scientific databases. Scientific research paper abstracts commonly contain lists of keywords.

What is the Purpose of an Abstract?

An abstract allows readers to quickly grasp the essence of the work, allowing them to decide whether to read the full paper. It prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, arguments and, aids readers in remembering key points from your paper.

Abstracts form a part of school or college assignments and for research papers have always been important in summarising your work to journal editors and other researchers quickly and clearly, encouraging them to read further.

Writing an engaging abstract is much more vital today than it was in the days of bound paper manuscripts, thanks to the widespread availability of online publication databases.

Abstracts ‘sell’ your work, and can thus are comparable to a business resumes, executive summary.

How To Write an Abstract for A Research Paper

Write a research paper abstract in 7 simple steps!

  1. Revisit your fully completed work and think about it holistically before writing any abstract in research paper
  2. Write a statement of the problem/background:
    • Introduce your general topic
    • State your specific topic
    • Explain the specific topic’s significance to the field or public
  3. State the goal/research question
    • Explain the problem or issue you attempting to help or solve
    • Explain your main point or argument/thesis statement/hypothesis
  4. Explain the methods/research design:
    • State your type of study e.g., was it a case, correlational, longitudinal Studies, experimental or clinical trial study?
    • State your independent (the thing you changed or controlled) and dependent variables/response variable (whose value depends on independent variables).
  5. Summarize/interpret the results/findings:
    • Provide a summary of your main findings e.g., the trends, figures, or correlations between phenomena your discovered
    • State how your findings compare to your predictions
    • Say if and why your research was a success?
  6. Explain the impact:
    • Explain the possible impact your findings may have on the field of study and on a larger scale
    • Describe further research that may provide further solutions and additional information required to advance understanding in this field (recommendations)
  7. Proofread it! Check for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors as well as checking that it contains all the above information and makes sense! Remember, the research paper abstract is the first thing people will read so it needs to make a good impression, or they won’t want to bother reading the rest!

Example Abstract

Read the following short abstract example for research paper:

Research Paper Abstract Example

Top Abstract Writing Tips!

  1. Finish drafting your entire paper before writing your abstract, so you know exactly what you're summarising
  2. Be unique: ensure you make it clear in your abstract what is different about your paper compared to other similar papers e.g., what aspect of the topic have you investigated that has not been investigated before.
  3. Tense matters: The present tense is normally used in social science abstracts whereas the past tense is mostly used in the humanities and science abstracts.
  4. Don’t brag: People may be suspicious of very strong claims, so don't big up your research too much or describe its significance as overly broad.
  5. Follow your educational establishments writing style/guidelines (e.g., APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago) as regards the format of your abstract, but generally an abstract will be placed after the assignment’s cover page. The title will be ‘Abstract,’ and it is centred.
  6. Keep it short: Think clear and concise as abstracts are normally written in a single block paragraph.
  7. Use full terms: abstracts will normally place acronyms in brackets after the full words e.g., Unidentified Flying Object (UFO)
  8. No citations. Cited information normally appears elsewhere in the paper.
  9. Seek help if you need it: Dissertation help services and research paper writers can provide support and guidance

Final thoughts…

Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of how to write an abstract for a research paper. Be sure you understand the type of abstract that is required, and the rest of your research paper is fully completed before you begin, then follow our 7 steps and tips and you're done!

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