How to Write an Abstract

An abstract is a brief and crisp summary of a larger piece of written work. Even though the abstract is not a part of the original writing work, it should be written in such a manner that it can pass off on its own and can be easily understood without referring the main text. It should contain certain important facts from the main article and avoid mentioning anything that is not present in the main article. The main purpose of the abstract should be to divert the reader to the main article once he has gone through the abstract. People generally write abstracts when they need to submit articles for journals, writing their PhD dissertations, or when they need to apply for research grants.

Abstracts can be broadly classified into two types, Descriptive abstracts and Informative abstracts. Descriptive abstracts are mostly short and are considered to be more of an overview of the article rather than a summary. This type of an abstract contains information on the purpose of the article and methods used to reach the findings. A book proposal, a research grant application and a conference paper proposal are descriptive abstract examples. Informative abstracts on the other hand are longer, apart from the purpose and method of research it also include a conclusion and recommendations about the research topic. Informative abstract examples include abstracts for a M.A thesis or a PhD. dissertation.

Guidelines on Writing an Abstract

  • The abstract should always be written after finishing the main article. Once the whole article is written, go through it once again and understand the main theme and important highlights, to include them in the abstract.
  • It should be kept in mind that an abstract has to be original and separate from the main article, not lifted directly from the main article. Prepare a rough draft which is like a summary of the article with totally different and new words from the ones used in the main article. It is alright if the rough draft is a bit long, as it will require further editing.
  • If the abstract is meant to be put up on the internet, it is important to read the article again, note down certain crucial concepts which can be used as keywords which will help in the article search. Include these keywords in the abstract to improve chances of the article being searched online.
  • The first sentence of the abstract should deliver the central concept of the article to the reader. It should be more like a statement of purpose for the article.
  • The body should contain a brief description of the article topic in about one or two paragraphs. Again, if the abstract is for the internet, keywords should be smartly included in the body of the abstract without cluttering them.
  • The conclusion should be summed up within a couple of sentences and should leave the reader wanting more. Thus directing him to your main article.
  • Once the abstract is ready, it may require some editing to meet certain requirements. It is better to revisit the abstract after a couple of days for the editing as it can bring in a fresh perspective on the changes which need to be made. Keep it simple and clear without compromising on the main points of the article.

To learn how to write an informative abstract on a particular research topic, include the below listed components in the abstract:

  • The problem statement or motivation for writing the research paper. It means the basic purpose for undertaking the research and what are the scientific or practical implications of the research.
  • The research methodology or the approach taken to conduct the research should be stated.
  • Results or findings from the research along with the knowledge gained from completing the research by the above mentioned procedure should be given.
  • Lastly, the conclusion of the whole experiment along with the significance of the findings and most importantly, has the purpose stated in the 1st step, has been achieved or not should be mentioned.

A Few Tips on Abstract Writing

  • Prior to writing an abstract, just note down all thoughts and ideas on a piece of paper. It becomes easier to group common ideas together and also prioritize thoughts and include them in the abstract accordingly.
  • Do not write a very long abstract. It should ideally be a couple of paragraphs long and around 150 to 200 words. While editing the abstract, remove all irrelevant information without compromising on the main theme of the article.
  • Find out around 6 to 8 keywords regarding the article which people usually search online. Include these keywords smartly in the abstract to get a better search result listing when people search for it on the net.
  • Be careful about not giving out totally new information in the abstract, just give a preview of what is already there in the main article. Take a second opinion from a friend or family member after writing the abstract, to gain an outsider’s perspective on the same. Going through a few sample abstracts before starting one, helps in getting a fair idea on the type of abstract to be written

There are professional writers available who very well know how to do this even for other people’s work.

by Suketu Mehta.

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