How to Write an Abstract

How to Write an Abstract. Writing an abstract is like composing a brief summary of an article, be it a research paper or a simple essay. Generally, its purpose is to give readers an overall profile of a particular publication. In a way, the abstract serves to "sell" the work of an author. It necessarily contains the basic information about the article, to wit: [1] the motivation behind the study (why did you write about this topic?), [2] a short statement of the problem and the problem's relevance (what was the problem and what made it important?), [3] the method used to get the results of the research or activity (how was the problem resolved?), [4] the actual results (what was the outcome, if there was any, after the chosen method was applied?), and [5] the conclusion and implications (what is the general effect of the study?). To a certain extent, an abstract is similar to an executive summary.

As far as technical matters are concerned -- word count, for instance -- they will depend on the academic style required or on the specific instructions of your professor. Writing an abstract in APA format is different from an abstract written in Chicago/Turabian format. Also, an abstract for an engineering research paper will be different from an abstract for an argumentative essay in music. Most abstracts, however, are no less than 120 words but no more than 200 words. In writing an abstract, you must at least know how to summarize and how to paraphrase.

A few more pointers in writing your abstract.
  • Remove unnecessary words or phrases. Delete redundant words. If a word or phrase merely repeats what is already said, scrap it. It does not add new information; it simply becomes clutter. Brevity is the key.
  • Write your abstract in the past tense. Your paper is already complete. The abstract is made after it.
  • Use a formal tone. The abstract reflects the academic quality of your paper.

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