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How to Write an Abstract

A Handy Guide on How to Write a Great Abstract

Writing a perfect abstract creates a good first impression on the mind of the reader, and also draws him to the main article. Here's listing a few of those practices that can be handy.
Suketu Mehta
Last Updated: Mar 9, 2018
An abstract is a brief and crisp summary of a larger piece of written work. Even though it is not a part of the original writing work, it should be written in such a manner that it can be easily understood without referring the main text. It should contain certain important facts, and avoid mentioning anything that is not present in the main context. The main purpose should be to divert the reader to the original work once he has gone through it. People generally write abstracts when they need to submit them for journals, writing their Ph.D. 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 rather than a summary. This type contains information on the purpose 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 are longer, apart from the purpose and method of research. It also includes a conclusion and recommendations about the research topic. Examples include abstracts for an M.A. thesis or a Ph.D. dissertation.
Guidelines on Writing an Abstract
  • The abstract should always be written after finishing the content. Once it has been done, go through it again and understand the main theme and important highlights to be included in it.
  • You should bear in mind that an abstract has to be original and separate, and not lifted directly. Prepare a rough draft which is like a summary with different and new words. It is alright if the rough draft s a bit long, as it will require further editing.
  • The first sentence should deliver the central concept to the reader, and should be more like a statement of purpose.
  • The body should contain a brief description in about one or two paragraphs. Again, if the abstract is for the Internet, keywords should be smartly included in the body without cluttering them.
  • The conclusion should be summed up within a couple of sentences, and should leave the reader wanting more.
  • Once it 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.
To learn how to write an informative abstract on a particular research topic, include the below listed components in it:
  • 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 been stated in the 1st step.
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 it accordingly.
  • Do not write a very long one. It should ideally be a couple of paragraphs long and around 150 to 200 words. While editing, remove all irrelevant information without compromising on the main theme.
  • Find out around 6 to 8 keywords regarding which people usually search online. Include these keywords smartly 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, and to just give a preview of what is already there in the bigger context. 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 samples 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. Getting work done from them is not a bad option, if the abstract is for something really important or requires an expert's advise.