What is an abstract?
An abstract is a condensed version of a longer piece of writing that highlights the major points covered, concisely describes the content and scope of the writing, and reviews the writing’s contents in abbreviated form. Abstracts are typically 100 to 250 words and follow set patterns.
An abstract is a concise summary of a research paper or entire thesis. It is an original work, not an excerpted passage. An abstract must be fully self-contained and make sense by itself, without further reference to outside sources or to the actual paper. It highlights key content areas, your research purpose, the relevance or importance of your work, and the main outcomes.
Although it is placed at the beginning of your paper, immediately following the title page, the abstract should be the last thing that you write, once you are sure of the conclusions you will reach.
Types of abstracts
There are two major types of Abstracts, these include:
Descriptive abstracts describe the work being abstracted. They are more like an outline of the work and are usually very short – 100 words or less.
Informative abstracts act as substitutes for the actual papers as all the key arguments and conclusions are presented; specifically, the context and importance of the research, reasons for methods, principal results and conclusions
What to include in an abstract
The format of your abstract will depend on the discipline in which you are working. However, all abstracts generally cover the following five sections:
What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument, thesis or claim?
An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
An abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic? Are there any practical or theoretical applications from your findings or implications for future research?
Things to be done before writing an Abstract
The following are the guidelines on the things to be done before writing an Abstract:
Even though an abstract goes at the beginning of the work, it acts as a summary of your entire paper. Rather than introducing your topic, it will be an overview of everything you write about in your paper. Save writing your abstract for last, after you have already finished your paper.
The paper you’re writing probably has specific guidelines and requirements, whether it’s for publication in a journal, submission in a class, or part of a work project. Before you start writing, refer to the rubric or guidelines you were presented with to identify important issues to keep in mind.
Although all abstracts accomplish essentially the same goal, there are two primary styles of abstract: descriptive and informative. You may have been assigned a specific style, but if you weren’t, you will have to determine which is right for you. Typically, informative abstracts are used for much longer and technical research while descriptive abstracts are best for shorter papers.
Effective approaches towards writing a detailed Abstract
You’re writing about a correlation between lack of lunches in schools and poor grades. So what? Why does this matter? The reader wants to know why your research is important, and what the purpose of it is. Start off your descriptive abstract by considering the following questions:
Abstracts state the “problem” behind your work. Think of this as the specific issue that your research or project addresses. You can sometimes combine the problem with your motivation, but it is best to be clear and separate the two.
Motivation – check. Problem – check. Methods? Now is the part where you give an overview of how you accomplished your study. If you did your own work, include a description of it here. If you reviewed the work of others, it can be briefly explained.
This is where you begin to differentiate your abstract between a descriptive and an informative abstract. In an informative abstract, you will be asked to provide the results of your study. What is it that you found?
This should finish up your summary and give closure to your abstract. In it, address the meaning of your findings as well as the importance of your overall paper. This format of having a conclusion can be used in both descriptive and informative abstracts, but you will only address the following questions in an informative abstract.