What is an abstract?
The abstract is a succinct summary of your entire paper AND you have to fit it into the space of only about 250 words. That can be tough.
Why do I need one?
The abstract gives the reader the basic/essential content of a paper; it helps them determine if it’s relevant for their needs and decide if they want to read the rest of the paper.
How do I write it?
- Length (typically 250 +/- words)
- Because it’s a summary, you’ll need to write the rest of the paper first even though this is the first section of the paper.
- To write an abstract, try to answer the following questions in about a sentence each:
- What is the problem/what is your topic? and why is it important/why would anyone be interested in this problem/topic?
- How did you address the problem/topic? Provide some specifics here, including your methodology.
- What did you find? Try to summarize the current state of knowledge. (Include results here? See bullet below about “Always include as much detail as possible. . .” Should we put these together?)
- How is what you found relevant? How does your new knowledge/insight advance the current understanding?
- The answer to these questions should never be a negative statement. If not for any other reason, it will put the reader (your professor who is grading your paper) in a negative mindset.
- If you can answer each of these questions in 1-2 sentences, you will be well on your way to writing a great abstract.
- Always try to include as much detail as possible - this means numbers. Don’t use vague or subjective language such as “more, a lot, much, less than. etc.
- Use simple sentences and avoid abbreviations and acronyms, which are barriers to understanding. Write words out in full.