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Geology Writing Guide

Confused student

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.
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