There are so many reasons why someone may need to write an abstract. Whether you’re a student, a professor, a writer, or even just someone with a career- abstracts are an important part of the world around us. They exist for a reason, and their usefulness has certainly gone far beyond the academic world. However, no matter why you’re writing an abstract, it’s important to be aware of how to do it right. There are many ways to ensure that your abstract has everything that it needs. By paying attention to these 10 tips, you can be sure that every abstract you write is full of the right information and the right structure.
Before worrying about the minute details of your abstract, it’s absolutely essential to have an understanding of the background behind the abstract itself. Knowing all about what abstracts are in the first place and why they are so important can help you to put in the right amount of effort and really get everything right in yours. Not to mention, it’s essential to identify the particular goals of your abstract and what type is right for them.
Although it may seem daunting to write an abstract, there are so many easy steps you can take to make it great. Simply focus on the 10 tips below, and you will be well on your way to submitting an impressive abstract that communicates all that you want it to. Let’s get started by taking a look at the best ways to tackle writing your abstract.
10What is an Abstract?
Although abstracts are widely used in academic settings, it’s a term that many people aren’t sure about. Sometimes, it’s assumed that it simply means a summary or an introduction to a paper. However, an abstract is a separate term for a very good reason. An abstract is similar to a summary, but it is usually longer and has a more specific formula. Abstracts are usually used to summarize academic papers, some of which are very long. It’s a good idea to think of your abstract as something completely different from a regular summary or introduction- treat it as the important standalone element of your piece that it is.
There are four major elements that should be found in your abstract. It’s crucial to include each of these elements in your abstract. The first, the purpose of your study or paper. Consider what your paper is about and the purpose behind writing it or investigating the problem or the thesis. Next, describe the design of your paper or the study behind it. Explain briefly how you conducted the study and why. Finally, include the findings that your paper led to as well as the interpretations and conclusions that you were led to.
Each of these four elements should be briefly touched upon in your abstract, although not too elaborated on. Limit each element to only a couple of sentences in order to keep the abstract concise and short. In general, the abstract should go over the reason for writing the paper, the problem or goal, the method to solve it, the results, and the implications or interpretation of them.
9Why Are Abstracts Important?
Abstracts are essential for academic papers, often consisting of a part of the grade attributed to the paper as a whole. Not only that, but abstracts have grown in importance, and they are even used in non-academic settings all the time. Before tackling your abstract, being aware of its importance can help you put in all the necessary effort and make it great. First of all, the abstract is the perfect place to clarify each of the main points given in your paper. Here, you have a small platform to elaborate on them and really emphasize what you want readers to be looking for when they start reading.
It’s also a valuable resource for online journals and any other platform where your paper could be studies. You want to give the right amount of information for other researchers studying a similar topic or other writers seeking support. When writing your abstract, keep one simple question in mind: does this tell the whole story about my paper? Whether your paper is scientific, academic, or anything in between, the abstract should reveal all of it without going into too much detail.
When proofreading your abstract, ensure that every sentence is absolutely vital and necessary to tell the story of your paper. If there are any unnecessary sentences, simply remove them. An abstract does stand alone, but it is also not its own piece of work- it is a part of your larger, overarching piece. Ensure that everything relates back to the paper and that it all makes sense whether the reader chooses to read the whole thing or not.
8Who Uses an Abstract?
Nowadays, there are so many different people who need to know how to write an abstract. The first is likely the most common- students. Most students in higher education or even in high school will encounter the need to write a paper. Oftentimes, professors ask for the inclusion of an abstract. Writing an abstract can help to prove to the professor that you’re able to boil down all the important elements of your paper into a concise summary. Not to mention, it shows that you’re able to guide readers to the most important parts of your piece.
Other common writers of abstracts are usually researchers, journalists, and scientists. Professional papers and studies almost always have an abstract attached. However, the format of abstracts is also incredibly useful for many different purposes. Things like book reports and summaries are very similar to abstracts in that they seek to get all of the most important information out of something. Most of the time, it is the author of a piece writing the attached abstract. However, it is also common for other people- students, or people studying the paper, to write an abstract as well.
Writing an abstract is a great exercise in the ability to pinpoint important information and compile it into a short, concise paragraph. Most writers agree that no matter what the abstract is based on, it’s essential to keep the same formatting and revise often. An abstract should not even have one single unnecessary word! Ensure that all the information is crucial to the reader’s understanding of the text.
7Pick the Right Type of Abstract
There are actually four different types of abstracts, and it’s essential to be aware of what they are and which one you should use. The different types of abstracts each have very different goals in mind, as well as slightly different structures to follow. Before beginning your abstract, it’s a good idea to consider what the goals of your paper are in general, in order to be able to select the right type of abstract. The first type is a critical abstract, and it is actually the most uncommon of all the types. Critical abstracts are usually used in scientific settings, where they are preceding a study of some sort and commenting on the validity of the study.
6Use an Active Writing Style
If you’re tackling an abstract after having just completed a whole paper, it can definitely feel like a part where you can just relax and not worry too much about the style of writing. However, keep in mind that the abstract is just as much a part of your paper as the rest of it. It’s essential to put just as much of a focus on the style of your writing here as you did in the rest of the paper. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your abstract should be writing in the active voice. Active voice sentences are when the subject of the sentence is doing the action of the verb. For example, “the person is writing the abstract” rather than “the abstract is being written.”
The next type of abstract is one of the shortest, a descriptive abstract. These types of abstracts are usually around 100 words or even less. The goal of the descriptive abstract is to include the type of information that is in the piece. The important thing to remember about this type of abstract is that there is no judgment involved. All the descriptive abstract does is include keywords and a quick summary.
The most common type of abstract is called an informative abstract. This is still a non-judgmental form of abstract, but it is usually longer than a simple descriptive abstract. There is more information included, usually explanations about the important elements of the paper. Finally, a highlight abstract is used simply to attract attention to a certain paper. It is not considered to be an official form of academic abstract.
5Don’t Forget About Grammar
Another thing to pay close attention to in your abstract is your grammar. Although the abstract may be the smallest section of your paper, it is the thing that people will be reading first. The abstract often shapes the reader’s perception and their first impressions as they begin reading the paper. Ensure that the grammar in your abstract is not lacking, so as to give them the right first impression.
It’s a good idea to use some form of grammar checking technology, as well as proofreading your abstract before finalizing or submitting it. There are so many common mistakes that people make in their writing, and it can be so easy to forget or overlook these small mistakes.
In such a small text like an abstract, one single grammar mistake could take the reader’s attention away from the information given. Not to mention, it could significantly affect the grade given on an academic paper. In any case, it’s necessary to confirm what format your paper and abstract are in before correcting the grammar. There are different rules associated with formats like APA, MLA, or Chicago formats of papers. Double-check the rules for punctuation and sentence structure in the specific format that you are using to write your paper.
Ensure that your abstract does not include any sentence fragments or run-on sentences. This is a key way to confirm that each of your sentences is rife with information. Another important thing to double-check is that you use the right words, as well as the right types of verbs in each of your sentences.
Anyone who is writing an abstract for academic reasons will likely already know how much formatting makes a difference. Formatting is very important for students and professors, and it can affect your grade significantly. Although it may be frustrating and arbitrary, formatting also ensures that every paper is readable and that readers know exactly what to expect. Luckily, abstracts have very simple formatting, but it is still very important to follow to a tee. First of all, your abstract should be on a page of its own, directly following the title page of the paper.
Although it depends on the type of abstract that you’re writing, most should be no more than 300 words. Although you may be used to separating thoughts and ideas into paragraphs, the entire abstract should be formatted in one single paragraph. No matter what format your paper is in, the abstract should follow this type of formatting. No indentation should be used at any line of the piece.
The title of your abstract should be centered, but there should be no space between the title and the beginning of the abstract. It’s a good idea to avoid using too many additions like bold, underline, or italics. The abstract should be kept as simple as possible, avoiding acronyms and abbreviations that are not thoroughly explained. Readers should not have to work hard to understand the abstract. Focus on using the same formatting and vocabulary that is used in your paper, with the same type of language and style that is present.
3Write the Abstract Last
The abstract is the first thing that readers will read, and it is the very first element in your paper. However, it’s essential that you leave writing it until everything else is finished. Since the goal of the abstract is to summarize everything in the paper, it’s essential to leave it until you’ve already written everything. Although you may already have an outline prepared for your paper, or an idea of what to include- things may change along the way, and you don’t want to be stuck rewriting the abstract.
Writing the abstract last ensures that you can connect each and every sentence to the paper itself. It’s necessary to tell the full story in the abstract, so writing it last is the easiest way to avoid leaving anything out by accident. Try to write down a list of the main points of the paper and then work out the kinks by formatting everything correctly and making it all flow. A great way to do so is by going through the paper itself, highlighting important sentences and setting them aside. You can use these sentences directly in your abstract, simply tweaking them to fit together and flow as one summary.
By writing the abstract last, you also cut out a lot of extra work for yourself. This way, you can use the things you have already written. There is no need to write more than you already have. Abstracts simply necessitate a bit of time and focus on the flow and formatting.
2Don’t Include Unnecessary Information
An abstract, in most circumstances, should be around 300 words long. It should only makeup one paragraph and consist of the fewest possible words necessary. As you write your abstract, keep in mind that while it stands alone, it is best viewed as a quick summary of your paper. Every sentence in your abstract should directly relate back to the paper or even be pulled directly from the paper and adjusted for flow. Rather than including new information or elaborating, simply emphasize the parts of your paper that are most important for readers to know about.
You don’t need to include anything that isn’t already in your paper- just bring light to the things that are. The goal of your abstract isn’t to justify, defend, or analyze the paper. Try to ensure that each sentence of the abstract adheres to the four major elements of the abstract. It’s also a good idea to include important key words that can help guide readers in their search. This is also incredibly useful for internet searches or searches on websites where your paper could be published.
Avoid using the future tense in your abstract, or phrases like “in this paper, I will.” By using the active voice and past tense, you are speaking about what you’ve already written and discovered. It is important to do so, since the abstract is not an introduction. Don’t use similar types of ambiguous statements, rather opting to clearly state what you write in the paper and what you discovered.
1The Abstract Should Stand Alone
Although every abstract should be viewed as a sort of summary or introduction to the paper, it’s also essential to realize that it must stand alone. Reading an abstract should not absolutely necessitate reading the paper to get answers or a conclusion. The abstract should include every part of your paper, including the results reached and the conclusion given. The goal is for readers to be able to read your abstract and decide whether or not they want to read the whole paper.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to writing an abstract is treating it like a table of contents. Avoid using oversimplified sentences or simple introductions to what you speak about in the paper. A great exercise to ensure that your abstract can stand alone is simply to have someone else read it. It can be hard to detach yourself from a paper that you’ve just completed writing and a subject that you are informed on. Have someone else read the abstract to see if they understand what is going on and what the goal of the abstract is.
The abstract should be self-contained. This means that the paper can be read without reading the abstract, as well as the other way around. The information given in the paper should be presented by itself in the abstract, not as a reference to the paper. Keep in mind that some of the people reading your abstract may not end up reading the paper, or people who may not understand the topic fully.
Writing an abstract is not a time-consuming activity, and it is simply a short addition to the paper that you already have on hand. However, it’s important to view it as important as the paper itself. Abstracts create a person’s first impressions about you as an author, your writing, and the specific paper that it is preceding. Not to mention, in academia, it is an important factor that will influence your final grade. It’s vital to pay attention to what you’re writing and ensure that you’re following all the necessary steps to writing an abstract.
Oftentimes, it’s easy to write an abstract quickly and not even consider the goals. However, by following the 10 tips given above, you can clearly understand the goals of your abstract and convey them in a simple way. There’s no reason to write and rewrite an abstract- simply give yourself enough time to craft an abstract that reflects the same quality as your whole paper. Ensure that your abstract doesn’t become too weighed down and convoluted with background information or context. Keep in concise and free of repetition and unnecessary phrases, as well as references to other papers or literature. Keep in mind that the reader likely won’t be an expert in whatever your paper is about- make sure that the jargon is kept to a minimum and the reader is given a useful summary. Abstracts should also not include anything but words- no images or figures. With simplicity in mind, as well as the important tips you have learned, it’s easy to craft an abstract that will perfectly fit your paper.