Don’t panic if you need to submit an abstract for your written assignment, scientific project, or other academic papers. It’s a stand-alone and brief summary of your piece of writing that other people can use as an overview. How to write an abstract? It should describe what you do in your paper.
Your abstract should help readers understand it and help them narrow their search by deciding if it fits their purposes before reading anything. To write a good one, finish your academic assignment and create its summary that identifies the key purpose, methods, points, problem, conclusions, implications, and results. After writing details down, format your abstract correctly.
How to Start Your Abstract
To start it, there are basic steps that you should take:
- Draft your paper within a given limit of words;
- Review and study relevant requirements;
- Consider your targeted reader;
- Determine the necessary abstract type.
Work on Your Academic Paper
Although your abstract should go at the very beginning of your paper, it acts as a summary of the entire piece of writing. Save it for last to give a more accurate summary. It’s an overview of everything you provide in the main body instead of being the introduction of your topic. Remember that an abstract and a thesis are different. Your abstract should review the entire paper and its results, while a thesis introduces only its main argument or idea.
Learn Important Requirements
The academic assignment that you’re completing has specific requirements and guidelines, no matter if it’s for submission in your class, publication in a journal, or a work project. What to do before you start? Refer to the guidelines or rubric of your professor to identify important issues and check the following:
- Minimum or maximum length of sentences;
- Style requirements;
- Decide if you need to submit it for instructors or publication.
Consider Your Audience
Your abstract should help others find your work or article and understand your major argument fast. Is there any example? In scientific articles, it allows readers to decide if research is relevant and interesting, thus saving a lot of their time. Decide if other academics will read your abstract or whether it should be accessible to someone from other fields.
How to Determine Its Type?
Although all abstracts serve the same goal, they all can be either informative or descriptive, and you need to determine yours. Informative abstracts are longer and involve technical research, while descriptive abstracts are perfect for short papers (they explain your research methods and goals whole leaving out its results).
The basic information you include is the same. The main difference is that only informative abstracts include research results and they’re much longer than the descriptive type. Some courses require critical abstracts. It serves the same purposes as other types, but it should relate the work you discuss to research or critique its methods and design.
Parts of Abstract
Why do we care about the problem and the results? If the problem isn't obviously "interesting" it might be better to put motivation first; but if your work is incremental progress on a problem that is widely recognized as important, then it is probably better to put the problem statement first to indicate which piece of the larger problem you are breaking off to work on. This section should include the importance of your work, the difficulty of the area, and the impact it might have if successful.
- Problem statement:
What problem are you trying to solve? What is the scope of your work (a generalized approach, or for a specific situation)? Be careful not to use too much jargon. In some cases it is appropriate to put the problem statement before the motivation, but usually this only works if most readers already understand why the problem is important.
How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? Did you use simulation, analytic models, prototype construction, or analysis of field data for an actual product? What was the extent of your work (did you look at one application program or a hundred programs in twenty different programming languages?) What important variables did you control, ignore, or measure?
What's the answer? Specifically, most good computer architecture papers conclude that something is so many percent faster, cheaper, smaller, or otherwise better than something else. Put the result there, in numbers. Avoid vague, hand-waving results such as "very", "small", or "significant." If you must be vague, you are only given license to do so when you can talk about orders-of-magnitude improvement. There is a tension here in that you should not provide numbers that can be easily misinterpreted, but on the other hand you don't have room for all the caveats.
What are the implications of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant "win", be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case?Philip Koopman, Carnegie Mellon UniversityOctober, 1997
Writing Your Abstract
How to write an abstract? To give an answer to this question, follow these simple guidelines:
- Identify your key purpose;
- Explain a particular problem;
- Explain your research methods;
- Describe your results;
- Give a strong conclusion.
Identify Your Purpose
Readers want to know why your research matter and what purpose it serves, no matter what topic you choose. Why does it matter? Start your abstract with these basic aspects:
- Why you decide to do your project or study;
- How you conduct your research;
- What you find;
- Why your findings are important;
- Why others should read your paper.
Explain Your Problem
A good abstract should state a problem behind your work, and you need to think of it as a specific issue that you will address:
- What problem will your research solve?
- What is your main argument or claim?
- What is the scope or general problem of your study?
Explain Your Research Methods
In this abstract part, give a clear overview of how you accomplished your work or study. Discuss your research, approaches, and variables. Describe the strong evidence that supports your claim and give a brief overview of the most important sources that you used.
Describe Your Results
This step is necessary to write an informative abstract to differentiate it from the descriptive one. Provide the results of your work or study. Tell readers what you found, what answers you reached, your general findings, and whether your argument is supported well. Do not forget to use transitional words.
Give Your Strong Conclusion
This part is important because it finishes your summary and gives a closure to your entire abstract. What should you do? Address the meaning of your research findings and the overall significance of your paper, determine its implications, and decide if your results are specific or general.
Formatting Your Abstract
How to format your abstract? You need to keep it in order, provide useful information, write it from scratch, use real information, consider keywords, revise everything, and avoid being very specific. Your abstract is a summary that draws readers in, and that’s why it shouldn’t refer to specific research points or terms.
There are certain questions that your abstract must answer. It should give a helpful overview of your paper. Word it to let readers know what you’re talking about and avoid using abbreviations or direct acronyms in it. Don’t include long quotes, figures, or tables. Reference the places or people your paper focuses on.