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How to Write an Abstract

Two types of abstracts:


1. Descriptive
a. Describes the words being abstracted
b. Indicates the type of information found in the research
c. Makes no judgments about the research
d. Incorporates key words found in the text
e. May include the purpose, methods, and scope of research.
f. Contains 100 to 120 words

2. Informative (the majority of abstracts)


a. Does more than just describe the research
b. Presents and explains all main arguments and important results and
evidence from the article
c. Includes information found in the descriptive abstract (e.g. purpose,
methods, scope) as well as the results, conclusions, and future
implications
d. Varies according to discipline
i. Rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire article
ii. 250+ words

General Guidelines:
 Do…
o Be clear, be concise, and use powerful language
o Entice potential readers into viewing the poster, attending the
presentation, or obtaining a copy of the full paper
o Put the most important information first
o State major restrictions or limitations of study/results
o Use the same type and style of language found in the original article,
including technical language
o Use keywords and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus
of the work
o Include search phrases/keywords that people searching for your
work might use
o Meet word count limitation
 Common abstract word limit: 150 to 200 words

 Do not…
o Refer extensively to other work
o Add information not contained in the original work
o Define terms
Parts of an informative abstract:

1. Motivation or reason for writing:


a. What is the importance of the research?
b. Why do we care about the problem and results?
c. Should include:
i. Importance of work
ii. Reason for work/relevance
iii. Potential implications of impact of work

2. Problem statement:
a. What problem does this research attempt to solve?
b. What is the scope of your work?
i. (e.g. generalized approach vs. specific situation)
c. What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
i. Do not include too much jargon

3. Methodology:
a. How did you solve/make progress on the problem?
b. What was the extent of your work?
i. (e.g. data from one participant vs. data from hundreds of
participants)
c. What important variables did you control for, ignore, or measure?

4. Results:
a. What is the answer?
i. Put the results in numbers if possible
ii. Avoid vague results that draw or assume conclusions without
any evidence

5. Conclusions:
a. What are the implications of your findings?
i. What changes should be implemented as a result of your
findings?
ii. How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the
topic?
iii. Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific
to a particular case?

References
Koopman, P. (1997). How to write an abstract: Carnegie Mellon University.
Retrieved from: http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved from:
http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/abstracts/