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How to write an abstract for a research paper

A research paper is more than a summary of a topic with credible sources, it is an expanded essay that presents a writer’s interpretation and evaluation or argument. The purpose of writing this paper is to analyze a perspective or argue a point thus demonstrating your knowledge, writing and vocabulary skills, and ability to do a great research on a given topic. 

Sometimes, your professor may ask for an abstract along with a research paper. Although abstracts are relatively short, many students find them confusing. You also need to write abstracts if your work revolves around carrying out research or other investigative processes. Writing process is easier than you think, keep reading to see how to complete this task. Also, you can find ideas on the topics of a phychology research paper.

How to write an abstract for a Research Paper Meme

What is an abstract?

In order to write one, you have to know what abstracts are exactly. Well, an abstract is defined as a concise summary of a larger project; it describes the content and scope of the project while identifying objective, methodology, findings, and conclusion. 

The purpose of an abstract is to summarize the major aspects of a research essay or paper, but it is important to bear in mind they are descriptions of your project, not the topic in general. 

Basically, you use abstract to describe what specifically you are doing, not the topic your project is based upon. For example, if your research paper is about the bribe, the abstract is about survey or investigation you carry out about the prevalence of bribe, how people are likely to offer it to someone, do people take bribe etc. In this case, the abstract is not about the bribe itself, its definition, why people do it, and other related things. If you don` know, what the research work should look like - look at the example of a research paper.

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Types of abstracts

  • Critical abstract – describes main information and findings while providing a comment or judgment about the study’s reliability, validity, and completeness. Here, the researcher evaluates some paper and compares it to other works and papers on the same topic
  • Descriptive abstract – only describes the work being summarized without comparing it to other papers on the given subject
  • Informative abstract – most common type of abstracts, the researcher explains and presents the main arguments and most important results. While it doesn’t compare one work to others on the same subject, informative abstract includes conclusions of the research and recommendations of the author
  • Highlight abstract – written to catch the reader’s attention, rarely used in academic writing 

Elements the abstract has to contain 

Even though there are different types of abstracts, one thing is in common for all of them – they contain the same elements i.e. four types of information presented to the reader. Before you learn how to write an abstract for a research paper, make sure your abstract should comprise of the following: 

Objective 

Objective or the main rationale of the project introduces readers with the research you carried out. This section accounts for the first few sentences of the abstract and announces the problem you set out to solve or the issue you have explored. The objective can also explain a writer’s motivation for the project. 

Methods

Once the objective is described, it’s time to move to the next section – methods. Here, a writer explains how he/she decided to solve a problem or explore some issue i.e. methods or steps they used to get the answers. Of course, your approach or methods depend on the topic, your field of expertise, subject etc. For example: 

  • Hard science or social science – a concise description of the processes used to conduct a research 
  • Service project – to outline types of services performed and the processes followed 
  • Humanities project – to identify methodological assumptions or theoretical framework 
  • Visual or performing arts project – to outline media and processes used to develop the project 

In other words, regardless of the field or subject, methods section serves to identify any process you used to reach the results and conclusions. 

Results

This section is self-explanatory; your goal is to list the outcomes or results of the research. If the research isn’t complete yet, you can include preliminary results or theory about the potential outcome. 

Conclusion 

Just like in every other work, the conclusion is the sentence or two wherein you summarize everything you’ve written above. In the abstract, a writer concludes or summarizes the results. When writing the conclusion, think of the question “what do these results mean”, and try to answer it in this section. 

NOTE: More extensive research papers can also include a brief introduction before objective section. The introduction features one-two sentences that act as a basis or foundation for the objective. A vast majority of abstracts simply skip this section.

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Abstract should not contain

A common mistake regarding abstracts is writing them the same way you would write the rest of a research paper. Besides some elements that your abstract has to contain, there are some things you should avoid. They are: 

  • Abbreviations
  • Fluff, abstracts should be relatively short, no need to pump up the word volume 
  • Images, illustration figures, tables
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Jargon 
  • Lengthy background information, that’s what research paper is for, abstracts should be concise
  • New information that is not present in the research paper
  • Phrases like “current research shows” or “studies confirm”
  • References 
  • Slang 
  • Terms that reader might find confusing 
  • Unnecessary details that do not contribute to the overall intention of the abstract 

Writing the abstract

Now that you know what the abstract is, elements it should contain and what to avoid, you are ready to start writing. The first thing to bear in mind is that your abstract doesn’t need a certain “flow”. Keep in mind that abstract should be precise and concise, you don’t need to worry about making it seem bigger. Ideally, you should focus on introducing facts and making sure a reader will get the clear picture of the topic presented through your research paper. Follow these steps to create a strong, high-quality abstract. 

Step 1

Start writing the abstract only when you complete the research paper. By the time you finish the essay writing process, you will know what to use in abstract to perfectly describe your work. Choosing to write an abstract first is highly impractical, takes ages, and it doesn’t represent the research paper adequately. 

Step 2

For your objective and conclusion sections, you can use the most important information from introduction and conclusion section of the research paper. Rather than wasting your time on trying to figure out what to include, just use the important premises and summarize them into one-two sentences in the abstract. 

Step 3

While researching or carrying out surveys for your paper, write down everything you do. Use these notes to create methods sections for the abstract. This particular section just has to inform a reader about the process you implemented to find the answers from the objective. No need to introduce unnecessary information. 

Step 4

Make sure the abstract answers these questions: 
What is the purpose of this research?
How was the research conducted? How did I get my answers? 
What answers did I get? 
What do these results mean? 

Step 5

When the abstract is complete, read everything you have written from top to bottom. Then, eliminate all extra information in order to keep it as concise as possible. 

Step 6

Read the abstract thoroughly again. Make sure there is the consistency of information presented in the abstract and in the research paper. Basically, information included in both abstract and research paper shouldn’t be different. After all, the abstract is a summary or a short description of the research paper itself. This is why you shouldn’t introduce new details into abstract as well.

Step 7

Once you ensure the abstract contains only relevant information and describes the research paper concisely, read it again. This time, you should look for grammar and spelling mistakes, punctuation, sentence structures, and tense consistency. Never submit the abstract (and research paper or any other type of work) without proofreading and editing first. 

Step 8

At this point, your research paper and abstract are error-free, complete, and ready for you to send them to your professor or client. 

Don’t forget to…

  • Vary sentence structures to avoid choppiness. Don’t include too many long sentences one after another and avoid doing the same with short sentences as well. Mixture of longer and shorter sentences work the best
  • To avoid adding too many long sentences, just break them up into shorter structures
  • Use active voice whenever possible. Also, ask your professor whether it is okay to use passive voice when necessary. Every professor has his/her criteria, asking is a great way to avoid mistakes
  • Use past tense to describe the work you have already done
  • Read the abstract aloud or to someone else in order to make sure the content is readable and easy to understand 

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Bottom line

The research paper is a common assignment in college education, and beyond. Writing these papers usually involves creating an abstract, a brief summary or description of the subject or argument you discussed throughout the paper. Abstracts are a major source of concern for many students, but they are incredibly easy to write when you’re familiar with the steps. As seen throughout this post, the ideal way to write an abstract is to keep it concise without pumping up word count with unnecessary information. If you don`t know what about you can write - look at different research paper topics! Now you’re ready to start writing the abstracts for research papers, good luck. Don't forget to see another guide about abstract research paper!