The Abstract of a research paper is like the blurb of a book. Even the research papers won’t get read if the abstract seems mediocre. It’s not an easy job to describe your hundred-page report in less than 300 words though! But if you get it right, it’ll work like the kickass trailer of a blockbuster movie!
Here is a cheat sheet that you can use to create your abstract in less than an half an hour. Just follow the exact steps.
Step 1: Picking out the key points
Take a notebook and answer the following questions in bullet points:
- What is the purpose of your project?
- What is the study methodology used in your project?
- What are the major findings? What is the significance of these findings?
- If you really wrote your research paper, it won’t take more than ten minutes to answer these four questions.
Step 2: Writing the abstract
Now that you have a good chunk of points, it’s time to make sentences out of it. One mistake people do when they write their own abstract is that they tend to overlook certain key elements which is supposed to be obvious. Remember, it is obvious to you only because you’ve been spending months or years into it. Write as if you are explaining it to a person who knows nothing about your project.
After writing, try to organize the sentences in this order: Introduction-Basic Design-Findings-Conclusions. If your bullet points are in the same order of the 4 questions in the previous step, you wouldn’t have to do too much of organizing here. The whole process shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes.
Step 3: Review Its time to weed out the fluff.
This is the most important step. A lot of people over look this and pay a hefty price.
These are some things which your abstract shouldn’t be having:
- References to other researches: Make sure there is nothing like “current research shows that” or “recent studies are indicating”.
- Jargon or abbreviations: Remember, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is reading your project for the first time.
- Images, tables or figures: It’s an abstract for heaven’s sake. Not a presentation!
- New information that is not found anywhere in your research paper: Do not try to spice up your abstract with exciting new things you wish you had in your research. It’ll just make your research look worse.
- It shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
- Never write your abstract before completing your research paper. It is much more time consuming and impractical. It is time-consuming in the sense that you really don’t know what study methodology you are going to use or what your major objectives are. You will waste unnecessary time trying to figure out those things. It is impractical in the sense that you haven’t found anything yet. You just can’t draw any conclusions.
- Use active voice whenever possible and use past tense at all times. Keep in mind that you are reporting something. It is supposed to be in past tense!
- Find a friend or colleague to read and comment on it. This person should have no idea what your research is all about. If he comes up with good points, make those changes. It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at it.
- Check if the abstract is in compliance with the word limit or any other guidelines provided by your professor.
Writing an abstract can be fun! You will also learn key pointers to say if someone asks you for a brief introduction. Using the above steps, it will take not more than half an hour to get a killer abstract ready!