December and Susan Katz at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's
Writing Center provide tips for writing abstracts.
is an abstract?
An abstract is a stand-alone statement that briefly conveys
the essential information of a paper, article, document
or book; presents the objective, methods, results, and conclusions
of a research project; has a brief, non-repetitive style.
Although an abstract
appears as the first section of a paper, it should be written
last. You need to have completed all other sections before
you can select and summarize the essential information from
are published without the complete paper itself in abstract
journals or in online databases. Thus, an abstract might
serve as the only means by which a researcher determines
what information a paper contains. Moreover, a researcher
might make a decision whether to read the paper or not based
on the abstract alone. Because of this need for self-contained
compactness, an abstract must convey the essential results
of a paper.
have a required style for abstracts; the "Guidelines
for Authors" provided by the publisher will provide
specific instructions. This document describes general guidelines.
goes in an abstract?
In doing any research, a researcher has an objective, uses
methods, obtains results, and draws conclusions. In writing
the paper to describe the research, an author might discuss
background information, review relevant literature, and
detail procedures and methodologies. However, an abstract
of the paper should:
is the style of an abstract?
The style of an abstract should be concise and clear. Readers
do not expect the abstract to have the same sentence structure
flow of a paper. Rather, the abstract's wording should be
very direct. For example, the following abstract is a self-contained
description of an imaginary physics project. The key elements
of an abstract are in boldface, and its style conforms to
the suggestions above.
objective was to determine the strangeness measurements
for red, green, and blue quarks. The Britt-Cushman method
for quark analysis exploded a quarkstream in a He gas cloud.
Results indicate that both red and green quarks had a strangeness
that differed by less than 0.453 x 10-17 Zabes/m2 for all
measurements. Blue quarks remained immeasurable, since their
particle traces bent into 7-tuple space. This study's conclusions
indicate that red and green quarks can be used interchangeably
in all He stream applications, and further studies must
be done to measure the strangeness of blue quarks.
How do you write
Writing an abstract involves boiling down the essence of
a whole paper into a single paragraph that conveys as much
new information as possible. One way of writing an effective
abstract is to start with a draft of the complete paper
and do the following:
the objective and the conclusions that are in the paper's
introduction and the discussion.
Bracket information in the methods section of the paper
that contains keyword information.
Highlight the results from the discussion or results section
of the paper.
Compile the above highlighted and bracketed information
into a single paragraph.
Condense the bracketed information into the key words
and phrases that identify but do not explain the methods
Delete extra words and phrases.
Delete any background information.
Rephrase the first sentence so that it starts off with
the new information contained in the paper, rather than
with the general topic. One way of doing this is to begin
the first sentence with the phrase "this paper"
or "this study."
Revise the paragraph so that the abstract conveys the