Nova A.
Nova A.

How to Write an Abstract - A Step by Step Guide

12 min read

Published on: Dec 17, 2017

Last updated on: Oct 29, 2023

how to write an abstract

Have you ever wondered why writing an abstract matters? It might seem like a small part of your research paper or project, but it plays a big role.

Picture this: You've worked hard on your research, and you want people to read it. But if your abstract isn't well-written, they might just skip it and miss all your great ideas.

Don't worry! 

In this easy-to-follow guide, we will walk you through the process of creating a clear and attention-grabbing abstract step-by-step. 

By the end, you'll be able to write abstracts that make your work stand out and get the attention it deserves. 

Let's get started!

On This Page

What is an Abstract?

An abstract is a short summary of your research. It tells the readers what the central point of your paper is and also describes the aims and outcomes.

A strong abstract further allows the audience to decide whether they want to continue with your paper or not. It is a vital component of a research paper and a thesis, and no paper is considered complete without it.

What Goes into an Abstract?

An abstract typically includes:

  • The Purpose: Why was the research or document created?
  • Methods: How was the research conducted or the document prepared?
  • Results: What did the research find or what does the document discuss?
  • Conclusions: What are the main takeaways or implications?

Types of an Abstract

The use of different types of abstracts depends on the document you're summarizing and the audience you're targeting.

 Let's explore the common types of abstracts:

Critical Abstracts

  • Purpose: Critical abstracts go beyond summarizing and provide a critical evaluation or analysis of the document's content, assessing its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Contents: They include a review of the document's methodology, key findings, and an evaluation of the quality and significance of the work.
  • Use Case: Common in literature reviews, research critiques, and scholarly analyses, critical abstracts help readers assess the value and reliability of the source.

Descriptive Abstracts

  • Purpose: Descriptive abstracts give a clear overview of what's in the document. They are the most basic type.
  • Contents: They describe the main topic, purpose, and scope of the document without giving away specific details, conclusions, or results.
  • Use Case: These are often used for shorter documents or to provide a general sense of what a longer document contains.

Informative Abstracts

  • Purpose: Informative abstracts go a step further than descriptive ones. They not only describe the document's content but also provide key results, findings, and conclusions.
  • Contents: They include essential details about the document, such as the research methodology, results, and conclusions, allowing readers to understand the document's significance.
  • Use Case: Common in academic and scientific publications, informative abstracts help researchers quickly decide whether they want to read the full paper.

Highlight Abstracts

  • Purpose: Highlight abstracts emphasize the most critical points of a document. They aim to grab the reader's attention and highlight the document's most significant contributions.
  • Contents: These abstracts focus on the most important findings, key conclusions, and their broader implications, often showcasing why the document is worth reading.
  • Use Case: Used in highly competitive fields or when you want to draw attention to groundbreaking research.

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How to Write an Abstract for a Paper?

Whether you're a student working on a research paper or an academic aiming to publish your work, crafting an effective abstract follows a structured process. 

Here are the key steps to help you write a compelling abstract:

1. Follow Instructions Closely 

When tackling a research paper abstract, always begin by thoroughly reviewing the provided instructions. These guidelines act as your roadmap, ensuring you stay on the right track. Look out for:

  • Abstract Type: Your teacher may specify the type, such as descriptive or informative.
  • Structure: Note any recommended sections or organization rules.
  • Word Count: Stick to the prescribed word limit diligently.
  • Style and Formatting: Adhere to style and formatting requirements.

Following these instructions matters because they demonstrate your commitment to academic integrity, keep your abstract clear and focused, aid in grading, and reflect professionalism.

2. Write the Abstract Last

Compose your research paper first and save the abstract for last. Why?

  • Comprehensive Overview: Completing the paper provides a full grasp of your research, aiding in summarizing key points effectively.
  • Highlight Key Points: You can't pinpoint essential details until you've thoroughly explored your subject in the paper.
  • Conciseness: After writing, distill your work into a concise abstract without missing crucial information.
  • Alignment: Ensure the abstract aligns perfectly with your paper's content, reflecting your work accurately.

3. Include Relevant Background

Incorporate concise, pertinent background information into your abstract to provide context. Focus on why your study's expected outcomes matter in addressing the main research question. Avoid lengthy or irrelevant details.

4. Define the Research Problem and Objectives

Begin your abstract by clearly outlining the research's purpose and objectives. Make the case for its significance to individuals and society and specify the research question(s) you aim to address.

  • Use Action Words: Employ terms like "evaluate," "analyze," and "investigate" to describe your research's purpose.
  • Past or Present Tense: Write this section in simple past or present tense; avoid the future tense.
  • Address Key Questions: Answer these vital questions:
  1. Why conduct this research?
  2. How does it contribute to the field?
  3. Why should readers delve into the full paper?
  4. What central problem does your research solve?
  5. What's the study's scope, specific or general?
  6. What's the primary argument?

By addressing these questions, your abstract sets the stage, offering a clear understanding of your research's significance and objectives compelling readers to explore your full paper.

5. Describe the Research Methods

In your abstract, briefly touch on the research methods employed to address your research question. Use 1 to 2 concise, past-tense sentences.

  • Concise Overview: Offer a high-level view of the approaches, procedures, and sources utilized in your research.
  • Methodology Type: Mention whether your methods were qualitative, quantitative, case study, or another type.
  • Explain Method Choice: State why you selected a specific method and how it benefits your research.

6. Highlight Previous Research

Incorporate a brief mention of relevant previous research on your chosen topic in your abstract. Emphasize the unique perspective of your research without delving into excessive detail.

  • Concise Overview: Provide a brief overview of previous research, highlighting its relevance to your work.
  • Uniqueness: Mention how your research offers a distinct perspective or contribution to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Engaging Content: Keep the reader engaged by including enough information to convey the importance of your research within the context of prior studies.

7. Summarize Key Findings and Results

In your abstract, succinctly summarize the major findings and results of your study using simple past and present tense. Avoid vague qualitative terms and instead focus on concrete details.

  • Clarity is Key: Ensure clarity in your summary, using concrete measures such as percentages, trends, figures, or specific outcomes.
  • Evaluate Against Hypothesis: State whether your study aligns with the initial hypothesis, highlighting the success or divergence of your findings.

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8. Present Your Conclusion

In the final section of your abstract, provide a clear and concise conclusion to your research. Explain how your study addresses the research question and problem.

  • Answer the Question: Articulate the answer to your research question and problem.
  • Acknowledge Limitations: Mention any limitations related to sample size or methodology. This transparency helps readers assess the research's credibility and context.
  • Future Research and Recommendations: Consider offering suggestions and recommendations for future research or a call to action. Ensure your results contribute value to the field of knowledge.

9. Incorporate Keywords to Attract the Audience

At the end of your abstract, include a list of 5 to 10 relevant keywords that are central to your research study. These keywords should be the most common and pertinent terms related to your research.

  • Opt for Clarity: Ensure your keywords are clear and accurately represent the core concepts of your research.
  • Improve Discoverability: By including keywords, you enhance the discoverability of your paper. Potential readers can easily find your work during their searches.
  • Follow Style Guidelines: If your research follows a specific style guide, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), be sure to adhere to its formatting requirements for keywords.

10. Benefit from Abstract Samples

Before composing your research paper's abstract, it's highly beneficial to read other abstracts from various disciplines, including science, social sciences, and humanities. These examples offer valuable insights into the structure and style of abstracts across different subjects.

  • Accelerated Learning: Learning through examples is a swift and effective method. Examining diverse abstracts helps you understand the distinct characteristics each subject's abstract should possess.
  • Guidance for Literature Review: When working on a literature review, studying sample abstracts provides a clear picture of the type of abstract that suits each subject.

You can easily find a collection of sample abstracts online or consult documents that compile samples from different disciplines. These samples serve as valuable references, assisting you in crafting an abstract that aligns with the conventions and expectations of your specific field of study.

Here is a sample for your reference:

11. Begin with a Rough Draft

Start your abstract-writing process with a rough draft. At this stage, focus solely on your paper's main theme, allowing your thoughts to flow without concern for word limits or specific content requirements.

However, avoid including the following elements in your abstract:

  • Lengthy background details.
  • Unnecessary phrases, adverbs, and adjectives.
  • Repetitive information.
  • Acronyms or abbreviations.
  • References to other research work.
  • Incomplete sentences.
  • Elliptical or jargon language.
  • Citations to others' work.
  • Any type of image, table, or illustration.
  • Definitions of keywords and terms.

After creating your initial draft, thoroughly review and revise it. Remove excessive details and ensure your abstract remains concise, offering a glimpse of the information found in the main sections of your paper. This iterative process helps refine your abstract, making it clear and impactful.

12. Proofread Thoroughly Before Submission

After you've written your abstract, it's essential to invest time in a meticulous proofreading and editing process. This final step is critical to ensure the quality of your abstract and, ultimately, your research paper.

  • Avoid Costly Mistakes: Neglecting proofreading can lead to avoidable errors that may result in lower grades. Careful proofreading helps you present your work professionally and accurately.
  • Comprehensive Review: Don't limit your proofreading to the abstract alone. Read the entire paper, paying special attention to the results section, to confirm the consistency and coherence of your work.
  • Refer to Guidelines: If your institution or style guide has specific requirements for abstracts, ensure that your abstract aligns with these guidelines.

By dedicating time to thorough proofreading and reviewing the entire paper, you can confidently submit a well-polished abstract that accurately represents your research and enhances your academic performance.

Tips to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

Writing an effective abstract requires skill and precision. Here are some valuable tips to craft an abstract that stands out and effectively represents your research:

  • Understand Your Audience: Consider who will be reading your research paper and tailor the abstract to their level of expertise and interest.
  • Write Last: Create the abstract after you've completed the entire paper. This ensures it accurately summarizes the key points.
  • Be Concise: Keep the abstract concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details or lengthy explanations.
  • Use Clear Language: Write in clear language that is easy to understand. Avoid jargon and technical terms unless necessary.
  • Structure It: Organize the abstract with a clear structure, typically including sections for the research problem, methods, results, conclusions, and keywords.
  • Highlight Significance: Explain the importance of your research and its potential impact on the field. Convince readers that your work is worth exploring.

Abstract Page Template and Examples

The following are the abstract examples and a template. Read them if you want to know more.

In summary, this guide will help you write a perfect abstract for your paper if you follow it closely.

Writing an abstract is not hard. It requires proper structure and detail. But, it is something that you can do with practice and hard work.

This guide will help you write a perfect abstract for your paper if you follow it closely.

However, not everyone possesses the knack for creating a stellar abstract. In such cases, seeking assistance from a top paper writing service is a smart move for your research.

For all your academic writing requirements, is your ultimate choice. Simply make an order for a meticulously crafted abstract from our expert writers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an abstract and an introduction?

The difference between an abstract and an introduction is that the abstract summarizes your entire study. In contrast, the introduction includes only some elements of what is in an abstract. 

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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