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How to Write An Abstract

Once you have finished your full size report, you’ll want to write an abstract as a preview to prospective readers. An abstract is a short description of your completed research in order to get the reader to become interested in your research. There are two different types of abstracts, descriptive and informative. There are five parts an abstract should include: motivation, problem statement, approach, results, and conclusions. Abstracts are great for online databases to try and convince the reader to take the time and study your full report. Furthermore, since online publication databases have grown more popular over the years due to availability, it’s become very important to create a well-written abstract.


Types of Abstract

A descriptive abstract is shorter than an informative abstract, but should only be used when your report is very long and you only want to identify what areas are covered in your full report without much content. On the other hand, an informative abstract will summarize your entire report, including facts that are found within the paper. It should never be longer than one page, and no longer than 10% of your full report. Although you’re telling the reader what you did and why, along with your results, you still want to capture their interest enough that they want to find your full-sized scientific paper.


Motivation (part 1)

To begin writing an informative abstract, you want to remember the point of an abstract is to give the reader motivation to read your full report. Remember, an abstract is trying to get the reader to leave the comfort of their home and hunt down a hard copy of your work. The motivation part of your abstract should show the reader why your work is important, the difficulty, and the impact it could have if successful. Putting the motivation first is best if your work may not be interesting to one taking a quick browse.


Problem Statement (part 2)

Next is your problem statement. Tell the reader what the problem is you’re trying to solve. If the topic is currently popular, this can be put before the motivation as people will already have an interest. Define what the scope of your abstract is and specify if it’s a specific situation or just a general approach. Initially, the problem statement can get the reader curious enough to find out how you came about your research and want to know what your results were.


Approach (part 3)

After the problem statement, you will write your approach. Very quickly explain to the reader how you solved the problem or how you made any progress. Clarify what variables were used in your studies, mentioning what was controlled, ignored, and measured. Tell readers how much work you put into conducting the research. For example, mention if you looked at only couple application programs, or if you looked at hundreds in multiple program languages. In other words, let the reader know the extent of your research.


Results (part 4)

Now is time to tell your results. If you can, do so in numbers. Better abstracts are those that have results concluding something is a certain percentage cheaper, smaller, or faster, etc. If the numbers in your results can be easily misunderstood they can be omitted, but it’s not recommended. Keep the results simple, by this time the reader should be curious for a more in-depth look at your work and want to read your whole report.


Conclusions (part 5)

In the conclusions part of your abstract you should explain the implications of your answer. Will your findings be considered a “win” or go as far as change the world? Also, clarify to your readers if your results are in general or specific to something. This can be another area where you specify the importance of your findings. It’s important to write a thorough, but concise conclusion to keep people interested enough in reading your scientific report.


Abstract Top Tips

Now that you know the steps to writing an abstract, there are certain tips to follow in order to be certain your abstract will attract readers. Perhaps the most important tip is to not go over the word limit. The most common length of an abstract is 150-200 words. Some authors may only write one sentence for each of the steps mentioned above. The body of the abstract should be single spaced and have a title match to that of your scientific paper. Although you do want to be descriptive in an abstract, you don’t want to over do it. Only talk about things that are pertinent and will catch readers’ attention.


Another way to get more readers is putting certain phrases in your abstract for online databases to pick up. First, determine about six different keywords your target audience might use. Include those exact keywords in your abstract to try and get more readers. You shouldn’t rush through an abstract in only one draft. Remember its importance and the first draft should only have any statistics and key facts that you want to include. Lengthy examples and tables shouldn’t be in an abstract. When making any corrections, ensure the abstract is written in the same voice as your full report.


Think of an abstract as a mini essay and let the final draft read smoothly. A choppy summary won’t impress any readers into reading your full report. Perhaps having a friend read over your abstract to see how easy it is to read for somebody other than yourself. You’re trying to “sell” your full scientific paper and if the abstract is choppy and isn’t easy to read, a friend or family member may pick up on it easier than you. Have your results be logical and try and make them easy to understand. If a person reading your abstract has a hard enough time trying to understand it, they won’t want to take the time and read the longer version. If your first draft is too long, keep eliminating information that isn’t necessary for an abstract until you get it down to the 200 word limit. If you give the reader too much information they may feel like they read everything they needed to on the subject and not want to read your full report.  Finally, you should always never forget to have your abstract essay proofread, to ensure there are no mistakes.