How to write an abstract.
Learn how to write research abstracts and format them correctly.
What is an abstract?
- An abstract serves as a summary of your research paper or thesis, giving your reader insight into what the paper is going to be about.
- It has a simple goal: Tell the reader whether or not the paper will be useful for them.
- Learning to write one well is an important step to getting your reader hooked on your project.
Abstracts give your reader a preview.
Whether you’re studying the humanities, social sciences, or any other field, an abstract introduces your audience to your research paper. Often a research paper or journal article is written for a specialized audience that’s educated about the topic. The abstract needs to be explicit about what the paper contains, so a reader can know if it’s what they’re looking for.
1. Describe the background, question, and goals.
These three pieces of information form the backbone of your research project. In four to five sentences, give the background for your research, state the question you’re trying to answer with that research, and then define the goal of your study. Here’s an example:
Everyone has had the experience of getting caught in the rain. But why does it rain? My intuition is that by analyzing barometer data, I will be able to determine the likelihood that it will rain on any given day.
This simple example makes it easy to see the critical details: There’s background (rain), a question (why?), and a goal (figuring out the likelihood of rain).
2. Define your methodology.
Methods come next — this is where you detail in brief the research methods. In the example above, the person writing the paper is going to use a barometer to try and predict the likelihood of rain. Go into additional detail about exactly how you intend to use your methodology to collect data.
3. Summarize your findings.
Write out your main findings in your abstract in one to two sentences. This part is simple: Summarize what you found with your research project. In the rain example, you simply say if there was any correlation between the occurrence of rain and the barometric pressure.
4. Explain the significance.
This section is where you tell your audience why your research matters. This is the moneymaker, where you illustrate why your findings are important and why people should read your full paper. An example of significance might be:
We can measure the likelihood of rainfall based on barometric pressure.
Now you have all the tools you need to write an abstract for your research paper. Read on to learn how to make your hard work look as professional as possible.