In blog we will define abstracts and discuss their purpose Identify strategies for writing effective abstracts. Let’s start by answering the question, what is an abstract? According to the Writing Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “an abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific
work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract may contain
the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work.”
Abstracts serve several purposes. Abstracts help authors summarize their work. They help reviewers assess the components of the presentation, article, or other larger work the abstract describes. And they help other researchers discover the research in databases and search engines.
Students often ask questions about what exactly should be included in an abstract. Thankfully, calls for proposals, or CFPs will often state the requirements. Make sure to look for those requirements when
writing an abstract.
Next, we’ll cover five tips for writing more effective abstracts.
Abstract tip #1: Structure
As just mentioned, the structure of an abstract can vary depending on the field you’re studying. However, there are common elements that most abstracts contain, even if the wording is a little different. Let’s take a look at the components often included:
- Background – What is my research about?
- Aim/Purpose – Why am I studying this?
- Method/Approach – What techniques or methods were used?
- Results – What did I find?
- Conclusion – What are the implications/impact of the research?
Abstract Tip #2 – Length
Most abstracts are between 100 and 300 words long (give or take). Normally, abstract length will be defined
in the call for proposals or in the author’s instructions online. Make sure to stay within these requirements.
Abstract Tip #3 – Synonyms
Include synonyms for words and concepts that appear in the title. For example: if the title of an article uses
the term dairy cows, then the abstract should include synonyms, such as cow, dairy cattle,
Abstract Tip #4 – Consistency
Mention only the points actually covered in the research. Organize your abstract with the most important
information first, and try to avoid referencing other works.
Abstract Tip #5 – Clarity
As with titles, minimize the use of abbreviations and use common word order/combinations. Some of those examples include:
- Writing out the word cancer rather than the abbreviation CA.
Using full scientific names like Escherichia coli rather than E. coli.
- And using the scientific phrase like “juvenile delinquency” instead of “delinquency among juveniles.”
After reviewing these 5 tips and the basics of abstracts, you’re probably ready to start drafting your own. As you begin looking for Calls for Proposals and thinking about the research you might like to conduct, don’t let the proposal process hold you back. Keep in mind that when you’re writing abstracts, you may not have your results yet since researchers often write proposals before they’ve finished conducting their research. Depending on the type of proposal you’re writing, you may only include what you hope or expect to see rather than actual results.