Academia writing

Consider the aim of the abstract

What is its purpose?

It is involved to tell a reader the basic, the most important aspects of your work so that he or she can decide whether or not read the rest of the paper

What do you need to tell a reader?

  • What is that you are talking about ( the subject matter)
  • Why he/she should care (why the subject matter is important)
  • What you found (or hope to find out) about the subject matter (what your research question or intention is)
  • How you learned (or intend to learn) about the subject matter (the research methodology)
  • What your conclusions were (when appropriate conclusions don’t belong in the abstract of a dissertation or thesis proposal)

The point of abstract is not to convey the full details and richness of your study-the point of abstract is to convince someone reading the abstract that the study is worth reading. And to that end the points mentioned earlier are crucial – and all need to be addressed without getting bogged down into details or the complexity of the subject.

Certainly you, the author, might believe those complexities are crucial to the understanding of the subject matter- and you might be right – but you are not trying to teach the reader all about the subject matter- you are trying to show the reader what it is he or she would get if they were to read the paper.

The abstract can be a great exercise: it helps one create a focus on the project as a whole – it forces one to think about the whole project and how it fits together – and how that project is relevant to the larger world around. It leads the author to step back from the details and to look at the larger strokes of the picture being painted. It helps one see the forest instead of the trees.

Try not to write a perfect abstract. Instead try to write an abstract that touches on all the major points. Of course, as a general rule, with written projects, one should try to finish them instead of trying to make them perfect. If you have no trouble finishing your projects, then you can strive for perfection- but otherwise finishing is usually far more satisfying than striving for perfection.

Structure

  • An abstract should be short, not more than five percent of the final paper or 250 words whichever is smaller. According to APA guidelines, the abstract should be a single paragraph in block format without (paragraph indentation) and should not exceed 120 words.
  • Choose a specific and detailed title- this ‘sets the scene’. The title of the paper is usually read as part of the abstract and should not be repeated in abstract.
  • State the objectives and scope of the investigation or activity.
  • Describe the methods used, approaches taken etc., range of operation.
  • Summarize the results or findings.
  • State the principal conclusions.
  • Keywords are words or phrases that you feel capture the most important aspects of your paper. To create yours, just think about the topics in your paper: what words would you enter into a search box to find your paper? Use those!
  • The keywords line should be centered just under your abstract. Keywords: should be italicized, followed by a space. The words themselves should not be italicized. Consider the use of keywords(APA guidelines) embedded within the abstract to assist in electronic information retrieval ie.help it be ‘googled’.

Revise your rough draft

  • Correct weaknesses in organization and coherence.
  • Drop superfluous information. Add important information originally left out.
  • Eliminate wordiness and correct errors in grammar and mechanics
  • Carefully proofread your final copy.