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How To Write An Abstract For A Research Paper

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Are you worried that you do not know how to write an abstract for a research paper? Relax. We’ve got you covered. Writing an abstract requires you to know only a few things then you’ll be good to go. A research paper needs you to introduce your topic, state your problem, explain how your research question was addressed, state your findings, and lastly, the impact of your research. If you are required to write a research paper, you might need an abstract. So what is an abstract?

Definition Of An Abstract

An abstract is a summary of your published or unpublished research paper. It is usually about a paragraph long. This means 6 or 7 sentences containing 300 words or less. However, it should not be less than 150 words. It is also important to note that the lengths of abstracts differ by institution and discipline requirements. 

An abstract highlights the purpose of the study, the research problems to be investigated, and the research design. It also includes significant findings and a brief overview of your interpretations and conclusions. It is essential to know the importance of an abstract before diving into the tips of writing one.

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The Purpose Of An Abstract

To Let The Reader Know What You Are Talking About 

When the reader gets a highlight of your paper, they will get to decide whether they want to read the full paper or not. Most people like topics that are relatable and interesting to them. They also use abstracts to gauge the complexity or the simplicity of a topic. It might be a technical or a simple topic. Therefore, you need to provide sufficient information.

The only way to know that the information provided is adequate is to assume that you are a different researcher doing the same study. Establish whether you would be contented with the amount of content presented. Also, determine if the abstract tells the whole story about your research. If not, revise the abstract accordingly. 

To Determine The Relevancy Of Your Paper

Abstracts help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research. Readers who find it relevant to their purpose will read the whole paper to obtain more information on the subject. If they don’t find it relevant, they will move to a topic that is of interest to them.

To Help The Reader Remember The Key Points

An abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper. This makes reading easier and efficient. As a result, it helps readers when they want to write up their research and cite sources.

To index Articles For Quick Recovery And Cross Referencing

The availability of research papers electronically has made it easier for researchers and readers to find the most useful abstracts for their research quickly. Moreover, cross-referencing through abstracts opens up new areas of research that readers might not have known about when they started researching a topic.

Remember, abstracts must incorporate the keywords a potential researcher might intuitively enter into a search engine.

Contents Of An Abstract


Talk about what your paper entails. Give the general topic as well as the specific topic of your research. Give enough background information for readers to understand why the topic is important.

The Problem Your Research Addresses

An effective research paper focuses on a problem that needs a solution. State the problem clearly and explain how your study plan to resolve the issue. It answers questions like, what is the scope of the project? What is the main argument, thesis, or claim? What is your supporting evidence? If readers don’t grasp the problem, then clearly, they won’t care about the solution. 

Methods, Procedures, or Approach 

To satisfy the readers’ curiosity, briefly state the methods used to answer your question. Methods tell the reader how you solved the problem. An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the study. The methods might be qualitative vs. quantitative, empirical vs. theoretical, models, study type, or types of evidence used. For example, you might say, structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Result or Findings

This is the most important part of your abstract. The main reason people read your abstract is to learn about your findings. Hence, it should be the longest part of your abstract. Maximize the amount of detail here and highlight only the most important findings to allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

An abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way. For example, our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.


A conclusion answers the problem or the question. The reader should be satisfied or clearly understand the research point has been proved or argued. Therefore, it is important to start your conclusion with a phrase like, “Our study revealed….” Then, state your main finding as concisely as possible. Remember, conclusions are written in the present simple tense. Avoid overstating your conclusions so as not to mislead your readers.


Here, talk about what other people can do with your research and what changes should be implemented due to the findings of the work. Also, talk about how your work adds to the body of knowledge on the topic.

When To Write Your Abstract  

It is advisable to write your abstract at the end of the research paper. This way, you will know what you are summarizing because you already know what the paper entails. An important tip to consider is using whole sentences or key phrases from each section of the paper and putting them in a sequence that summarizes the contents. Then revise or add connecting phrases or words to make the narrative flow clearly and smoothly. 

Abstracts are usually required for: submission of articles to journals, application for research grants, and submission of proposals for conference papers. They are also used when writing a book proposal, completion, and submission of theses.

Choosing The Right Verb Tenses Within Your Abstract 

You can use different tenses depending on the subject of your sentence. Thus, consider this general rule when writing your abstract. Use,

  • Present tense while stating general facts.
  • Past tense when writing about prior research.
  • past tense when stating results or observations.
  • Present tense when stating the conclusion or interpretations.
  • Present tense when referring to your study/paper.

Social science papers use the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research. 

Humanities paper uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past and the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts. They also use present tense to explain the significance or meaning of those texts and describe the arguments presented in the article.

Science papers use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. They use the present tense to justify their research (what remains to be done). They also use the present tense to introduce their study and to explain the significance of their study.

Types Of Abstracts

You cannot write an excellent abstract if you do not know the abstract relevant to your study. So, let’s look at the different ty[pes.

Descriptive Abstract

A descriptive abstract reflects the kind of content present in the essay. It does not form judgments or give any outcomes or conclusions of the research. It also includes keywords found within the text, methods, scope, and purpose of the study. Typically, the abstract only describes the summarized work. Such summaries are usually short, not more than 100 words.

Informative Abstract

Most abstracts fall into this category. They evaluate essays by describing what to expect. At the same time, the researcher can explain his major arguments and significant results and proof in the article. The information in these abstracts includes that found in informative abstracts and the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the writer. The summary length varies across disciplines, but the ideal rule of thumb is less than 300 words.

Critical Abstract

This abstract provides a wealth of information. It describes the main findings and judgment about the reliability, validity, and completeness of the study. The author evaluates the essay and compares it with other similar works. Such abstracts are usually 400-500 words long and are the most preferred option in academic writing.

Highlight Abstract

This abstract is mainly written to grab the attention of the reader by using incomplete and leading statements. This abstract is hence dependent on its associated article. It is not considered an actual abstract and is rarely used in academic research paper writing.

Tips On How To Write An Excellent Abstract Research Paper 

A perfect abstract should be informative and precise. Here are steps you need to consider;

  • Write the paper first
  • Briefly describe your methodology
  • Clearly describe the only important finding of your study
  • Write well-developed paragraphs
  • Avoid citations
  • Avoid too much information
  • Strictly follow the chronology of the paper
  • Avoid undefined abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols

Write The Paper First

Writing the paper first will help you develop a good abstract because you will already know what the paper entails. You also know what the problem of interest is, the methods, findings, and the conclusion. The research paper will guide you in writing an abstract. 

Briefly Describe Your Methodology

This category requires you to summarize the basic design of your study. This involves the key techniques used, like what you used to conduct your study or how you solved the problem. You might say, 25 participants were part of a structured interview.

Abstracts in biological or clinical fields should mention the organism, cell line, or population studied. For ecology papers, the location of the study is often an important piece of information. Papers describing clinical trials should mention the sample size, patient groups, dosages, and study duration. 

Clearly Describe The Only Most Important Finding Of Your Study

Remember, an abstract is only a summary of your research paper. Kindly state the most important finding. As a result, you will have provided a solution to the biggest problem you had identified. 

Write Well Developed Paragraphs

Using short, clear, and concise sentences will help you communicate better. Including jargon or filler words will consequently force the reader to struggle to understand what you communicate. 

Avoid Citations

Citing references or including a bibliography is prohibited in abstracts. If you need to cite other sources, do so sparingly. However, note that it’s usually inappropriate to do so in an abstract.

Avoid Too Much Information

Your abstract should only highlight what you have researched. Don’t go beyond the scope of your paper or include a discussion of previous or new literature and reference citations. When giving the methods, don’t give many details about statistical methods or unnecessary details. Since your word count is restricted, most of the information should be reserved for the research paper. 

Strictly Follow The Chronology of The Research Paper

The format of your abstract depends on the type of paper you are writing. For example, an abstract summarizing an experimental paper will differ from a meta-analysis or case study. Make sure you follow the chronology of the paper. 

Avoid Undefined Abbreviations, Acronyms, And Symbols

Most journals provide a list of common abbreviations or acronyms that do not need to be defined; some journals do not allow the use of abbreviations/acronyms in the abstract. 

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If you did not know how to write an abstract for a research paper, now you do. You only need to identify the type of abstract you want to write and then compose your abstract following the guide we have discussed above. This way, you’ll be good to go.

Which is the first step in writing an abstract?

The first step is writing your paper even though you don’t know what it will include. Then when you are done with the essay, you can now go back and summarize the findings of your paper.

Do you need an abstract for a research paper?

Including an abstract in your paper depends on the assignment prompts. Some prompts will require the abstract, although the majority won’t. If you need to include one, first know the type of abstract you’ll need to use.

What makes an abstract poor?

The use of lengthy background information, citation to other works, jargon words, or redundant phrases in the paper.

What is the difference between an abstract and an introduction?

An abstract refers to the summary of the whole text, inclusive of the concluding statement. At the same time, an introduction is a more specific area, and it includes why you held the study, what you wanted to achieve, and the hypothesis.

How long is an abstract?

The length of an abstract should be between 150 words and 250 words. It can be one paragraph or two. The shorter the abstract, the better.

How do you write an abstract for a research paper in APA?

1. Use Time New Roman, font size 12
2. Double-space your work.
3. The “Abstract” heading should be centered with no formatting.
4. Ensure you don’t indent any part of the document.
5. Have a running head at the top of the page left-aligned.
6. In case of a keyword section at the end of the text, ensure you indent the first line and italicize the words.

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