Guide On How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper with Examples

An Abstract in a Research Paper: Definition 

The chances are high that you have already seen an abstract section in a research paper as you browsed through various magazine articles or scientific publications. An abstract is like a condensed summary of your research paper or a concise representation of your thesis statement. It has to represent an original work and must not turn into a repetition of what follows in the actual paper. Learning how to write an abstract for a research paper, you must understand that it has to be a summary of your research about what is to follow, like a brief book review. 

An abstract definition should not be taken out of context, as the primary abstract for research paper purpose is to avoid making it an excerpt or a passage that sounds out of place. It must be done uniquely to allow your target audience to learn about your paper by making the content self-contained. It must make enough sense without any extra references or a necessity to consult additional materials.

In other words, it is a brief outline or a summary of your research paper or a complex project that has been done. As a rule, it must include an introduction, body elements, and the conclusion as a single independent paragraph (unless specified otherwise!). The wording must be clear and accessible to a broader audience, even if the research paper contains more complex terms and conventions. 

The Goals or What to Include?

Now, what is an abstract in a research paper? It is a section that seeks to provide a clear summary of your research paper. Include a brief yet precise statement about your problem or an issue you are researching. You have to provide a description of your research method and the tools that have been used to approach a problem. If there are specific major findings, they also have to be mentioned. In case you have reached specific conclusions, describe them briefly. The goal you have to reach is clarity, which is why it is recommended to keep things short to a point and provide only the most critical data. If you are thinking, "It's better to pay someone to write my research paper," it can be particularly helpful when it comes to crafting an abstract.

When Do We Write an Abstract? 

The common rule is to start with the abstract part only when the rest of your research paper has already been finished. In other words, it is the last thing you must compose because accuracy plays a critical role here. Provide a summary of your thesis along with the findings and keep things within the rules and conventions of the subject and the university's rules. Depending on whether you have a dissertation paper or research work in a classic sense, your abstract may or may not contain relevant keywords. Make sure to talk to your academic advisor when in doubt! 

How Long Should An Abstract Be? 

According to the rules of academic writing, an abstract for a research paper should be around six sentences long, which equals about 150 words or less. If you are majoring in English Literature, Healthcare, or Psychology, your abstract may go up to 250 words. Still, writing less for an abstract section of a research paper is recommended because it removes the main purpose. The only different case that may take place is when you are dealing with a thesis or an abstract for a scientific conference. It may be up to 400-450 words in such a case. It will also depend on the total length of your research paper and the subject you are dealing with. 

What is the Purpose of an Abstract? 

It is to provide a summary of an academic writing piece. Usually, it will be a journal article, a dissertation, or a term paper research. There are traditionally two purposes that a researcher must achieve: one has to assist the target audience in understanding the relevance of your paper for general research or consulting purposes. The other focus must be communicating your research results to those needing more time or resources to read the paper. If you are looking for relevant materials, reading through the abstract will help you to understand whether the paper is what you need. 

Research Paper Abstract Structure 

The structure and the correct information positioning are essential in creating concise data that aims to explain your research. As you learn how to write an abstract for a research paper and take notes, make sure that you take time to learn more about the structure. 

Here are the main elements that you have to include and consider before you start writing a research paper

  • Introduction and Background. You need to introduce your work and provide basic background information by explaining how and why you approach a certain problem. The key is to let your readers learn the basics of your research paper without having to consult the rest of the paper. 
  • Material and Methods. It should include the materials (briefly) you have used along with the methodology part. It should not be a different repetition of what's to come in your paper but relate to your central thesis and objectives. You have to explain what objectives have been set and what methods have been used to achieve the results. 
  • Research Results. This is where you explain your findings and discuss what has been achieved and learned. It is supposed to help the person reading your paper about what has been discovered as the research work has been done. Working on the structure of an abstract, keep it as clear as you can. 
  • Conclusions and Recommendations. The final part should summarize and offer relevant information to help the readers understand how your research work fits within academic research. If you have any suggestions or anything to help other researchers identify the scope and importance of your work, make sure to include this information in the final bit of your abstract writing. 

What is the Correct Abstract Writing Style?

The correct style and formatting of the abstract must start with a brief statement of the main problem and describe the methods used. The rest of the paragraph should describe the major findings and explain the conclusions reached. 

  • Abstract research papers must represent a single essay paragraph. 
  • An abstract must be double-spaced in Times New Roman or Arial, pt. 12. 
  • The length should be up to 250 words unless specified otherwise. 
  • An indent must be made by starting a new paragraph.
  • An “Abstract” word must be centered.  
  • Include “keywords” in italics and continue with the list of relevant keywords. 
  • Another indent must be made for the keywords section. 

Types of an Abstract and Examples 

There are different types of abstracts for a research paper that you may encounter. Let's learn more about them with a brief example of an abstract for a research paper in each case. While the most commonly used types are indicative and informative, there are also three other types worth checking, depending on your research work and the subject. 

  • Descriptive or Indicative Abstracts. These represent short abstracts that broadly describe the concept. It can be easily identified by the presence of "that are discussed" or "as it has been investigated" phrases. It aims to describe the intellectual value of the work that has been done. The purpose here is to show that information exists. It does not include any factual information per se, and the mentioned findings are quite limited. 

For example: “The number of farmers in Arizona is determined according to the types of households”. 

  • Informative Abstracts. Since certain information is available, one should aim to include the aim and the scope of the results, the methodology, and the validity of the findings or samples obtained. Moreover, it requires information regarding how to apply results in practice. Writing also takes much longer as the style has to be informative. 

For example: "It has been found that the state of California has seen a decrease in cybercrimes in 2019, while its closest competitors Texas and Arizona have also seen a decline because of regulations introduced by the latest bills". 

As you can see, the main purpose is to inform the readers about what your paper researches. 

  • Critical Abstracts. It is the only case when an abstract includes personal thoughts or critique. They are rarely found in scientific databases, yet some subjects like Philosophy or Design Studies may require them. You may approach a critical style in writing an abstract for a research paper. Critical abstracts are also of great value as they help people stay critical and research a particular subject. A critical abstract is similar to critical book reviews. They may even turn to comparisons with the other articles. 

For example: "This research presents a study of the modular synthesis based on the available synthesizer modules in the market from 2010 to 2022 with the critical evaluation of the entries and the accessibility". 

  • Structured Abstracts. If you choose a structured abstract, it must be done by turning to various paragraphs. Alternatively, create a table with the headings. These are primarily used for presentations and usually relate to specific articles or research types. 

For example, if we are researching scouting groups in NYC, the headers for an abstract would include "Gender", "Age Group", "Family Heritage", "Involvement", "Methods", and "Results". As a rule, one must fill the table columns with relevant data. 

  • Modular Abstracts. It is one of the most complex research paper abstract types. The core purpose is to avoid data duplication, as you have to include five main parts. These are: 
    • a citation;
    • an annotation;
    • an indicative abstract section;
    • an informative;
    • a critical abstract part. 

For example: “As has been pointed out by Dr. Rogers (2018) in NASA Particles Analysis Conference Paper, the information obtained by the automation is not entirely correct. Certain points (outlined in appendix 5) must be double-checked. The current methods used are insufficient for the correct representation of newly obtained data, as seen from the research done in this paper”. 

How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Learning how to write an abstract for a research paper is much easier than it sounds because you have to complete your research paper and only think about starting with the abstract section. The majority of students often skip this simple rule and have to edit things over and over again. 

Here are the simple 7 steps that you have to take: 

Step 1: Read through your complete paper by taking notes

Think about why your work is important and explain it simply, as you have to keep things accessible and clear right from the start. 

Step 2: Review the requirements for your research by mentioning them in your abstract introduction. 

It will help you outline the goals or scientific objectives you plan to reach with your research work. In a certain sense, it should act as an outline for a research paper where you must focus on what had to be done and why exactly you have chosen a particular method. Make sure to keep things short to a point! 

Step 3: Consider your target audience and the keywords that will make it easier to locate your research paper. 

Only introduce what is already included in your research paper. Stay true to your thesis statement, and make sure to add it to your abstract as well. 

Step 4: Explain the problem you are approaching and why. 

Talk about the problem implications and your research's importance. It helps narrow things down as you learn how to write an abstract for a paper without overdoing it. 

Step 5: Talk about your methodology and its benefits. 

Keep this part short and avoid rewriting your methodology word by word. 

Step 6: Describe the results you have obtained with a brief explanation. 

You have to explain what you have found and provide your readers with information that may help them support their assumptions with evidence (your research paper). 

Step 7: Talk about the applicability in your conclusion part. 

Explain where and how your paper fits by providing several examples based on what you have found. Make it simple and clear, as the task is to provide a strong conclusion that will impress people to read your paper at a later stage or consult it further. 

Step 8: Provide a list of keywords (if relevant). 

Think about what keywords describe your subject, methodology, country, limitations, tools used, and anything that can help the scientific databases sort and locate your work based on a keyword. It is also important for publishing purposes.

Learn How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: Expert Tips

Writing an abstract for a research paper should be relatively easy, even if you have to write a mini-version of your large paper. The trick is to make it independent and start only after completing all the other parts of your assignment. If you need help writing an effective abstract, you can consider using a research proposal writing service. Depending on the subject and work type, follow these helpful expert tips: 

  • State the problem clearly and show why it is worth researching. If your research is different from typical, mention it in the introduction part of your abstract. If it takes an innovative approach, mention it as well. 
  • Take notes of your main research results and sort them from the most to least important. It will help you to ensure that you remember to list the facts and mention all the important points. 
  • Focus on the broad audience and make your abstract simple enough. After all, the purpose is to make it accessible. Even if you are dealing with subjects like healthcare, programming, or engineering, the general purpose of an abstract is to keep it clear for the general audience that may encounter your work. It should be easy to tell why it matters and what it is all about. 
  • Describe the significance of your research. You can briefly provide practical examples or specify who will benefit from particular research. 
  • Be careful when choosing keywords. Try to include as much from your thesis as you can. The general rule is to use up to seven keywords per research paper. In some instances, there may be more if the journal or database requires that. 
  • When preparing an abstract for a specific journal or a scientific magazine, take your time to learn about the publishing rules first

Making Your Abstract Stand Out! 

Unfortunately, many college and university students believe that writing an abstract for a research paper is not that important, which is why they fail to learn how to correctly write an abstract for a research paper. They believe it is just one of those parts that must be done. Yet, they need to understand that this section of their research work also helps to locate information in the scientific community and help fellow researchers understand the importance of their work. 

When a publisher or a scientific magazine seeks information on a certain subject, they will look into the abstract part of your paper and will evaluate whether it is worth being published. Remember that an abstract must not be a copy of your research paper introduction, as it must represent a stand-alone statement you make for others to hear! You have to work extra hard to make your abstract stand out from the rest because of extra clarity and an argument that instantly clarifies your scientific goals. 

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