Many students or researchers have challenges writing a good, concise and standard abstract for their project or research works. The abstract is a very important part of your entire research work. In order to deliver a good project work and impress your readers or get good grades, your abstract must be of high quality.
Before you can write a good abstract for your project, paper or research work, you need to understand the meaning of abstract and it’s purpose. An abstract is a summary of the contents of a book, article, paper or speech.
According to Wikipedia; an abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding, or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper’s purpose.
According to University of Southern California (USC) Libraries: An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the major aspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.
What is the purpose of an Abstract? The abstract allows the writer to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper.
Abstracts are usually seen at the beginning of research paper.
TYPES OF ABSTRACT
To begin your abstract you have to choose the type of abstract you should include with your paper. There are four general types:
A critical abstract provides, in addition to describing main findings and information, a judgement or comment about the study’s validity, reliability, or completeness. The researcher evaluates the paper and often compares it with other works on the same subject. Critical abstracts are generally 400-500 words in length due to the additional interpretive commentary. These types of abstracts are used infrequently.
A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract only describes the work being summarized. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less.
The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300 words in length.
A highlight abstract is specifcally written to attract the reader’s attention to the study. No pretence is made of there being either a balanced or complete picture of the paper and, in fact, incomplete and leading remarks may be used to spark the reader’s interest. In that a highlight abstract cannot stand independent of its associated article, it is not a true abstract and, therefore, rarely used in academic writing.
In-order to write good and standard abstract, students must first know how abstracts should be structured and things to avoid when writing one. This article torches on all of these.
STRUCTURE OF A STANDARD ABSTRACT
Write your abstract using concise, but complete, sentences. Get to the point quickly and always use the past tense because you are reporting on research that has been completed. To begin composing your abstract, take whole sentences or key phrases from each section and put them in a sequence that summarizes the paper.
Most well written abstracts by outstanding researchers all over the world are structured as follows:
- Overview of the study/Background
- Results or Findings
- Recommendations and Conclusion
- Now let us discourse these sections one after the other.
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
This is usually the first part of an abstract. It depicts the central focus of the study. When writing an abstract, students should know the central idea behind their study. This section is very important as it tells readers whether to continue reading or not. In essence when giving an overview of your study, you should make it concise and interesting enough to encourage readers to read your whole work. Students must ensure readers easily get a clue of what the research objectives are as well as problems motivating the researcher to pick up interest in the study.
Methodology employed by the researcher constitutes the second part of an abstract. With a semi-paragraph or a sentence, state your research methods. This is where you briefly let readers know your data collection methods, research instruments employed, sample size and so on. To some extent depending on your institution’s research project format, you can state how the research instruments were validated and distributed (i.e. was it face-to-face distribution? or through email?).
The third section of an abstract is a brief summary of your key findings or results. Findings or important results recorded in the study must be briefly stated in the abstract.
The last section of most abstracts tells readers recommendations or suggestions made by the researcher. This section is the most important section in an abstract as it brings out the essence of research which is solving identified problems, developing better ways of doing things and adding to the body of knowledge.
THINGS TO AVOID WHEN WRITING AN ABSTRACT
In-order to present a good abstract for academic award(s), the following should be observed by the researcher:
Lengthy background information
An abstract is meant to be short, lengthy background information defeats the aim. When writing an abstract, just go straight to the point. Do not beat around the bush. Definition of terms, long stories that are not interesting may make your abstract too lengthy and boring…..leave all definitions and stories for your introduction.
Avoid Ambiguous Words, Abbreviations and Complex Grammar
Remember an abstract is like a tip of the iceberg. Complex and ambiguous words/sentences may discourage readers from reading the full content of your research. Avoid using abbreviations, jargon, or terms that may be confusing to the reader. Using keywords at the end of an abstract may help in letting your readers know the central theme or idea of the study.
References to other Literature
Avoid referencing other works, say something like, “current research shows that…” or “studies have indicated…”.
Avoid Lengthy Abstracts
Abstracts are meant to be brief and concise. Avoid writing numerous pages and calling it ‘Abstract’. An ideal abstract should be on a single page. However, if you wish to write more, seek the advice of your supervisor first.
Avoid Writing Abstracts When you have not completed your Study
An abstract is meant to be a summary of your entire work; hence it should be after you have conducted your study.
Avoid Using ellipticals [i.e., ending with “…”] or incomplete sentences,
Avoid any sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.