What good is an abstract, anyway?

First of all, an abstract is a preview of your research findings. It summarizes your work in a page or less, giving the reader enough information to decide whether they want to read more about it or pass. As such it should do the following:

  • Describe succinctly, the purpose of your research and the problem you investigated
  • Describe the design or approach you took. Was this an experiment? A descriptive case study or survey? An observational study? A review?
  • State your major findings from your analysis
  • Summarize your interpretations of your findings and state your main conclusion.

The abstract should be written last, after you have completed and documented your research. Use the active voice as much as possible. Remember, you are publicizing events that already took place, so write in the past tense. To ensure that whatever you write agrees with what is in your research paper, use key information from your paper verbatim.

Put yourself in the place of another researcher or decision maker who has a strong interest and wants to know more about your topic. Would the content you present intrigue them enough to draw them to read about your work? Also, if the abstract was the only information they could get to, does it hit on the main points of your report?

Types of abstracts

Your abstract may be either critical, informative, or descriptive.

  • critical abstract compares your work with that of other researchers on the same subject. It tends to be longer, since you are comparing your findings with those of their colleagues.
  • descriptive abstract is not judgmental. It merely describes the work, including the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. It is usually to shortest type of abstract.
  • The informative abstract is much like a descriptive abstract, except that it includes your conclusions and recommendations based on your findings. Most abstracts are informative.

 Your abstract is “a trailer” to your paper. As you compose it, keep in mind that it will be used to drum up interest in your valuable work, much like a movie trailer. So, that’s why you should lead others to your eye-opening research with poignant, descriptive facts on what you unearthed as you researched your topic.

For help in putting your best word forward, contact dmariemarks@gmail.com or go to Editsbymarks.com.

About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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3 Responses to What good is an abstract, anyway?

  1. MARK PLEASANT says:

    Very insightful and well stated, i learned. Q; would an executive be similar? Written after research is completed, in past tense, active?

  2. Dawn Marks says:

    Very informative. I had no idea

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