Writing an abstract for your academic paper is one of the most challenging parts of the writing process. One of the reasons why is because you need to condense everything into a little paragraph.
In this article, we’ll take you through all of the steps from beginning to end. We’ll start with an introduction that grabs your reader’s attention and then dive into methods and results parts from there.
Start With A Strong Introduction
The introduction serves two purposes: it sets the stage for your paper, and it gives the reader an idea of what to expect. You want to start with a strong, concise statement that clearly defines your topic.
In addition, you should provide a brief overview of where you are going with your paper. This can take many forms—you might include a specific summary of what you intend to cover or outline a few key points from which everything else stems—but whatever form it takes, try not to include too much detail because the word limit is very low, usually 200 or 300 words. Just the main topic of your paper will do.
A good analogy is that this is a 30 second “elevator pitch”. The approach you’d take into an elevator pitch is the same kind of approach here. Short, concise.
Add The Method
The next step is to summarize the method and results of your study. Here, you want to cover how you answered the question/topic you just wrote about. For example, if this is a case study on college students, briefly describe how you selected your sample and how they were recruited. You should also include any special/interesting instruments or surveys that were used during data collection – this will get the reader’s attention.
Summarize The Main Findings And Conclusions
One hurdle most face is, “how many results do I put in the abstract??” Do you put all of them, as many as will fit…what??
Ideally, you should just put in the major finding, and for two reasons. The first is that you have limited room. The second is that you want to lead with your most attention-grabbing finding because that will make people see the value in reading more of your paper.
You can summarize the main finding in one or two sentences. For example, “The results showed that people who eat a lot of cheese are more likely to develop heart disease.” In addition, if you have room, you can discuss the implications of your finding(s). Explain how the findings are important and why they are relevant to other disciplines or areas of study.
Writing an abstract for an academic paper is a challenging but an important skill to master. Follow these general steps and you’ll have a good framework to build around.
In our book, “How To Write An Academic Paper 101”, we cover how to write an abstract in even more depth, as well as all of the other parts of your paper, AND how to respond to reviewer comments to get your paper accepted.
Read it here: How To Write An Academic Paper 101
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