If you are a researcher who is keen on sharing his work with the world or even to your immediate supervisor, writing an abstract is one of the most important skills that you need to acquire. If you are a researcher, you will need to write a lot. And no matter whether you are submitting a scholarly article to a press or you are writing an abstract for a research paper that you wish to submit to an event or a conference, writing an abstract is a skill that you need to master for sure if you wish to succeed. If you are going to upload your paper in an online forum, then be sure that the abstract of that paper will be the first thing any reader will come across upon typing the relevant keywords. The reader will scan the abstract and only if he finds it well-written and a bit convincing, he will go ahead and download the paper or even read it. This is how important an abstract is for a research paper. In the simplest of words, it is quite unlikely for somebody to read your research paper if the abstract does not persuade him to begin with.
However, be very clear about the fact that an abstract for a research paper is not supposed to be what a trailer or teaser is for a movie. It is not supposed to present only a tiny glimpse of the entire story. Instead, in an abstract, you are expected to present a summary of the entire paper and not just a few parts of it. Upon reading the abstract, a reader should have a clear idea of what your paper presents and what he can expect to find in the research paper. This is the clear job or goal of the abstract of a research paper.
Since the abstract is such an important element of a research paper, you should not take this task lightly. Here we present ten golden rules that you should follow to write a good abstract:
- Draft the research paper first
One of the biggest mistakes that researchers tend to commit is writing the abstract before actually drafting the paper. No matter how well you think you know how your paper is going to turn out, never write the abstract first. If you do, you might just end up ruining it. Although the abstract shows up at the beginning of the paper and thus, it seems to be the first thing that you should write, it is not. As already mentioned, it is supposed to serve as the summary of your entire paper, and therefore, you can write it better if you know what all has gone into your paper. It presents an exclusive overview of everything that you have written in your paper. Therefore, always save the abstract for later. It is the best time since you know exactly how you have written the paper.
- Choose the format you will follow
All the abstracts are created or written with the same goal or objective in mind. However, it does not mean that all the abstracts are to be written in the same format as well. There are two primary styles- descriptive and informative. There are several other things that you should keep in mind. For instance, an abstract written for a conference will be different from one that is written for a scholarly article. Also, different organizations, online journals, and publications also have their own guidelines. So, it is better for one to be sure of all the guidelines beforehand. Moreover, your professor or supervisor can also assign a specific style of abstract. If he does not, the onus is on you to decide which style will be the most appropriate for your research paper. Every bit about the abstract should be decided before you actually begin writing the abstract. This includes everything from the style to the length and everything else. If you decide all these beforehand, only then you will be able to make the abstract truly interesting.
- Keep in mind who your target readers are
This is something that goes with all kinds of content. No matter what you are writing, it is always very important and critical to keep in mind who is eventually going to read it. While writing an abstract, you need to do the same. Before you begin writing, take the needs of your readers into account. Since the abstract is meant for the readers, you should know what they are looking for and what they wish to see in your paper. All this information will have an impact on the style of your abstract and the manner in which you are going to structure it.
This is something that most of the young researchers tend to miss out on. However, one should not commit this mistake. If you do not have an idea of the people who are going to read your content, then the entire purpose of your content, or in this case you’re abstract, is defeated.
- It should be informative
The abstract that you write for your research paper should be informative and have everything that you need. It should have nothing more and nothing less. Ideally, the abstract should be 200-250 words long and should be easily informative so that the reader can quickly understand the purpose, the methods used, and the results that the research paper is going to present. It should present a coherent, brief, and clear explanation of the research. The reader should not need to struggle with any vague references. Unless absolutely necessary or imperative, you should avoid using acronyms or abbreviations. If you do, they would need to be explained for the readers.
Also, make sure that the abstract is brief and concise. It is the job of the full research paper to present the entire picture. The abstract is meant to be informative but it is only supposed to be a glimpse. You can include some comments on the background but any reader would be interested to read about the particulars of your project only.
- Keep the title strong
Even before a reader gets to the abstract of the paper, he will read the title. Therefore, the title is your first impression in the truest of sense. It is the first chance or attempts that you make to persuade your readers to read further. If you wish to draw readers like colleagues, scientists who work outside your field, then the title is your best bet. Therefore, it must catch their eye first. Ideally, the title should not be more than 12 words long. Within these 12 words, it becomes a duty of yours to convey something interesting about your research and give them the central idea or question or thought of your research work. To do so, you need to focus on what investigation you have performed and how you want that to come across readers. Also, when you are done with the title, make sure that you do not repeat it while writing the abstract. You can practice as it is not easy to put so much in such a short body of the text.
- Use keywords
This is the age of technology and therefore, there are very high chances that you will have to put your research paper in an online database. One way or the other, the research that you conduct or the paper that you write will find its way on to the internet. Therefore, it is your job to make sure that people do not have any trouble finding it. And hence, it is quite necessary for you to use keywords in your abstract and also the entire research paper. You can think of keywords as the words that a layman would think of while thinking about the topic of your research. If you choose these keywords nicely, you can rest assured that the article or paper that you write would attract a decent audience.
Therefore, make sure that you include 5-10 to the point keywords or phrases that are related to the body of your work and to your abstract. Also, keep in mind that the words that you write in the abstract give the readers an idea of the kind of language that you have used in the abstract.
- Include a summary of your introduction
It is necessary that you include a tiny summary of the introduction section of your research paper. To do so, you can take a look at the introduction again. Once you do so, ask yourself the question as to how would you explain what you have written in the introduction to someone in a single or a couple of sentences. The idea is that you should not go into much detail and still, give the readers a little idea of what your introduction says. You can write about the overall problem or issue that you have investigated in your research and can even include a bit about the background of your work. Moreover, you can utilize this space to help the readers understand how the work you have conducted is important. If you have some more space, you can state the goal or the aim of the paper and the research conducted. After all, it is important for the readers to understand the scientific aim of the paper.
- Report the conclusion and results
A lot of researchers tend to miss out on this. While writing the abstract, keep in mind that it is supposed to report what you did and what the results of your investigation or experiment have been. This is the primary purpose of the abstract. If you some space left, then you can also add what you plan to do in the future with the results. But keep in mind that to mention this is not the primary purpose of the abstract.
Moreover, when you write about what you did, be very cautious of the language that you use. For instance, do not write words like try, plan, or hope to attempt. This part of the text should imperatively be in the past tense so that the readers understand that the study or the investigation has already been completed and is not pending. The abstract should contain the results so clearly that even if the reader does not go past the abstract, he can explain to someone what your research is about and what the results are.
- Proofread and edit
This seems to be a simple task and yet, it is the most important one. As students, researchers, or even professionals, we all find the task of proofreading really boring and cumbersome. However, it does not take away from the fact that proofreading is quite essential to the process of writing a killer abstract.
When you write the abstract, do not consider the first draft the last. There is always scope for improvement. Moreover, since this is academic and in most of the cases, scientific writing, a researcher needs to be prepared to invest more time into the abstract. And when you use this time, use it wisely. Revise the text multiple times and ensure that there are no grammatical, syntactical, or typing errors. Also, check that the content that you have created is coherent and easy to read.
- Ask for feedback
Once you are done with the writing process and you have also finished the proofreading, if you have someone who you can ask for feedback on the abstract, then that can be the icing on the cake. Getting a look of another pair of eyes on content is always extremely helpful. It gives you a second opinion and also proves to be effective at catching mistakes that you would tend to overlook as you would have made them in the first place. If you can get someone who is more experienced with the concerned field of study than you to do this, it can be amazing. However, if not possible, you can even get someone who doesn’t know anything about the subject to give you feedback on the style of writing and the flow of the content.
Overall, the first step for any researcher to write a killer abstract is understanding how important this section is. It is literally the face of your research and the readers estimate the quality of the research conducted by the face value of the abstract. Therefore, if you are a researcher or a scholar hoping to write a good abstract, make sure that you follow the ten steps mentioned above.