How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: how long & Why write an abstract?

How to write a research paper
How to write a research paper

How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: An abstract in a paper provides a succinct overview of the core points and essential aspects of the content. Positioned at the beginning of the document, it acts as a preview of the paper’s key elements, encompassing the purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. The primary aim of the abstract is to offer readers a quick comprehension of the paper’s focus and findings in a clear, direct manner. It is a well-developed, single paragraph typically spanning around 250 words, and it should be written last, after determining the conclusions to be drawn.

When crafting an abstract for a research paper, it is crucial to include the main points of the paper, such as its purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. Following these essential steps will help achieve clarity and brevity in presenting the paper’s focus and findings to the audience. Why is bamboo toilet paper more expensive than regular toilet paper?

What is an abstract in a paper?

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An abstract is a short summary of a research paper or thesis. It should be an original piece, not a copied section. The abstract needs to stand alone and make sense by itself, without referring to outside sources or the actual paper. It focuses on key content areas, your research purpose, the relevance of your work, and the main outcomes. It is a well-developed single paragraph of around 250 words, indented and single-spaced. The purpose of the abstract is to briefly outline all parts of the paper. Even though it comes at the beginning of the paper, right after the title page, the abstract should be written last, once you are certain about the conclusions you will draw.

When writing an abstract for a research paper, it’s essential to encompass the main points of the paper, including its purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions. To achieve this, follow these steps:

  1. Context and Purpose: Clearly state the context and purpose of the research.
  2. Methodology: Briefly outline the methods or approach used to conduct the research.
  3. Results: Summarize the key findings or outcomes of the research.
  4. Conclusions: Conclude the abstract with a summary of the implications or significance of the findings.

Ensure brevity and clarity in your writing to provide a quick understanding of the paper’s focus and findings to your readers.

Why write an abstract?

Abstracts hold significant importance for two primary reasons: selection and indexing. Firstly, abstracts assist readers in swiftly determining whether a paper is relevant to their needs and worth reading in full. Secondly, in terms of indexing, abstracts enable easier searching through academic journal databases, enhancing the discoverability of relevant papers. It is essential for abstracts to include key terms that researchers would use when conducting literature searches.

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Importance of Abstract in research

The abstract plays a crucial role in research as it encapsulates the essence of a paper’s key elements, allowing readers to swiftly understand the focus and findings without delving into the complete document. It aids researchers, academics, and readers in determining the relevance and significance of the work, facilitating their decision of whether to invest time in exploring the complete research.

When should abstracts be written?

Abstracts should be written to provide a concise summary of the work, commonly for academic papers, conferences, and articles, offering readers a quick overview of the main points without having to read the entire document. This includes scenarios such as submitting articles to journals, applying for research grants, completing and submitting theses, and proposing conference papers.

  • Submitting articles to journals
  • Applying for research grants
  • Completing and submitting theses
  • Proposing conference papers

Types of abstracts

There are two primary types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. Descriptive abstracts provide a brief outline of the work in a 100-word format, while informative abstracts substitute the actual papers, presenting all key arguments and conclusions along with the context, research importance, methods, principal results, and conclusions.

  • Descriptive abstracts: they outline the work in a short, 100-word or less format.
  • Informative abstracts: they substitute the actual papers, presenting all key arguments and conclusions, including context, importance of the research, methods, principal results, and conclusions.

How long should an abstract be

An abstract, typically spanning 150-250 words, serves as a concise yet comprehensive summary, providing readers with a clear understanding of the focus and findings of the paper or presentation. This summary is imperative for aiding researchers, academics, and readers in quickly determining the relevance and significance of the work at hand.

What are the 5 parts of an abstract?

The way your summary looks will depend on the field you’re in. But in general, all summaries usually include these five parts:

  1. Reason for writing: Explain why the research is important and why readers should be interested in the overall work.
  2. Problem: Describe the problem the work aims to solve, the project’s scope, and its main argument or claim.
  3. Methodology: Provide an overview of the specific models or approaches used in the study or describe the types of evidence used in the research.
  4. Results: Show specific data indicating the project’s results or discuss the findings in a more general way.
  5. Implications: Discuss how the work contributes to the existing knowledge on the topic and outline any practical or theoretical applications, as well as implications for future research.

How to write an abstract for a research paper

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When writing an abstract, it is advisable to consider practical tips such as reading other abstracts for guidance, utilizing a reverse outline to structure the main points, and writing with clarity and conciseness. It is crucial to reflect the structure of the larger work in the abstract, ensuring that it stands as a complete text on its own. You will almost always need to include an abstract when:

  • Finishing a thesis or dissertation
  • Presenting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book or research proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s best to write your abstract last, right before the proofreading stage, because it summarizes the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a complete text on its own, not a part of your paper
  • Be fully understandable by itself
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Step 1: Introduction

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. Identify the practical or theoretical problem that your research addresses or the research question you aimed to answer. Provide brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic without delving into detailed background information. If your abstract includes specialized terms unfamiliar to the average academic reader or with multiple meanings, provide concise definitions.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research using verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to precisely describe your intent. Write this part of the abstract in the present or past simple tense, avoiding any reference to the future, as the research is already complete.

Step 2: Methods

Next, describe the research methods you utilized to answer your question in a straightforward and decisive manner. Write this in the past tense as it denotes completed actions. Avoid assessing validity or obstacles. The objective is to provide the reader with a rapid overview of the overall approach and procedures used.

Step 3: Results

Next, summarize the main research results. This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense. Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all the results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

  • Our research indicates a strong link between drinking coffee and being productive.
  • Our research shows a strong connection between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our research revealed a strong correlation between drinking coffee and being productive.

Step 4: Discussion

When discussing the main findings of your research, you should clearly state your response to the issue or question. The conclusion should present the main point that your research has proven or argued in simple present tense.

  • We found that drinking coffee makes people more productive.
  • We believe that drinking coffee makes people more productive.

If there are important limitations to your research, such as related to your sample size or methods, briefly mention them in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalizability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. You can also briefly suggest areas for further research if relevant.


If your paper gets published, you may need to include a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reflect the most important aspects of the research to help other researchers find your paper during their own literature searches. Keep in mind that some publication guidelines, such as APA Style, have specific rules for formatting these keywords.

Tips for writing an abstract

It can be tough to summarize all your work in just a few hundred words, but the abstract will be the first part that people read, so it’s important to do it well. These tips can help you begin.

Read other abstracts: The best way to learn how to write an abstract in your field is to read other people’s examples. You likely read many abstracts while doing your literature review—use them as a guide for how to structure and style your own abstract.

Reverse outline: Not all summaries are the same. For longer pieces, you can create a summary by first outlining the key points for each part and drafting a few sentences to capture the main idea. This can help you organize the structure of your summary. Then, refine the sentences to show how the main idea progresses and how everything connects.

Write clearly and concisely: A good abstract is brief but powerful, so every word should be important. Each sentence should express one main idea clearly. To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Use active voice: Passive sentences are often long. You can make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Use concise expressions: Replace longer expressions with shorter ones or single words (e.g., “To” instead of “In order to”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Use pronouns instead of nouns when possible and remove unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

How to write an abstract for a presentation

Crafting an abstract for a presentation entails setting the context and purpose, outlining the topics or key points to be covered, capturing the key insights or conclusions, and explaining the significance or relevance of the presentation within its field or industry. A concise and effective abstract communicates the essence of the presentation to the intended audience, sparking interest and providing a preview of the valuable content to be shared.

Example and Checklist

For those working on a thesis, dissertation, or journal submission, it is important to follow specific guidelines when writing the abstract. The checklist includes verifying the appropriate word count, positioning of the abstract within the document, and ensuring clarity in describing the research problem, methodology, results, conclusions, limitations, and recommendations.

  • The word count is indeed appropriate, or a maximum of one page.
  • The abstract should be positioned after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents.
  • I have unequivocally stated my research problem and objectives.
  • I have succinctly described my methodology.
  • The most important results have been effectively summarized.
  • I have decisively stated my main conclusions.
  • Any important limitations and recommendations have been duly mentioned.
  • The abstract is comprehensible to someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

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