An abstract is a short paragraph of around 200-300 words that summarizes your research paper. Typically, it describes the purpose of your research, your research methods and designs, the results of your research and conclusions.1
Why do I need an abstract for my paper?
When looking for research articles, researchers often decide whether a paper is relevant to their study by reading the abstract. Therefore, it's important to make your abstract as engaging and informative as possible. In addition, online abstracting and indexing services are widely used by readers looking for relevant research. A concise, accurate and well-structured abstract will likely to make your paper more discoverable.
How to write an abstract?
As it’s a summary of your paper, the abstract should be written after your paper is completed. A strong abstract should make sense on its own and cover all major points of your research. Here is a short guide to how to write a good abstract.
You can use the structure of your paper to guide the structure of your abstract.2 Although space is limited, there are four main steps you can follow to create a well-structured abstract:
- Introduce the context and purpose of your research. For example, what is already known about the topic or what is the ‘problem’ that your research is trying to address?
- Describe the methods used in the research. This should be a simple description written in the past tense and using plain language.
- Summarize the results of your research. It can be difficult to include all the results in an abstract, so try to focus only on the most noteworthy ones.
- Finally, explain why the results are significant. For example, how they might affect future research or understanding in the field. You can also include your recommendations for further research.
Papers often include keywords at the end of the abstract. Databases use these keywords to help librarians and fellow scientists find your research paper, so it is worthwhile to think about which words are most appropriate.
Keywords should include words that are distinct to your research subject, methods and wider research discipline. Aim to use between 3-10 keywords for your paper.
Promoting your abstract
Once the abstract is written, you can share it with others to gain more attention for your paper. Consider sharing the abstract with the press office of your university or institution as they can then share it on official social media channels or blogs. Sending the abstract to your co-authors allows them to share it with their own institutions, their personal social media contacts, and professional networks.
You can also create abstracts in other media. A recent trend has seen authors create ‘video abstracts’ where they speak on camera about the main points of the paper. Some professional publishing services such as Research Square can help authors create animated video abstracts that’s accessible to everyone. Here are some guidelines from Hindawi on how to make an impactful video abstract.
Although abstracts are short, they play an important role in getting researchers interested in your work. While it can be challenging to condense your paper into just a few short sentences, knowing how to structure an abstract can help determine which key points to include.
Taking the time to craft a well-written abstract will lead to more people discovering your work, and ultimately help your research to make more of an impact.
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.