Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

abstract research paper good

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How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 11, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.

How to Write an Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis ,  dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the US during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

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

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic , but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialized terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

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 results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly 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. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Cite this Scribbr article

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Social Sciences & Humanities Open

ISSN: 2590-2911

How to write a great abstract for your academic manuscript

September 2020

You’ve collected your data, analyzed your findings, written your manuscript, and all that’s left to do before you submit your paper is to write the abstract.  Quick and easy, right?  But wait! 

Despite the fact that abstracts are the most visible and highly-read component of nearly all academic articles, many authors treat them as an afterthought.  However, a strong abstract is essential to ensuring your paper has the largest impact and readership possible, and to facilitate fast and appropriate peer review.  At Social Sciences and Humanities Open, we recommend viewing your abstract as a publication in itself, where the goal is to condense the key information from your article into a clear, concise form. 

We understand that for many researchers, writing a strong abstract can be a daunting ask. This resource is designed to help authors who would like to submit to Social Sciences and Humanities Open understand the importance of writing excellent abstracts, key components to include in their abstracts, and common errors to avoid when writing up.

Why should authors take the time to write a stellar abstract?  

Great Abstracts Increase Readership   

Researchers publish articles in order to disseminate knowledge to other academics, practitioners, and decision-makers. However, before these audiences download, read, and cite your paper, they read your abstract. In fact, the majority of readers will only read your abstract. There are hundreds of thousands of journal articles published every year, published in thousands of academic journals. To deal with this flood of information, researchers have become very discerning when choosing the articles to which they’ll devote their limited attention.  Abstracts are how  they decide which articles to read, and which to ignore . 

Articles which feature accurate, informative, well-written abstracts are more likely to be read, shared, and cited than articles which have incomplete or careless abstracts. Think of the abstract as your chance to  pitch your article  to the reader:  y our goal as an author is for your  abstract to be so clear and compelling that readers will be excited to click through, download, read, and cite the full article.   

Clearly-Outlined  Abstracts Speed Up the  Editorial Process

All researchers want fast, quality, and helpful peer reviews, and writing strong abstracts are a simple way authors can help enhance the editorial process. Like most journals, peer reviewers for Social Sciences and Humanities Open are invited to read your abstract— not the full article— before deciding whether they’d like to review your paper.  Reviewers use your abstract to identify if your area of research, theoretical framework and methods are aligned with their own research ; failing to include this critical information in the abstract can lead to mis-matched peer reviews and less helpful feedback. 

Reviewers are also  more likely to accept invitations to review papers which address interesting research questions and are generally well-wr itten . Your abstract is your opportunity to demonstrate to reviewers that your research article is interesting, carefully considered, compelling, and worth their time to review. If you’re successful in writing an abstract which is enticing to reviewers, our editorial team will need to invite fewer individuals to read your paper, leading to faster turnaround times for comments and decisions.  

What is included in a strong abstract?  

Understanding the importance of abstracts can make writing them feel like an overwhelming task. Luckily for authors, nearly all effective abstracts contain the same information, and it is relatively simple to ensure your abstract contains the necessary components. While the expectations of abstracts vary between academic disciplines, we generally expect to see the following components in abstracts submitted to Social Sciences and Humanities Open.  

We do not suggest you include these components as distinct sections or headers in your abstract. Instead, we recommend you write your abstract as a  single block-style paragraph . However, when writing and proofreading your abstract, use the following checklist to ensure you have included the necessary information for your audience: 

Background and research question(s) 

In one or two sentences, give your readers a very broad understanding of the need-to-know background information for your study, and how your paper will contribute to this knowledge. You may want to explicitly include your research question in this section; make sure it is concise and to-the-point!  

Theoretical or conc eptual framework

Readers should, upon reading your abstract, generally understand your epistemological and theoretical approach to your research problem. This is particularly important in fields which are dominated by canonical theorists! In one or two sentences, outline the theoretical or conceptual framework you use in your paper.  

Research Design and Methodology

Your abstract should include an outline of how your study was conducted through a short description of your research design and methodology. Include, if relevant, your sample size, methods for analysis, and the duration of the study. Do not mention very specific details such as what statistical software was used for analysis or include citations for your methodological approach.  

The majority of your audience reads abstracts because they are interested in the results of published research. As such, the results section should be the longest component of your abstract. In three to six sentences, describe the key findings of your study in the order they are discussed in the manuscript. Aim to clearly describe how your results answer your research questions(s). Include as much detail as possible and remember to report negative findings. If relevant, be sure to include p-values for statistical tests.  


Provide readers a few key points regarding the implications of your study that you describe in your paper—both for your academic field, and, if applicable, for the communities your research involves. One to two sentences here is sufficient for this section.  

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when writing an abstract?  

Too wordy, or not detailed enough

Social Sciences and Humanities Open  does not have a strict word limit for abstracts. Ideally, however, your abstract will fall between 150 and 400 words. Generally speaking, abstracts shorter than 150 words do not contain enough information to properly summarize and present the research to the audience. Abstracts longer than 400 words, on the other hand, often contain too much information, and could likely benefit from a copy-edit to remove unnecessary sentences and phrases. Refer to the list above to ensure that you are including all necessary information in your abstract, and also that you are including only necessary information.  

Repeats the  i ntroduction 

Our editors often receive manuscripts with abstracts which are copied-and-pasted from the paper’s introduction section. Don’t be one of these authors! The requirements of an abstract are very different from the requirements of an introduction. Not only will an abstract which is copied-and-pasted from your introduction not provide the necessary information to your readers, it will suggest a lack of care to your editors and reviewers—something authors should do their best to avoid!   

I ncludes  r eferences,  j argon, and  a cronyms 

The abstract should be written as a stand-alone document, and should also be understandable to non-specialist audiences. Many writers aim for their abstracts to be written at a level that would be understandable for first- or second-year undergraduate students in their fields. For this reason, it is recommended that authors exclude including references, jargon, and acronyms in their abstracts. If you feel you must include a reference (for example, if your analytical framework depends on a canonical work), try to limit the number of them, and be sure to cite the author and date. If included, acronyms should be written in full the first time they are introduced in the abstract.  

Grammatical Errors and Typos

Nothing turns a prospective reader or reviewer off from your article like typos, grammatical errors, passive voice, and unclear phrasing. Authors should take as much care in ensuring their abstracts are professionally presented as they do for the rest of their manuscript. We recommend doing several rounds of copy-editing before submitting your abstract, to ensure it reads as clearly and professionally as possible.  

Now, get writing that abstract!

Now that you know why you want a strong abstract, the key elements to include, and common mistakes to avoid, it’s time to write! Just as you produced several drafts of your manuscript before it was ready to submit, don’t be surprised if your abstract takes time and many rounds of edits before it’s complete. For authors unsure about the quality of their abstract, we recommend asking a non-specialist friend or colleague to read it over. Is your reader able to tell you, in broad terms, what your study was about and its contributions? Did they understand the language you used? Were all of your sentences typo-free? And, perhaps most importantly, were they interested in reading your full paper? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re ready to submit!  

The editorial team at SSHO developed this guide to help de-mystify the requirements and process of writing a stellar abstract for researchers. We hope this tool will assist SSHO authors with producing informative and attractive abstracts that will highlight their important research contributions, and allow their research to reach large and broad audiences. We can’t wait to read your abstracts!  

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abstract research paper good

Writing an effective abstract

A guide to writing an effective abstract / selecting keywords for discovery

The title, abstract, and keywords you select for your manuscript play an important part in the discovery of your article after publication. Since many researchers rely on search engines such as Google to find content relevant to their field, the careful selection of keywords in all of these can have a large impact on the life of an article, extending from readership through citation.

When choosing keywords, aim to avoid broad terms such as “philosophy” or “philology” and instead try to target specific methodologies, authors, or sub disciplines that are of specific focus for your article. Many disciplines have specific keyword lists that may be helpful to reference when selecting your own as these are currently in wide use and will be familiar to many researchers. Unless the author guidelines for your journal recommend otherwise, we suggest selecting 3-5 keywords to include in the body of your manuscript, which will then be tagged to your article upon its publication. A guide to Search Engine Optimization for books and journal articles can be found here .

An effective abstract comprises one or two paragraphs (or another length specified in the journal’s author instructions) from which the reader can learn the fundamental points of the paper without needing to refer to any additional links or text. A good abstract will contain many if not all of the keywords associated with the paper, and aim to communicate your research in more readily accessible language. For this reason, ideally, you should write your abstract so that it is comprehensible to as wide an audience as possible. You can do this by limiting the amount of technical language that you use and explaining any such language that you do employ. Do not hide the most exciting elements of your paper, get right to them.

It is important to note that though abstracts developed as a summarization tool, they now play a vital role in the effective cataloguing of research in many online databases, such as Google, PubMed, Academic Search Premier, Thomson Reuters Web of Science, EBSCO Host, and countless others. These databases, accessible to scholars all over the world who may not have access to the journal your paper is published in, allow your work to be more easily discovered, read, used and cited by scholars who might not otherwise come into contact with your work.

Individual journals may offer specific guidance on writing abstracts and is worth consulting the journal’s author instructions.

abstract research paper good

Bad VS Good abstract

Table of Contents

When people search through articles on ScienceDirect, they may look at the table of contents of a journal or use the search function to find relevant articles. The title should tell them whether the article could be of interest, but to find out more they have to click through to see the abstract.

As an author, this is where you could either grab or lose your reader’s attention. A good abstract will keep them reading but a bad one could put them off, even if your research is relevant to them, which means you could miss out on a download or even a citation. Here are some notable differences between good and bad abstracts that could help you when writing yours.

Bad abstract: Too short and readers won’t know enough about your work; too long and it may be rejected by the journal.

Good abstract: Depending on the journal’s requirements, 200 words is short enough for readers to scan quickly but long enough to give them enough information to decide to read the article.

Bad abstract: Jumping from point to point with no clear flow will confuse your readers.

Good abstract: Follow the structure of your paper: summarize the background, motivation, methods, results, conclusion, and impact. Some journals require this to be broken down into sections, so check the Guide for Authors.

Bad abstract: Focusing on the wrong information, such as too much content about others’ work, will put off readers

Good abstract: Pick the pertinent points. The content of the abstract should reflect the most important points and main findings presented in your article. This ensures it reflects your work accurately, attracting the right readers.

Bad abstract: A badly written abstract will confuse or turn off readers, who will not want to read a badly written article.

Good abstract: Clear, concise, careful writing will help readers understand the information quickly and enjoy reading it. Using a professional editing service, such as Elsevier Author Services’ English Language Editing , can help.

Bad abstract: Too much jargon makes an abstract difficult to read and even harder to understand.

Good abstract: An abstract that is accessible to a wider audience – one that contains no jargon – will encourage researchers from other disciplines to read the article.

Bad abstract: A weak – or worse, no – the conclusion does not reflect the impact and importance of the work.

Good abstract: A strong, clear conclusion presented near the end of the abstract shows readers the research, in a nutshell, helping them decide to read on.

Bad abstract: Too few keywords in the abstract means the article is difficult to find in searches.

Good abstract: Optimizing your abstract for search engines by using the most important keywords from your research helps make it discoverable for the right readers. Again, a language service can help.

Graphical abstract

Bad abstract: A text-only abstract can be lost in a list of graphical abstracts.

Good abstract: If the journal you want to publish in accepts graphical abstracts, it is a good idea to submit one, making your article more noticeable. Professional illustration, including through Elsevier Author Services’ Illustration Service , can help make it impactful.

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  1. Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

    An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes: an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;

  2. How to Write an Abstract

    A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point. To keep your abstract or summary short and clear: Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.

  3. How to write a great abstract for your academic manuscript

    Your abstract should include an outline of how your study was conducted through a short description of your research design and methodology. Include, if relevant, your sample size, methods for analysis, and the duration of the study.

  4. Writing an effective abstract

    A good abstract will contain many if not all of the keywords associated with the paper, and aim to communicate your research in more readily accessible language. For this reason, ideally, you should write your abstract so that it is comprehensible to as wide an audience as possible.