Helpful Tips for Writing an Abstract
Read the following article and answer the questions:
-How important for you is to write an abstract?
-Have you ever written an abstract? What for?
– Which in your opinion is the most helpful tip? Which the least helpful?
– Would you add any other tip to the list? If so, which one?
Helpful Tips for Writing an Abstract
Knowing how to write an effective abstract is very important for anyone who is required to write a formal paper.
- If you are a student you may have to write an abstract as part of a larger paper to summarize the paper in a single paragraph.
- The abstract is used by many people as a way to determine whether or not they want to read the entire work or listen to the entire speech at a conference.
- When researching material for a dissertation or thesis, the abstracts of research and acandemic papers are read to determine whether or not the information is worth reading in detail.
Understanding what an abstract is and the purpose it serves can be of great assistance in helping you write an abstract effectively.
What Is an Abstract?
An abstract is basically a short summary that is used for research surverys or large papers, such as a thesis or dissertation. As the majority of theses and dissertations are quite lengthy, an abstract is used to provide a very complete, but concise, summary of the entire academic writing.
The abstract is vitally important because it is a short representation of the entire findings or thesis. The abstract is what a person will read in order to determine if the overall material will be of interest to them. In many ways it can be considered the selling point for your entire work, and it should be treating as such by presenting the topic of your research or dissertation in a way that will make others interested in reading it thoroughly.
In order to write an abstract that will capture the attention of readers while summarizing the entire paper there are a few tips that you should follow.
How do I write an abstract?
The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:
- Reason for writing:
What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?
All abstracts include:
- A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
- The most important information first.
- The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
- Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
- Clear, concise, and powerful language.
Abstracts may include:
- The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
- Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
- The same chronological structure as the original work.
How not to write an abstract:
- Do not refer extensively to other works.
- Do not add information not contained in the original work.
- Do not define terms.
If you are abstracting your own writing
When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.
This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper. For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence.
For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.
Cut and paste:
To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.
If you are abstracting someone else’s writing
When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:
Identify key terms:
Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.
Highlight key phrases and sentences:
Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.
Don’t look back:
After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.
Taken from: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/abstracts/