Writing an abstract for a research paper examples

Writing an Abstract for a Research Paper: Guidelines, Examples, and Templates

There are six steps to writing a standard abstract. (1) Begin with a broad statement about your topic. Then, (2) state the problem or knowledge gap related to this topic that your study explores. After that, (3) describe what specific aspect of this problem you investigated, and (4) briefly explain how you went about doing this. After that, (5) describe the most meaningful outcome(s) of your study. Finally, (6) close your abstract by explaining the broad implication(s) of your findings.

In this article, I present step-by-step guidelines for writing an abstract for an academic paper. These guidelines are fo llowed by an example of a full abstract that follows these guidelines and a few fill-in-the-blank templates that you can use to write your own abstract.

Guidelines for Writing an Abstract

The basic structure of an abstract is illustrated below.

A standard abstract starts with a very general statement and becomes more specific with each sentence that follows until once again making a broad statement about the study’s implications at the end. Altogether, a standard abstract has six functions, which are described in detail below.

Start by making a broad statement about your topic.

The first sentence of your abstract should briefly describe a problem that is of interest to your readers. When writing this first sentence, you should think about who comprises your target audience and use terms that will appeal to this audience. If your opening sentence is too broad, it might lose the attention of potential readers because they will not know if your study is relevant to them.

Examples

Too broad: Maintaining an ideal workplace environment has a positive effect on employees.

The sentence above is so broad that it will not grab the reader’s attention. While it gives the reader some idea of the area of study, it doesn’t provide any details about the author’s topic within their research area. This can be fixed by inserting some keywords related to the topic (these are underlined in the revised example below).

Improved: Keeping the workplace environment at an ideal temperature positively affects the overall health of employees.

The revised sentence is much better, as it expresses two points about the research topic—namely, (i) what aspect of workplace environment was studied, (ii) what aspect of employees was observed. The mention of these aspects of the research will draw the attention of readers who are interested in them.

Describe the general problem that your paper addresses.

After describing your topic in the first sentence, you can then explain what aspect of this topic has motivated your research. Often, authors use this part of the abstract to describe the research gap that they identified and aimed to fill. These types of sentences are often characterized by the use of words such as “however,” “although,” “despite,” and so on.

Examples

However, a comprehensive understanding of how different workplace bullying experiences are associated with absenteeism is currently lacking.

The above example is typical of a sentence describing the problem that a study intends to tackle. The author has noticed that there is a gap in the research, and they briefly explain this gap here.

Although it has been established that quantity and quality of sleep can affect different types of task performance and personal health, the interactions between sleep habits and workplace behaviors have received very little attention.

The example above illustrates a case in which the author has accomplished two tasks with one sentence. The first part of the sentence (up until the comma) mentions the general topic that the research fits into, while the second part (after the comma) describes the general problem that the research addresses.

Express the specific problem investigated in your paper.

After describing the general problem that motivated your research, the next sentence should express the specific aspect of the problem that you investigated. Sentences of this type are often indicated by the use of phrases like “the purpose of this research is to,” “this paper is intended to,” or “this work aims to.”

Examples

Uninformative: However, a comprehensive understanding of how different workplace bullying experiences are associated with absenteeism is currently lacking. The present article aimed to provide new insights into the relationship between workplace bullying and absenteeism.

The second sentence in the above example is a mere rewording of the first sentence. As such, it adds nothing to the abstract. The second sentence should be more specific than the preceding one.

Improved: However, a comprehensive understanding of how different workplace bullying experiences are associated with absenteeism is currently lacking. The present article aimed to define various subtypes of workplace bullying and determine which subtypes tend to lead to absenteeism.

The second sentence of this passage is much more informative than in the previous example. This sentence lets the reader know exactly what they can expect from the full research article.

Explain how you attempted to resolve your study’s specific problem.

In this part of your abstract, you should attempt to describe your study’s methodology in one or two sentences. As such, you must be sure to include only the most important information about your method. At the same time, you must also be careful not to be too vague.

Examples

Too vague: We conducted multiple tests to examine changes in various factors related to well-being.

This description of the methodology is too vague. Instead of merely mentioning “tests” and “factors,” the author should note which specific tests were run and which factors were assessed.

Improved: Using data from BHIP completers, we conducted multiple one-way multivariate analyses of variance and follow-up univariate t-tests to examine changes in physical and mental health, stress, energy levels, social satisfaction, self-efficacy, and quality of life.

This sentence is very well-written. It packs a lot of specific information about the method into a single sentence. Also, it does not describe more details than are needed for an abstract.

Briefly tell the reader what you found by carrying out your study.

This is the most important part of the abstract—the other sentences in the abstract are there to explain why this one is relevant. When writing this sentence, imagine that someone has asked you, “What did you find in your research?” and that you need to answer them in one or two sentences.

Examples

Too vague: Consistently poor sleepers had more health risks and medical conditions than consistently optimal sleepers.

This sentence is okay, but it would be helpful to let the reader know which health risks and medical conditions were related to poor sleeping habits.

Improved: Consistently poor sleepers were more likely than consistently optimal sleepers to suffer from chronic abdominal pain, and they were at a higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.

This sentence is better, as the specific health conditions are named.

Finally, describe the major implication(s) of your study.

Most abstracts end with a short sentence that explains the main takeaway(s) that you want your audience to gain from reading your paper. Often, this sentence is addressed to people in power (e.g., employers, policymakers), and it recommends a course of action that such people should take based on the results.

Examples

Too broad: Employers may wish to make use of strategies that increase employee health.

This sentence is too broad to be useful. It does not give employers a starting point to implement a change.

Improved: Employers may wish to incorporate sleep education initiatives as part of their overall health and wellness strategies.

This sentence is better than the original, as it provides employers with a starting point—specifically, it invites employers to look up information on sleep education programs.

Abstract Example

The abstract produced here is from a paper published in Electronic Commerce Research and Applications . I have made slight alterations to the abstract so that this example fits the guidelines given in this article.

(1) Gamification can strengthen enjoyment and productivity in the workplace. (2) Despite this, research on gamification in the work context is still limited. (3) In this study, we investigated the effect of gamification on the workplace enjoyment and productivity of employees by comparing employees with leadership responsibilities to those without leadership responsibilities. (4) Work-related tasks were gamified using the habit-tracking game Habitica, and data from 114 employees were gathered using an online survey. (5) The results illustrated that employees without leadership responsibilities used work gamification as a trigger for self-motivation, whereas employees with leadership responsibilities used it to improve their health. (6) Work gamification positively affected work enjoyment for both types of employees and positively affected productivity for employees with leadership responsibilities. (7) Our results underline the importance of taking work-related variables into account when researching work gamification.

In Sentence (1), the author makes a broad statement about their topic. Notice how the nouns used (“gamification,” “enjoyment,” “productivity”) are quite general while still indicating the focus of the paper. The author uses Sentence (2) to very briefly state the problem that the research will address.

In Sentence (3), the author explains what specific aspects of the problem mentioned in Sentence (2) will be explored in the present work. Notice that the mention of leadership responsibilities makes Sentence (3) more specific than Sentence (2). Sentence (4) gets even more specific, naming the specific tools used to gather data and the number of participants.

Sentences (5) and (6) are similar, with each sentence describing one of the study’s main findings. Then, suddenly, the scope of the abstract becomes quite broad again in Sentence (7), which mentions “work-related variables” instead of a specific variable and “researching” instead of a specific kind of research.

Abstract Templates

Copy and paste any of the paragraphs below into a word processor. Then insert the appropriate information to produce an abstract for your research paper.

Template #1

Researchers have established that [Make a broad statement about your area of research.]. However, [Describe the knowledge gap that your paper addresses.]. The goal of this paper is to [Describe the purpose of your paper.]. The achieve this goal, we [Briefly explain your methodology.]. We found that [Indicate the main finding(s) of your study; you may need two sentences to do this.]. [Provide a broad implication of your results.].

Template #2

It is well-understood that [Make a broad statement about your area of research.]. Despite this, [Describe the knowledge gap that your paper addresses.]. The current research aims to [Describe the purpose of your paper.]. To accomplish this, we [Briefly explain your methodology.]. It was discovered that [Indicate the main finding(s) of your study; you may need two sentences to do this.]. [Provide a broad implication of your results.].

Template #3

Extensive research indicates that [Make a broad statement about your area of research.]. Nevertheless, [Describe the knowledge gap that your paper addresses.]. The present work is intended to [Describe the purpose of your paper.]. To this end, we [Briefly explain your methodology.]. The results revealed that [Indicate the main finding(s) of your study; you may need two sentences to do this.]. [Provide a broad implication of your results.].

How to Write an Abstract | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes. Revised on May 4, 2022.

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

Write the abstract at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the text. There are four things you need to include:

  1. Your research problem and objectives
  2. Your methods
  3. Your key results or arguments
  4. Your conclusion

An abstract is usually around 150–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the requirements of the university or journal.

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

  1. Abstract example
  2. When to write an abstract
  3. Aims
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. Keywords
  8. Tips for writing an abstract
  9. Frequently asked questions about abstracts

Abstract example

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

Example of an abstract

UK environmental organizations currently face a significant funding gap. It is well-established that representations of individual victims are more effective than abstract concepts like climate change when designing fundraising campaigns. This study aims to determine how such representations can be better targeted in order to increase donations. Specifically, it investigates whether the perceived social distance between victims and potential donors has an impact on donation intention. In this context, social distance is defined as the extent to which people feel they are in the same social group (in-group) or another social group (out-group) in relation to climate change victims.

To test the hypothesis that smaller social distance leads to higher donation intention , an online survey was distributed to potential donors based across the UK. Respondents were randomly divided into two conditions (large and small social distance) and asked to respond to one of two sets of fundraising material. Responses were analyzed using a two-sample t-test. The results showed a small effect in the opposite direction than hypothesized: large social distance was associated with higher donation intention than small social distance.

These results suggest that potential donors are more likely to respond to campaigns depicting victims that they perceive as socially distant from themselves. On this basis, the concept of social distance should be taken into account when designing environmental fundraising campaigns.

When to write an abstract

You will almost always have to include an abstract when writing a thesis, dissertation, research paper, or submitting an article to an academic journal.

In all cases, the abstract is the very last thing you write. It should be a completely independent, self-contained text, not an excerpt copied from your paper or dissertation. An abstract should be fully understandable on its own to someone who hasn’t read your full paper or related sources.

The easiest approach to writing an abstract is to imitate the structure of the larger work — think of it as a miniature version of your dissertation or research paper. In most cases, this means the abstract should contain four key elements.

How to Write an Abstract for a Scientific Paper

An abstract is a brief summary of your scientific research. There are two main forms you can use to write an abstract.

Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels.

If you’re preparing a research paper or grant proposal, you’ll need to know how to write an abstract. Here’s a look at what an abstract is and how to write one.

Abstract

An abstract is a concise summary of an experiment or research project. It should be brief — typically under 200 words. The purpose of the abstract is to summarize the research paper by stating the purpose of the research, the experimental method, the findings, and the conclusions.

How to Write an Abstract

The format you’ll use for the abstract depends on its purpose. If you’re writing for a specific publication or a class assignment, you’ll probably need to follow specific guidelines. If there isn’t a required format, you’ll need to choose from one of two possible types of abstracts.

Informational Abstracts

An informational abstract is a type of abstract used to communicate an experiment or lab report.

  • An informational abstract is like a mini-paper. Its length ranges from a paragraph to 1 to 2 pages, depending on the scope of the report. Aim for less than 10% the length of the full report.
  • Summarize all aspects of the report, including purpose, method, results, conclusions, and recommendations. There are no graphs, charts, tables, or images in an abstract. Similarly, an abstract does not include a bibliography or references.
  • Highlight important discoveries or anomalies. It’s okay if the experiment did not go as planned and necessary to state the outcome in the abstract.

Here is a good format to follow, in order, when writing an informational abstract. Each section is a sentence or two long:

  1. Motivation or Purpose: State why the subject is important or why anyone should care about the experiment and its results.
  2. Problem: State the hypothesis of the experiment or describe the problem you are trying to solve.
  3. Method: How did you test the hypothesis or try to solve the problem?
  4. Results: What was the outcome of the study? Did you support or reject a hypothesis? Did you solve a problem? How close were the results to what you expected? State-specific numbers.
  5. Conclusions: What is the significance of your findings? Do the results lead to an increase in knowledge, a solution that may be applied to other problems, etc.?

Need examples? The abstracts at PubMed.gov (National Institutes of Health database) are informational abstracts. A random example is this abstract on the effect of coffee consumption on Acute Coronary Syndrome.

Descriptive Abstracts

A descriptive abstract is an extremely brief description of the contents of a report. Its purpose is to tell the reader what to expect from the full paper.

How To Write an Abstract in 7 Steps (With an Example)

An abstract is a concise summary of a longer work, such as a dissertation or research paper, and allows readers to decide whether to read the full paper.

Abstracts should be written after the full paper is written, and are usually about 150-250 words and one to two paragraphs long.

An abstract should include a statement of the problem you are trying to solve and the purpose of your research, the methods used to find the solution, the results and the implications of your findings.

An effective and well-written abstract helps readers understand the scope of your paper and whether the information is relevant to their studies. An abstract is also useful for indexing in online databases.

In this article, we discuss what an abstract is, the different types of abstracts and how to write one. We also share an example of an abstract to help you draft your own.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a short and powerful summary that describes the focus of a research paper. It is originally written content—not an excerpt from the larger work—and usually contains keywords that are found throughout the full paper itself.

Abstracts generally contain four main elements:

Purpose: Clearly define the purpose and importance of your research. This includes a statement of the problem or issue.

Methodology: State the research methods used to answer your question.

Results: Summarize the main research results.

Conclusion: What are the implications of your research?

Abstracts are useful because they allow people who are considering reading an article to quickly decide if it is what they’re looking for or piques their interest. Online databases also may use abstracts for indexing purposes.

When to write an abstract

Although the abstract appears as the first part of your paper, it should be written after you have completed your full paper. It should be able to stand on its own as a summary of your full paper, and someone who hasn’t read your paper or related sources should be able to understand it

The abstract should be on its own page, and generally goes after the title page and acknowledgments, but before the table of contents.

How to write an abstract

Here are the basic steps to follow when writing an abstract:

1. Write your paper

Since the abstract is a summary of a research paper, the first step is to write your paper

. Even if you know what you will be including in your paper, it’s always best to save your abstract for the end so you can accurately summarize the findings you describe in the paper.

2. Review the requirements

If you’re writing for publication in a journal or as part of a work project, there may be specific requirements regarding length or style. Review any requirements before you start writing the abstract.

3. Consider your audience and publication

Abstracts are designed to help readers quickly determine if they want to continue reading your work, so it’s important to understand who will be reading the abstract as you write it. For example, should it be written in language appropriate for someone in academics or the medical industry or does it need to be understood by a lay reader?

4. Explain the problem

This refers to the specific problem that your research addresses or tries to solve. Identify your main claim or argument and the scope of your study, whether it’s something specific or a general problem.

5. Explain your methods

Next, you’ll explain the methods you took to accomplish your study, including the research you conducted, variables you included and your approach. Include any evidence you had to support your assertion.

6. Describe your results

Share the general findings and answers you reached as a result of your study. If you can’t succinctly summarize all of your results, you can simply highlight the most important findings.

7. Give a conclusion

Finalize your summary by addressing the meaning of your findings and the importance of the paper. While you will use a conclusion in both types of abstracts, only in the informative abstract will you discuss the implications of your work.

What is IMRaD structure?

IMRaD structure is a common format for scientific articles. IMRaD stands for:

Introduction

In the introduction, you show that you are knowledgeable about the field of study and the existing research that already exists within the field. Your introduction should include a summary of the existing research, your thesis statement, a theory (if relevant) and an introduction to the current situation.

Method

This chapter should show how you applied valid and reliable methods to reach your results. Here you will explain your research, professional intervention and what you did or did not do.

Results

The largest portion of your IMRaD paper should be devoted to the results and data you uncovered. These statements should be written matter-of-factly and clearly.

Discussion

This chapter is where you discuss the results of the study or project, make comparisons with other studies, discuss whether more research is needed or make recommendations that could be applied in practice.

Tips for writing an abstract

Here are some tips to help you write your abstract:

Stick to the word limit. Abstracts are usually 100-250 words long.

Follow the specific formatting requirements for your abstract.

Provide a statement of what the paper found rather than what it will ask or explore.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and write one to two setences that summarize each section. Use this as a framework to put your abstract together.

Include keywords from your full paper in your abstract.

Read other abstracts and use them as a framework for structure and style.

Reference specific details of your findings.

What to avoid when writing an abstract

When you are writing your abstract, you should avoid:

Extensively referring to other works

Defining any terms

Adding information that isn’t contained in the larger work

Adding unnecessary filler words and obscure jargon

Example abstract

Here is an example abstract you can reference as you draft your own:

Andrea Messing, “Insect Repellent Potential of Peppermint Essential Oil.”

The peppermint plant, also known as Mentha balsamea Wild, is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. One of the popular uses for peppermint—aside from its use as a dietary supplement or health application—is its potential to repel insects.

This study focuses on the development of insect repellent using peppermint oil. 25 grams of fresh peppermint was collected, crushed and placed in a glass jar. The jar was then filled with olive oil, and the oil was allowed to steep in a warm location for two days. After two days, the oil was strained using a folded cheesecloth. The extracted oil was gathered and diluted 70% in three separate containers to be transferred into spray bottles.

Testing involved spraying the sample into a glass jar with Anopheles juidthae (common mosquitoes) and compared with the effect of a commercial insect repellant. This study challenges the belief that synthetic insect repellents are more effective than all-natural, essential oil options.

Effective Research Abstract Examples

You’ve put a lot of time into your research paper. But, those thousands of words can get a little daunting. Break your research paper and questions into a quick, easy-to-read highlight. The abstract of your paper provides a quick rundown of the aim, method and results of your research. See how to write an effective research abstract by exploring several examples.

woman working on research paper

What Is a Research Abstract?

A professional or academic research paper abstract provides the gist of the paper without having to read the whole thing.

It breaks down not only why the research was completed, but also the findings and what those findings mean. This is a great way to synthesize thousands of words of research into an easy-to-scan paragraph. It also offers a perfect way for researchers to highlight key points. You can even use abstracts to determine if a research study will be a helpful source.

Components of a Research Abstract

Research abstracts are created in high school, colleges and even at the professional level. They are typically about one paragraph (about 100 to 150 words) in length and include:

  • Aim of the paper and topic
  • Data, research and methods used
  • Findings
  • Significance

Real-World Research Abstracts

To get a good understanding of what makes a good abstract, it can be helpful to look at the best. To really sink your teeth into formatting effective abstracts, check out a real-world abstract example for a report and research paper.

Video Game Addiction and College Performance Among Males

This study explored the pattern of video game usage and video game addiction among male college students and examined how video game addiction was related to expectations of college engagement, college grade point average (GPA), and on-campus drug and alcohol violations. Participants were 477 male, first year students at a liberal arts college. In the week before the start of classes, participants were given two surveys: one of expected college engagement, and the second of video game usage, including a measure of video game addiction. Results suggested that video game addiction is (a) negatively correlated with expected college engagement, (b) negatively correlated with college GPA, even when controlling for high school GPA, and (c) negatively correlated with drug and alcohol violations that occurred during the first year in college. Results are discussed in terms of implications for male students’ engagement and success in college, and in terms of the construct validity of video game addiction.

In this video game addiction research abstract, you’ll see that the information follows a formal structure.

For example, the first sentence provides the topic of the research. It then breaks down who was in the study and how the study was conducted. The third and final section discusses the correlation of video games and college engagement, along with the validity of video game addiction. You’ll also notice the past tense wording since the abstract is created after the research is finished.

The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students

In the cell phone abstract example, the beginning breaks out the background information for the study before going into what was studied. In the middle, you can see the parameters that were used for the research. It concludes with the findings and significance. Not only is it keyword rich, but the abstract provides only the facts of the research and stays true to the research.

Original Sample Abstract for a Project

College or high school level research might be on a lower level than a professional paper. View this original abstract for a high school research project on sleep to see how it is still effective.

This research paper analyzes the correlation that exists between sleep and high school student performance in class. To answer this question, we compared academic performance against questionnaires that detailed the sleep schedules of 122 high school students. Our results showed that there was a positive correlation between poor academic performance and getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night. The results also revealed that poor sleep patterns can lead to concentration and behavior issues. The implications of this study could be used to promote high schoolers sleeping at least 8 hours a night.

This original abstract clarifies the aim of the research to test sleep and student performance. The method included the questionnaires, while the results clarified the correlation between the two factors being studied. The significance of how these results could be used rounds out the abstract. This offers the reader a clear outline of what they will find if they read the student research project paper.

Providing a Snippet

Abstracts are a great way for you to provide an overview of your research to readers. It highlights what is being researched, what methods were used, and the results of the study. To ace that abstract, think about pumping up your academic writing skills.

10 Good Abstract Examples That Will Kickstart Your Brain

Let’s face it, most of us are used to writing essays and research papers. We’ve written them throughout our entire academic careers. The abstract, on the other hand, is likely a relatively new endeavor.

Without a lot of practice and experience writing abstracts, it can be pretty daunting. Heck, it’s enough to leave your fingers paralyzed and leave you staring at a blank screen.

Worse yet, it might make you want to abandon your work altogether and find something more interesting to do—like watch cat videos for the next hour.

Don’t give up hope yet! If you’re struggling to get started with writing your abstract, here are 10 good abstract examples that will kickstart your brain.

10 Good Abstract Examples That Will Kickstart Your Brain

The 10 examples I’ve included here are all published, professionally written abstracts. While some of them are a little more technical than others, they all follow the basic rules of what it takes to write a good abstract.

If you want a quick refresher on writing abstracts, read How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper.

(And if you’re just getting started on your research paper, I recommend starting here instead: How to Write a Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide.)

Abstract example #1

Video Game Addiction and College Performance Among Males: Results from a 1 Year Longitudinal Study

abstract examples

The abstract:

“This study explored the pattern of video game usage and video game addiction among male college students and examined how video game addiction was related to expectations of college engagement, college grade point average (GPA), and on-campus drug and alcohol violations. Participants were 477 male, first year students at a liberal arts college. In the week before the start of classes, participants were given two surveys: one of expected college engagement, and the second of video game usage, including a measure of video game addiction. Results suggested that video game addiction is (a) negatively correlated with expected college engagement, (b) negatively correlated with college GPA, even when controlling for high school GPA, and (c) negatively correlated with drug and alcohol violations that occurred during the first year in college. Results are discussed in terms of implications for male students’ engagement and success in college, and in terms of the construct validity of video game addiction.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

This abstract doesn’t specifically state why the problem is worth researching, though it is implied as the study focuses on addiction.

Also, this abstract doesn’t overtly state the implications. It states only that the paper discusses the implications. While in most cases it’s better to briefly summarize the results of the study, sometimes it’s impossible to summarize the information in only a few sentences.

If that’s the case, it’s best to include a statement, as this abstract does, simply to indicate that the results and/or implications are discussed within the research paper.

Abstract example #2

Study Skills and their Correlation with Academic Satisfaction and Achievement among Medical and Pharmacy Students in Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences (2013)

The abstract:

Introduction: Study skills and students’ satisfaction with their performance positively affect their academic achievement. The current research was carried out to investigate the correlation of study skills with academic achievement among the medical and pharmacy students in 2013.

Methods: This descriptive-analytical study was conducted on 148 students of basic medical sciences and pharmacy through convenience sampling. Data were collected by a valid and reliable questionnaire, consisting of two sections: Demographic information and questions about daily study hours, study skills in six domains, and students’ satisfaction with study skills. Collected data sets were analyzed by SPSS-16 software.

Results: In total, 10.9% of students were reported to have favorable study skills. The minimum score was found for preparation for examination domain. Also, a significantly positive correlation was observed between students’ study skills and their Grade Point Average (GPA) of previous term (P=0.001, r=0.269) and satisfaction with study skills (P=0.001, r=0.493).

Conclusion: The findings indicated that students’ study skills need to be improved. Given the significant relationship between study skills and GPA, as an index of academic achievement, and satisfaction, it is necessary to promote the students’ study skills. These skills are suggested to be reinforced, with more emphasis on weaker domains.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

This abstract uses headings instead of writing all the information in one paragraph. In some ways, it can be easier to use headings because you don’t need transitions to link sections.

However, you should always check with your professor to make sure that this is an acceptable format for your assignment.

Abstract example #3

The Sandra Bland story: How social media has exposed the harsh reality of police brutality

good abstract examples

The abstract:

“This quantitative research study was conducted to illustrate the relationship(s) between social media use and its effect on police brutality awareness. In 2015, social media was used to assist in revealing an act of impulsive police brutality on an adult black woman in Waller County, Texas. This act was one of a few examples of a substantial number of law enforcement officers around the United States and other countries that are abusing their power by using excessive force against citizens without penalty. The study found there is a relationship between social media use and its impact on police brutality. The study also found that social media gave a voice to people who may have feared isolation and/or negative consequences against police brutality. Over 100 undergraduates at Bowie State University in Maryland completed a survey questionnaire instrument. The instrument consisted of 10; of which 2 were directly related to the hypothesis. The author’s result of data analyses presented that there is a significant relationship between independent and dependent variables.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

In this abstract, the results are discussed before the methods—usually it makes sense to write it the other way around. If you’re thinking of doing the same, you’ll need to check with your professor to see if you must write the elements of your abstract in a specific order.

Abstract example #4

An Examination of Concussion Injury Rates in Various Models of Football Helmets in NCAA Football Athletes

The abstract:

“While newer, advanced helmet models have been designed with the intentions of decreasing concussions, very little research exists on injury rates in various football helmets at the collegiate level. The aim of this study was to examine concussion injury rates in various models of football helmets in collegiate football athletes. In addition, to compare injury rates of newer, advanced football helmets to older, traditional helmets among collegiate football athletes, a total of 209 concussions and 563,701 AEs (athlete-exposures) Among 2,107 collegiate football athletes in seven helmet models were included in the analyses. Concussion injury rates revealed that the Riddell Revolution® had the highest rate of 0.41 concussions per 1,000 AEs. The Schutt ION 4D TM helmet had the lowest rate of 0.25 concussions per 1,000 AEs. These newer helmet models did not significantly differ from one another (P=0.74), however all models significantly differed from the older, traditional helmet model (P<0.001). The findings of this study suggest that concussion rates do not differ between newer and more advanced helmet models. More importantly, there are currently no helmets available to prevent concussions from occurring in football athletes.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

Do you know what the research paper is about by only reading the abstract? Of course you do! This abstract clearly summarizes all components of a traditional abstract and makes it easy for readers to understand the focus of the research.

Abstract example #5

Diet and obesity in Los Angeles County 2007–2012: Is there a measurable effect of the 2008 “Fast-Food Ban”?

abstract examples

The abstract:

“We evaluate the impact of the “Los Angeles Fast-Food Ban”, a zoning regulation that has restricted opening/remodeling of standalone fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles since 2008. Food retail permits issued after the ban are more often for small food/convenience stores and less often for larger restaurants not part of a chain in South Los Angeles compared to other areas; there are no significant differences in the share of new fast-food chain outlets, other chain restaurants, or large food markets. About 10% of food outlets are new since the regulation, but there is little evidence that the composition has changed differentially across areas. Data from the California Health Interview Survey show that fast-food consumption and overweight/obesity rates have increased from 2007 to 2011/2012 in all areas. The increase in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity since the ban has been significantly larger in South Los Angeles than elsewhere. A positive development has been a drop in soft drink consumption since 2007, but that drop is of similar magnitude in all areas.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

This abstract begins with the word “we.” In many cases, use of first person isn’t acceptable. (Your prof may ask you to avoid first person in your own abstract.) If you were the person (or part of a group) who did the actual research, first person is typically okay if you conducted primary research.

This abstract was submitted to a specific journal, so it’s clear that submission guidelines permitted use of first person.

Abstract example #6

The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students

abstract examples

“Singularity University NL: Man versus Machine – Biology versus Technology” by Sebastiaan ter Burg, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

The abstract:

What’s notable about this abstract:

“A hierarchical regression (R2 = .449) demonstrated…” Yeah, I’m not sure what that means, either. If you’re a math expert, you can certainly write the results of your research in this way, but in most cases, you won’t be required to write in such technical terms.

Abstract example #7

Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood

The abstract:

“The present study experimentally investigated the effect of Facebook usage on women’s mood and body image, whether these effects differ from an online fashion magazine, and whether appearance comparison tendency moderates any of these effects. Female participants (N = 112) were randomly assigned to spend 10 min browsing their Facebook account, a magazine website, or an appearance-neutral control website before completing state measures of mood, body dissatisfaction, and appearance discrepancies (weight-related, and face, hair, and skin-related). Participants also completed a trait measure of appearance comparison tendency. Participants who spent time on Facebook reported being in a more negative mood than those who spent time on the control website. Furthermore, women high in appearance comparison tendency reported more facial, hair, and skin-related discrepancies after Facebook exposure than exposure to the control website. Given its popularity, more research is needed to better understand the impact that Facebook has on appearance concerns.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

This abstract clearly summarizes the research process and results of the study. In this case, the study is inconclusive, and the writer feels that more research is required. Remember, your study might not always produce the results you anticipated.

Abstract example #8

The Process of Adapting a Universal Dating Abuse Prevention Program to Adolescents Exposed to Domestic Violence

abstract examples

The abstract:

“Adolescents exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of dating abuse, yet no evaluated dating abuse prevention programs have been designed specifically for this high-risk population. This article describes the process of adapting Families for Safe Dates (FSD), an evidenced-based universal dating abuse prevention program, to this high-risk population, including conducting 12 focus groups and 107 interviews with the target audience. FSD includes six booklets of dating abuse prevention information, and activities for parents and adolescents to do together at home. We adapted FSD for mothers who were victims of domestic violence, but who no longer lived with the abuser, to do with their adolescents who had been exposed to the violence. Through the adaptation process, we learned that families liked the program structure and valued being offered the program and that some of our initial assumptions about this population were incorrect. We identified practices and beliefs of mother victims and attributes of these adolescents that might increase their risk of dating abuse that we had not previously considered. In addition, we learned that some of the content of the original program generated negative family interactions for some. The findings demonstrate the utility of using a careful process to adapt evidence-based interventions (EBIs) to cultural sub-groups, particularly the importance of obtaining feedback on the program from the target audience. Others can follow this process to adapt EBIs to groups other than the ones for which the original EBI was designed.”

What’s notable about this abstract:

This abstract provides a clear synopsis of why this research is needed (the fact that no programs have been specifically designed for adolescents exposed to domestic violence).

This abstract also uses first person. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re using first person, make sure it’s allowed by your instructor and appropriate to the type of research you’ve conducted.

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;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

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:

  1. the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  2. the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  3. what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  4. the main reason(s), the exigency, the rationale, the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  5. your research and/or analytical methods
  6. your main findings, results, or arguments
  7. the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

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.]

Note: This journal calls this paragraph at the beginning of the article a “Summary,” rather than an “Abstract.” This journal provides multiple ways for readers to grasp the content of this research article quickly. In addition to this paragraph-length prose summary, this article also has an effective graphical abstract, a bulleted list of highlights list at the beginning of the article, and a two-sentence “In Brief” summary.

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

From the sciences

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.

Abstract

“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.

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)

How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper + Examples

Abstract writing may seem easy for the most part, but it is a vital inclusion in a well-written research paper. They usually contain all the significant bits of information written in the main paper but in a more precise and briefer format. If you are writing a research paper abstract, your professor may provide you with specific guidelines on organizing your abstract. But in most cases, you are left to create the overall idea and determine how your abstract turns out by yourself.

Before giving the steps on writing abstracts for research papers, let’s briefly get into what an abstract entails.

What is an Abstract in a Research Paper?

An abstract for research paper is a summary of the entire written piece. Its functions are to precisely report the objective and outcome of the research so that the readers fully understand the research paper requirements.

How to Write Abstract for Research Paper

An abstract allows readers to get the essence of your paper swiftly so they can decide whether to read the full work. It also gives guidelines to readers on how to follow detailed analysis, arguments, and information expressed in your full paper. Below are the steps involved in writing an abstract for a research paper.

An abstract is typically the last thing you need to write in your research paper. This is because an abstract is meant to be written based on the direct summary of the entire research paper. If you write your abstract initially, you run the risk of missing some vital points expressed in the paper.

Depending on where the research paper was assigned, you need to review the requirements to ensure you are writing in the correct structure, length, or style. This ensures you accurately write your abstract.

  • Review your audience and publication

Abstracts are primarily designed to help readers quickly learn if the main piece of writing is what they want to read. Thus, considering your audience and the publication environment is a good way to ensure you capture a good amount of readers.

Identifying the type of abstract you need to write is another important step in writing abstracts for a research paper. There are two major types of abstracts: the descriptive and informative types. If you have been given the type of abstract to write, you should stick to it, and if you haven’t, you can choose the one you would prefer.

A good description of the problem your research seeks to provide a solution to is needed when writing an abstract. You have to identify your main arguments and describe their general issues.

Here, you will need to explain the methods taken or employed in your research or study. This usually involves the type of research you conducted, your approach, and the various variables involved.

This is usually included in an informative abstract. Here you share your general findings, handy solutions, or answers you have gotten from your research and study.

Here, you finalize your research paper summary by discussing the meaning behind your findings and expressing the importance of your study and research. Conclusions are required in both types of abstracts.

Abstract Format for Research Paper

The abstract format for a research paper usually includes:

  1. The background information for research and the topic under study
  2. The statement of the problem your research paper seeks to address
  3. Previous research conducted
  4. The main objectives of the research
  5. The study and analytic method involved
  6. Results of the research
  7. Significance of the findings of the research
  8. And the conclusion

Research Paper Abstract Example APA

Abstract of research papers written in APA format is written on their page and in the same order as the main paper.

Research Paper Abstract Example MLA

An abstract written in MLA style is typically aimed at summarising results, objectives, and the paper’s conclusion. The MLA style abstract is the most popular and commonly employed abstract style in art and humanities fields.

Here is a good research paper abstract example:

Homicide remains the most serious crime in society. Since it is considered an abhorrent crime, homicide investigation remains a serious aspect of anyone in the criminal justice field. Despite this, not all homicides have been solved. Some of these homicides and the subsequent investigations have reached legendary status. One of these cases is the murder of a young woman in Los Angeles in 1947. The name Elizabeth Short is not well known to individuals today. However, the posthumous epithet she was given is well known. She is known as The Black Dahlia. He tragic and brutal murder remains unsolved, despite a serious investigation. The investigation focused on a number of men in her life, including a married man whom she was seeing. Evidence was collected at the scene. However, in the years before forensic evidence, not enough was known to help solve the murder. Her death remains shrouded in mystery, and the brutality of her murder still invites curiosity.

A good abstract should be independently intelligible, leaving the reader to get all the information required about your main paper and whether it is worth reading. Abstract writing is a lot easier when you get the hang of it. You could easily write a top-notch abstract for your research paper with constant practice and research.

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