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A short Guide for writing an Abstract

The skill of writing an abstract, more specifically an academic abstract, largely relates to the skill of summarizing. You are expected to identify the main points of your (or, in several cases, someone else’s) academic paper, putting them together, then presenting them in a version much shorter than the original document.

Before you start, it is worth noting what an abstract’s common purpose is. Usually, an abstract is written to be placed in catalogues or online lists, so anyone who is prospecting to use a thesis, for research materials or otherwise, may have a quick look to an abstract rather than having to read the whole document to know what the general content and issue is. So there: an abstract is more of a preview than a conclusive summary. A general trait of a preview is that it’s brief, informative, and interesting all at the same time. This is what you must try to accomplish in your abstract. Too short of an abstract may significantly reduce its informativeness, while too long means it will be more likely to bore someone reading them. Below 100 words is usually seen as short, while below 50 words is just pushing it. While that, keep your abstract under 300 words, and make 400 your critical limit.

It’s usually easier to keep your abstract over the minimum than over the maximum, though. Once you start writing and summarizing, the dense content of your academic should usually make sure that you have a lot to write about.

Once you begin to re-read your paper in an attempt to summarize them, keep note of what is generally contained in an abstract, namely the author’s purpose/motivation of the document, the scope, that is what subjects the reader may expect the paper to talk about, the method/approach, or how the author provides proof and datas for his/her arguments, the result, the author’s recommendations/opinions (also remember that in order to keep your abstract short, only include the most significant and conclusive of the author’s words).

The conclusion, as an exception, is more optional than the other points. You can choose to not include it in a promotional abstract to entice the reader of the abstract to go and get the real document and read the rest of it.

When you actually start composing your abstract, there is something else to do if your abstract is to be posted on the internet: put in as many relevant keywords as you can think of inside. The reason for this is it helps people who use search engines to look for publications of a particular topic.

Lastly, when you have a rough but complete draft, determine whether it already represents your whole original document. Are there any important points that you left out? Check if there are vague information in your abstract. Are there any words/ideas that you think would be unfamiliar to the general reader, unless you explain them further? If there are then there is a high chance that there is an element of your paper that you left out.