Ever been to a Ben & Jerry’s, undecided over the flavour of ice cream you are in the mood for? The ever-smiling assistants at the counter never dither from offering you a spoonful of their goodness to sample readily, do they? Sampling ice cream at your favourite Ben & Jerry’s is no different from writing an abstract. They both present a sneak-peek into what is to come.
The same goes for teaser launches. Case in point: MCU’s super clever move to launch the Avengers: Endgame teaser at Super Bowl 2019. Marvel hit the nail right in the head by bringing out a teaser that gives away just enough to make you want to grab first-day-first-show tickets. Marvel is cool w ith their marketing tactics. Be like Marvel (when it comes to writing an abstract in style)!
Your abstract is the teaser/ trailer of the research. So, make sure you know how to create one to perfection that leaves the audience (read: your profs) intrigued and in awe of your study, so they want to know more! Read on, and you will find the most helpful tips on writing an abstract to perfection.
Types of abstracts
Even though it may seem like a two-page document in the face of hundreds of pages of research, great abstracts can often substitute for the main study. Writing an impressive abstract means giving the reader key insights into the main study without giving away too much. You got to keep them interested enough in the research to want to know more. However, you should ideally be aiming for your abstract to function as a stand-alone slice of the main study. Hence, it should contain all the major elements of your study.
Here are the three primary kinds of abstracts in academia.
- Descriptive abstracts: These are more of a summary of your research. You won’t be getting more than 100 words to sum up your research for a descriptive abstract. It outlines the main research questions, briefly touches upon the methodology and defines the scope of the research. It should not contain discussions on the findings or prior research in the area.
abstracts: These are the most popular forms of
abstracts in academia. It usually consists of 200 to 300 words and contains all
the essential arguments, findings, evidence and conclusions of the study. The
length of the abstract might vary depending on the research as well as
specialisation, but it must contain in-depth information about the study.
- Critical abstracts: Relatively uncommon, critical abstracts are only used for systematic reviews and literature functions. It is used to critique a source of literature on a specific area of study. It can contain critical findings and conclusions, along with recommendations and suggestions for further study.
No matter the type of abstract that you need to write, you need a proper plan on writing one to perfection. Read on, and you will find some helpful tips on writing an abstract that manages to floor your professors and peers alike!
Must-know tips to write an impressive abstract
- Prepping for the abstract
- Identify your audience
Understand who your audience is. The tone, pitch, contents, and structure of the abstract needs to be determined accordingly. For example, the abstract for a journal will be different from the one that you turn in along with your dissertation. Always keep your audience in mind before you start planning for your abstract.
- Prepare a schedule
Create a schedule for the entire process. From gathering relevant data to selecting the key findings that you wish to include in the abstract, it needs to have them all. Allot specific times for each task that you need to accomplish to write and revise an abstract. The trick, however, is to make sure that you stick to it.
- Know what you must include
No need to bring in the frills here. Include the main purpose of the research along with the primary research questions. Highlight the methods deployed to conduct the study, and delineate the key findings concisely. Brevity is the best companion of a well-written abstract, so make sure you do not ramble on.
- Give credit where it’s due
If you have authored the research paper along with others, never forget to mention their contributions in the abstract. You should always give credit where it is due in academia. Include the names and contributions of all the co-authors along with your own when planning the abstract.
- Writing the abstract
- Focus on the title
The main purpose of the title of your abstract is to let the readers know what to expect from your study. It should briefly summarise the essential takeaway message for the readers. Consider the title as that of a newspaper headline. You can use this to pique the readers’ fancy, so go for it!
- Focus on the background
Within 200 words (roughly), you need to go over the background of the study in the introduction. Talk about why you took up the study, delineate the research objectives and present the overall significance of the research in academia.
- Describe the methodology
For this section, you need to discuss the methods you applied while conducting the study. You need to show how you tested the hypothesis, mention the sample size and time frame of the study. Do not forget to include relevant details about the study like data collection methods, outcome variables, and significance values.
- Discuss results and findings
This portion of the abstract mentions the most significant findings of the study. The interpretation of the results must also find a place in this portion of the abstract. You should also steer clear from making personal observations or subjective statements in this part of the abstract. Instead, focus solely on the findings and their interpretations along with data analysis details.
- Add a list of references
Top off the abstract with a non-exhaustive list of references. Mention all the external sources that you have used to write the abstract (not the main research, mind you) in this list. Follow the specific citation and referencing style that you have used for the main paper in your abstract as well.
- Revising the abstract
Revise, edit, proofread, repeat – make this your mantra after you have finished writing the abstract. It is advisable that you take up the revision and editing task a few days after you have finished writing. This helps you maintain an objective stance to the study, and lets you identify mistakes more quickly. Eliminate all structural, grammatical or punctuation issues in the abstract before turning it in. Proofread abstracts always score better, so never turn in an unedited abstract!
Do’s and don’ts of abstract writing
Now that you know all about the essential tips to write an impressive abstract, here’s a table of do’s and don’ts that you can keep handy. After you are done with the abstract, go through the table once to check for any editing or structuring error that you may have overlooked earlier. If your abstract passes the following litmus test of do’s and don’ts, you can turn it in after one final round of revisions!
|Highlight the main themes and ideas present in your study||Don’t move beyond the scope of your study|
|Illustrate the importance of your study for better comprehension of the disciplines in academia||Steer clear from citing too many external sources and stick to only the most relevant ones|
|Use keywords or highlighting phrases so readers can find the same online sans much hassles||Avoid too much technical jargon, working definitions, and acronyms|
|Provide enough details for the readers to independently decide whether they want to read further into your study minus any value-based researcher bias||Don’t detail all statistical methods and tests used in the research|
|Use topic sentences and linking sentences for maintaining the rational flow of the study||Don’t turn in an abstract riddled with grammatical, punctuation and other proofreading errors|
Table 01: Do’s and don’ts of an abstract
We want to watch a movie only if we find the trailer worth our time and fancy. It is the trailer that shows us a sneak-peek of what we can expect from the film. Since your abstract is like the teaser or trailer to the final paper, treat it with the utmost regard.
Some academicians are of the opinion that a well-crafted abstract draws its main elements from the study itself. So, it is better to finish writing your research paper before you prepare the final draft for your abstract. Some get it done with at the very outset. Whichever way you choose to go, make sure that you keep the above-mentioned tips in mind. Proceed with a clearly drawn-out plan to write the abstract, and go through the do’s and don’ts very carefully before you put the pen to paper. Give it a thorough revision after you are done, and you will be good to go! Here’s wishing you all the best for that abstract!
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