Abstract In Term Paper Sample

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How to Write an Abstract

Four Parts:Getting Your Abstract StartedWriting Your AbstractFormatting Your AbstractSample AbstractsCommunity Q&A

If you need to write an abstract for an academic or scientific paper, don't panic! Your abstract is simply a short, stand-alone summary of the work or paper that others can use as an overview.[1] An abstract describes what you do in your essay, whether it’s a scientific experiment or a literary analysis paper. It should help your reader understand the paper and help people searching for this paper decide whether it suits their purposes prior to reading. To write an abstract, finish your paper first, then type a summary that identifies the purpose, problem, methods, results, and conclusion of your work. After you get the details down, all that's left is to format it correctly. Since an abstract is only a summary of the work you've already done, it's easy to accomplish!


Part 1

Getting Your Abstract Started

  1. 1

    Write your paper first. Even though an abstract goes at the beginning of the work, it acts as a summary of your entire paper. Rather than introducing your topic, it will be an overview of everything you write about in your paper. Save writing your abstract for last, after you have already finished your paper.
    • A thesis and an abstract are entirely different things. The thesis of a paper introduces the main idea or question, while the abstract works to review the entirety of the paper, including the methods and results.
    • Even if you think that you know what your paper is going to be about, always save the abstract for last. You will be able to give a much more accurate summary if you do just that - summarize what you've already written.
  2. 2

    Review and understand any requirements for writing your abstract. The paper you’re writing probably has specific guidelines and requirements, whether it’s for publication in a journal, submission in a class, or part of a work project. Before you start writing, refer to the rubric or guidelines you were presented with to identify important issues to keep in mind.
    • Is there a maximum or minimum length?
    • Are there style requirements?
    • Are you writing for an instructor or a publication?
  3. 3

    Consider your audience. Abstracts are written to help readers find your work. For example, in scientific journals, abstracts allow readers to quickly decide whether the research discussed is relevant to their own interests. Abstracts also help your readers get at your main argument quickly. Keep the needs of your readers in mind as you write the abstract.[2]
    • Will other academics in your field read this abstract?
    • Should it be accessible to a lay reader or somebody from another field?
  4. 4

    Determine the type of abstract you must write. Although all abstracts accomplish essentially the same goal, there are two primary styles of abstract: descriptive and informative. You may have been assigned a specific style, but if you weren’t, you will have to determine which is right for you. Typically, informative abstracts are used for much longer and technical research while descriptive abstracts are best for shorter papers.[3]
    • Descriptive abstracts explain the purpose, goal, and methods of your research but leave out the results section. These are typically only 100-200 words.
    • Informative abstracts are like a condensed version of your paper, giving an overview of everything in your research including the results. These are much longer than descriptive abstracts, and can be anywhere from a single paragraph to a whole page long.[4]
    • The basic information included in both styles of abstract is the same, with the main difference being that the results are only included in an informative abstract, and an informative abstract is much longer than a descriptive one.
    • A critical abstract is not often used, but it may be required in some courses. A critical abstract accomplishes the same goals as the other types of abstract, but will also relate the study or work being discussed to the writer’s own research. It may critique the research design or methods.[5]

Part 2

Writing Your Abstract

  1. 1

    Identify your purpose. You're writing about a correlation between lack of lunches in schools and poor grades. So what? Why does this matter? The reader wants to know why your research is important, and what the purpose of it is. Start off your descriptive abstract by considering the following questions:
    • Why did you decide to do this study or project?
    • How did you conduct your research?
    • What did you find?
    • Why is this research and your findings important?
    • Why should someone read your entire essay?
  2. 2

    Explain the problem at hand. Abstracts state the “problem” behind your work. Think of this as the specific issue that your research or project addresses. You can sometimes combine the problem with your motivation, but it is best to be clear and separate the two.[6]
    • What problem is your research trying to better understand or solve?
    • What is the scope of your study - a general problem, or something specific?
    • What is your main claim or argument?
  3. 3

    Explain your methods. Motivation - check. Problem - check. Methods? Now is the part where you give an overview of how you accomplished your study. If you did your own work, include a description of it here. If you reviewed the work of others, it can be briefly explained.[7]
    • Discuss your own research including the variables and your approach.
    • Describe the evidence you have to support your claim
    • Give an overview of your most important sources.
  4. 4

    Describe your results (informative abstract only). This is where you begin to differentiate your abstract between a descriptive and an informative abstract. In an informative abstract, you will be asked to provide the results of your study. What is it that you found?[8]
    • What answer did you reach from your research or study?
    • Was your hypothesis or argument supported?
    • What are the general findings?
  5. 5

    Give your conclusion. This should finish up your summary and give closure to your abstract. In it, address the meaning of your findings as well as the importance of your overall paper. This format of having a conclusion can be used in both descriptive and informative abstracts, but you will only address the following questions in an informative abstract.[9]
    • What are the implications of your work?
    • Are your results general or very specific?

Part 3

Formatting Your Abstract

  1. 1

    Keep it in order. There are specific questions your abstract must provide answers for, but the answers must be kept in order as well. Ideally, it should mimic the overall format of your essay, with a general ‘introduction, ‘body,’ and ‘conclusion.’
    • Many journals have specific style guides for abstracts. If you’ve been given a set of rules or guidelines, follow them to the letter.[10]
  2. 2

    Provide helpful information. Unlike a topic paragraph, which may be intentionally vague, an abstract should provide a helpful explanation of your paper and your research. Word your abstract so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about, and isn’t left hanging with ambiguous references or phrases.
    • Avoid using direct acronyms or abbreviations in the abstract, as these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader. That uses up precious writing room, and should generally be avoided.
    • If your topic is about something well-known enough, you can reference the names of people or places that your paper focuses on.
    • Don’t include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract. These take up too much room and usually aren’t what your readers want from an abstract anyway.[11]
  3. 3

    Write it from scratch. Your abstract is a summary, yes, but it should be written completely separate from your paper. Don't copy and paste direct quotes from yourself, and avoid simply paraphrasing your own sentences from elsewhere in your writing. Write your abstract using completely new vocabulary and phrases to keep it interesting and redundancy-free.

  4. 4

    Use key phrases and words. If your abstract is to be published in a journal, you want people to be able to find it easily. In order to do so, readers will search for certain queries on online databases in hopes that papers, like yours, will show up. Try to use 5-10 important words or phrases key to your research in your abstract.[12]
    • For example, if you’re writing a paper on the cultural differences in perceptions of schizophrenia, be sure to use words like “schizophrenia,” “cross-cultural,” “culture-bound,” “mental illness,” and “societal acceptance.” These might be search terms people use when looking for a paper on your subject.
  5. 5

    Use real information. You want to draw people in with your abstract; it is the hook that will encourage them to continue reading your paper. However, do not reference ideas or studies that you don’t include in your paper in order to do this. Citing material that you don’t use in your work will mislead readers and ultimately lower your viewership.

  6. 6

    Avoid being too specific. An abstract is a summary, and as such should not refer to specific points of your research other than possibly names or locations. You should not need to explain or define any terms in your abstract, a reference is all that is needed. Avoid being too explicit in your summary and stick to a very broad overview of your work.[13]
    • Make sure to avoid jargon. This specialized vocabulary may not be understood by general readers in your area and can cause confusion.[14]
  7. 7

    Be sure to do basic revisions. The abstract is a piece of writing that, like any other, should be revised before being completed. Check it over for grammatical and spelling errors and make sure it is formatted properly.

  8. 8

    Get feedback from someone. Having someone else read your abstract is a great way for you to know whether you’ve summarized your research well. Try to find someone who doesn’t know everything about your project. Ask him or her to read your abstract and then tell you what s/he understood from it. This will let you know whether you’ve adequately communicated your key points in a clear manner.[15]
    • Consulting with your professor, a colleague in your field, or a tutor or writing center consultant can be very helpful. If you have these resources available to you, use them!
    • Asking for assistance can also let you know about any conventions in your field. For example, it is very common to use the passive voice (“experiments were performed”) in the sciences. However, in the humanities active voice is usually preferred.

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Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • What is the difference between an abstract and an introduction?

    wikiHow Contributor

    An abstract explains the aim of the paper in very brief, (the methods, results, etc.). In the introduction, you write the background of your topic, explain the purpose of the paper more broadly, and explain the hypothesis, and the research question(s).

  • Can an abstract be a paper written or a soft copy?

    wikiHow Contributor

    An abstract can either be written, soft copy or any other form with words, it's the content that matters.

  • Which tense should be used to write an abstract?

    wikiHow Contributor

    In all the description of what you did, a simple past tense is best; since you're describing what you did, neither present nor future would be appropriate.

  • Should I cite references in my abstract?

    wikiHow Contributor

  • How do I calculate the number of words in my abstract?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Your word processing software probably includes a word count feature, consult the documentation. If you're doing it by hand, approximate the number of words per line (very roughly). Then count the number of lines, and multiply it by the number of words per line. It gives a fairly accurate estimate.

  • Should an abstract be put in the beginning or at the end?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Usually, abstracts are provided at the beginning of the thesis or article. This will help readers to understand the work, and will attract interested readers.

  • Am I supposed to add the author's name on the informative abstract?

    wikiHow Contributor

    First write down the important points about the author, such as name, date of birth, in which field he/she is involved - then add extra points.

  • What is the importance of an abstract?

  • Why must one create an abstract?

    wikiHow Contributor

    An abstract is one of the best tools to help researchers determine if a paper would be useful for them to read or not.

Ask a Question


  • Abstracts are typically a paragraph or two and should be no more than 10% of the length of the full essay. Look at other abstracts in similar publications for an idea of how yours should go.[16]
  • Consider carefully how technical the paper or the abstract should be. It is often reasonable to assume that your readers have some understanding of your field and the specific language it entails, but anything you can do to make the abstract more easily readable is a good thing.

Sample Physical and Life Sciences Abstract

Do Voles Select Dense Vegetation for Movement Pathways at the Microhabitat Level?

Biological Sciences
The relationship between habitat use by voles (Rodentia: Microtus) and the density of vegetative cover was studied to determine if voles select forage areas at the microhabitat level.  Using live traps, I trapped, powdered, and released voles at 10 sites.  At each trap site I analyzed the type and height of the vegetation in the immediate area.  Using a black light, I followed the trails left by powdered voles through the vegetation.  I mapped the trails using a compass to ascertain the tortuosity, or amount the trail twisted and turned, and visually checked the trails to determine obstruction of the movement path by vegetation.  I also checked vegetative obstruction on 4 random paths near the actual trail, to compare the cover on the trail with other nearby alternative pathways.  There was not a statistically significant difference between the amount of cover on a vole trail and the cover off to the sides of the trail when completely covered; there was a significant difference between on and off the trail when the path was completely open.  These results indicate that voles are selectively avoiding bare areas, while not choosing among dense patches at a fine microhabitat scale.

Sample Social Science Abstract

Traditional Healers and the HIV Crisis in Africa:  Toward an Integrated Approach
The HIV virus is currently destroying all facets of African life. It therefore is imperative that a new holistic form of health education and accessible treatment be implemented in African public health policy which improves dissemination of prevention and treatment programs, while maintaining the cultural infrastructure. Drawing on government and NGO reports, as well as other documentary sources, this paper examines the nature of current efforts and the state of health care practices in Africa. I review access to modern health care and factors which inhibit local utilization of these resources, as well as traditional African beliefs about medicine, disease, and healthcare. This review indicates that a collaboration of western and traditional medical care and philosophy can help slow the spread of HIV in Africa. This paper encourages the acceptance and financial support of traditional health practitioners in this effort owing to their accessibility and affordability and their cultural compatibility with the community.

Sample Humanities Abstracts

Echoes from the Underground
European and American Literature
Friedrich Nietzsche notably referred to the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky as “the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn.” Dostoevsky’s ability to encapsulate the darkest and most twisted depths of the human psyche within his characters has had a profound impact on those writers operating on the periphery of society. Through research on his writing style, biography, and a close reading of his novel Notes from the Underground I am exploring the impact of his most famous outcast, the Underground Man, on counterculture writers in America during the great subculture upsurge of the 1950s and 60s. Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac employ both the universal themes expressed by the Underground Man as well as more specific stylistic and textual similarities. Through my research I have drawn parallels between these three writers with respect to their literary works as well as the impact of both their personal lives and the worlds that they inhabit. The paper affirms that Dostoevsky has had a profound influence on the geography of the Underground and that this literary topos has had an impact on the writers who continue to inhabit that space.

Creative Writing
Richard Hugo wrote in his book of essays, The Triggering Town, that “knowing can be a limiting thing.” His experiences, however brief, in many of the small towns that pepper Montana’s landscape served as the inspiration to much of his poetry, and his observations came to reveal more of the poet than of the triggering subject. For Hugo, the less he knew of a place, the more he could imagine. My project, “Passersby,” is a short collection of poems and black and white photographs that explore this notion of knowing and imagination. Place is the triggering subject in “Passersby” and will take the audience or viewer to a variety of national and international locations, from Rome and Paris to Beaver, Utah and the Oregon Coast, and from there, into an exploration of experience and imagination relished by the poet. Hugo believed that as a writer “you owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.” While reality will play a role in “Passersby,” this work aims to blur the lines between knowing and imagination in order, perhaps, to find a truer place for the poet.

Sample Visual and Performing Arts Abstract

The Integration of Historic Periods in Costume Design 
As productions turn away from resurrecting museum pieces, integrating costumes from two different historical periods has become more popular. This research project focuses on what makes costume integration successful. A successful integration must be visually compelling, but still give characters depth and tell the story of the play. By examining several Shakespearean theatre productions, I have pinpointed the key aspects of each costume integration that successfully assist the production. While my own experiences have merged Elizabethan with the 1950s, other designers have merged Elizabethan with contemporary and even a rock concert theme. By analyzing a variety of productions, connecting threads helped establish “rules” for designers.

Through this research, I have established common guidelines for integrating two periods of costume history while still maintaining a strong design that helps tell a story. One method establishes the silhouette of one period while combining the details, such as fabric and accessories, of another period, creating an equal representation of the two. A second option creates a world blended equally of the two periods, in which the design becomes timeless and unique to the world of the play. A third option assigns opposing groups to two different periods, establishing visual conflict. Many more may exist, but the overall key to costume integration is to define how each period is represented. When no rules exist, there is no cohesion of ideas and the audience loses sight of character, story, and concept. Costumes help tell a story, and without guidance, that story is lost.

Sample Journalism Abstract

International Headlines 3.0: Exploring Youth-Centered Innovation in Global News Delivery
Traditional news media must innovate to maintain their ability to inform contemporary audiences. This research project analyzes innovative news outlets that have the potential to draw young audiences to follow global current events. On February 8, 2011, a Pew Research Center Poll found that 52 percent of Americans reported having heard little or nothing about the anti-government protests in Egypt. Egyptians had been protesting for nearly two weeks when this poll was conducted. The lack of knowledge about the protests was not a result of scarce media attention. In the United States, most mainstream TV news sources (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, ABC) ran headline stories on the protests by January 26, one day after the protests began. Sparked by an assignment in International Reporting J450 class, we selected 20 innovative news outlets to investigate whether they are likely to overcome the apparent disinterest of Americans, particularly the youth, in foreign news. Besides testing those news outlets for one week, we explored the coverage and financing of these outlets, and we are communicating with their editors and writers to best understand how and why they publish as they do. We will evaluate them, following a rubric, and categorize them based on their usefulness and effectiveness.

Questions about UMCUR may be directed to the conference coordinator, Michelle Eckert.

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