How Should a Research Paper Abstract Look Like

Every student gets a bit nervous when hearing about a research paper. It is quite a difficult task, as it is not a personal opinion on a subject and not a simple review of a book or a movie. It is a serious piece of work, which includes research, analysis of multiple sources and providing a personal view on the topic. You should not only provide evidence on a certain topic but also demonstrate your writing skills, vocabulary knowledge and all the necessary features of an experienced writer.

When you are assigned with a research paper, you may be asked to complete an abstract. Despite its small size, an abstract is quite a confusing assignment and many students don’t know how to complete it. However, don’t panic if you were assigned with such a task! Just go on reading and we will provide you with all the necessary details.

abstract research paper


If some of you don’t know, an abstract is a summary of the bigger project, i.e. a research paper or anything else. It aims to give the reader a chance to understand the goal of the research, used methodology, results and possible conclusions.

You need to remember that an abstract describes your project, not the topic itself, so before completing an abstract, it is highly recommended to finish your research paper to know what main details to include.

The main idea of an abstract is to inform the reader about your paper. For example, if you discuss gun control you don’t need to explain what it is about. You need to write about the results of your research, how many cases of violence are known and so on. Leave theoretical part to your research paper and concentrate on the key points in the abstract.

Abstract types

There are different types of abstracts, including:


–          Descriptive. It is probably one of the most popular types of abstracts. A descriptive abstract only summarizes information on the paper without any comparison to other works;

–          Critical. On contrary to descriptive abstracts, a critical one also provides a judgment on the projects importance and validity, comparing it to other papers of the same field;

–          Informative, which aims to give the reader general information on the research paper, your results and conclusions. You don’t need to compare your paper to others but you need to make recommendations if possible;

–          Highlight. It is quite a rare abstract type and its main goal is to grab reader’s interest and motivate him to read the research paper.


Elements your abstract should consist of

It doesn’t matter what abstract type you need to complete, as all of them should consist of four main elements. Make sure you are able to provide all of these elements before writing the abstract itself.


  1. Objective. This information can be considered the skeleton of your abstract, so you need to be very careful and attentive when competing it. Your objective should consist of a couple sentences, placed in the beginning, and explain your motivation to research a topic or describe the problem you are planning to solve;
  2. Methodology. Here you need to describe what methods you have used to research a topic and to get all the necessary results. There are different types of methods, depending on the subject, topic or field of research. For example, if you are writing an abstract on a social science, you can describe all the processes you have completed. If it is a humanities research, you can explain methodological tools and theoretical assumptions;
  3. Obtained results. This part of your abstract doesn’t need an explanation, as it is more than obvious. You need to express all the results you have obtained during your research. If it is not finished yet, you can make prognosis for the future or provide your assumptions on the possible outcome;
  4. Conclusions. It doesn’t matter what written assignment you are completing: conclusions always aim to summarize everything you have stated above. That is why your abstract’s conclusions should describe the results of your research. Think of the answers to the question ‘What these results can mean?’ and just write them down.

In some cases, you may be asked to start your abstract with an introductory section. It consists of a couple sentences, which aim to explain theoretical basis for the research. However, in most of the cases, this section is omitted and you can start with an objective section.

Things to avoid in your abstract

When looking for guidelines on completing a certain paper, students are usually searching for the lists of things to include to their assignment. However, it is also important to know what things to avoid. That is why we have created a list of elements, which you need to exclude from your abstract to make it interesting and correct:


–          Jargon or slang;

–          Abbreviations;

–          Watery text. Don’t try to boost the number of words. Just stick to the point;

–          Pictures, tables, graphs and any other visual materials;

–          Long introduction. Your abstract shouldn’t contain theoretical information, so even if you have interesting background data on the topic, leave it for the research paper;

–          References;

–          Confusing definitions;

–          Not important details, which simply distract the reader from your main goals.



Steps to complete

You already know what the abstract is about, what elements it should consist of and what items to avoid. Now it is a right time to learn what steps to complete to write a first-class abstract on your own. Always remember that you don’t need to increase the word count artificially, as an abstract should always be clear and straight to the point. Focus on the facts and give the reader a chance to understand your research paper through your abstract.

Steps to complete an abstract include:


  1. Write your abstract only when your research paper is completed. You won’t be able to write a clear, interesting and relevant abstract without a general picture of your research paper. It will take lots of time to complete and you will hardly provide adequate information on the research;
  2. Take the key elements of your objective and conclusions from the corresponding sections of your research paper. Instead of spending time on writing everything anew, you can summarize everything in a brief mode and include to your abstract;
  3. Note down everything you did, when completing your research. Such notes will be of a great use, when completing the methodology paragraph. In such a way, you will complete a whole section without any efforts;
  4. To check whether your abstract is written correctly, ask yourself what the aim of your research was, how the research was completed, how you obtained the results and what they meant;
  5. Once your abstract is ready, read it carefully and delete unnecessary information. Be as brief as possible not to bore the reader;
  6. When you have deleted extra information, read your abstract again and make sure it corresponds with your research paper. Remember that your abstract should render general information of the paper, so you shouldn’t add anything new;
  7. For the last time you need to read your abstract attentively to find all possible mistakes, like grammar, punctuation, vocabulary usage and sentence structure. Even if your abstract contains outstanding information, you may risk getting low grades for a poor language. Make sure you spend enough time on proofreading and editing;
  8. Finally your abstract is ready. Breathe out and send it to your tutor!


Things to remember

–          It may not be so obvious but you need to pay attention to the length of your sentences. Many long sentences may bore the reader, as well as short ones may seem like they lack deep meaning. Combine two types of sentences for a better structure and they will be readable and smooth. Break long sentences into smaller ones if possible;

–          Ask your professor whether using passive voice is appropriate. It may be a mistake in some of the cases, so you should know all the guidelines well in advance not to have to rewrite everything;

–          Apply past tense for the cases, when your research has already been finished;

–          Ask someone to check your abstract or read it aloud to understand whether it is smooth and readable.


Research paper is probably one of the most popular and widespread assignments among colleges in all parts of the world. It requires careful attention to details, as well as creating an abstract, which is a short summary of all the issues you have discussed in your research.

Such abstracts may become a real headache but they are very easy to complete if you know main rules and features. Be brief, use only credible information from your research paper. In such a way, your abstract will be interesting and complete!

In case you still have doubts, contact us or visit our blog for additional details.

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