How to Write an Abstract

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An abstract is a short summary of your own text (articlethesis etc.). In a condensed form it includes all the information necessary to understand what you have written, why you have done so, your position regarding the subject and in relation to its academic discourse.

If the work that you want to write an abstract for includes own research then you must also provide a brief introduction regarding its background, method, design and results.

Whatever your text may be about, writing the abstract should be the absolute final step. Yet be sure to not hesitate to write it, as having the ideas fresh in your mind can aid in the abstract writing process.

But before you do so, spare a moment to figure out who will be your target audience and how much they will be involved in the subject so that you will find both the right amount of information as well as the right language to convey it.

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Different forms of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. Let’s see what they have in common and where they differ from each other, starting with the contents.

Any abstract should include information about the importance of your research, its issue and your personal interest in it which manifests itself in your hypothesis. It should also tell the readers about your methods if you deal with the subject on a quantitative or qualitative level and it should give an impression of the design you have chosen for your research.

Here’s where the descriptive abstract ends. The informative abstract will include the results of your research and your conclusions as well as possible recommendations.

So the descriptive abstract is like a teaser that (containing a maximum of 100 to 200 words) will make the reader want to read on, whereas the informative abstract has the character of a ‘spoiler’, revealing all key information in an annotated version of the text which could be between one to two paragraphs to one to two pages (an informative abstract should be less than 10 per cent of the original text’s length).

If you have been writing for a journal article, there will be guidelines from the publisher you must adhere to. Additionally, you will be informed as to which type of abstract is required.

If there are no guidelines or other rules, you are free to choose the type of abstract. To make that choice, contemplate your target groups and base your decision on what would suit them most appropriately.

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