Whenever conducting a detailed scientific study, authors are required to summarise their entire study, including the methods, background, as well as outcomes. This brief summary is known as the “Abstract”. It can be deemed as the crux of entire research which lets readers know precisely what the research was about and its outcomes.
Without an all-encompassing abstract, it is almost impossible for readers to identify the uniqueness of your research. In this sense, a good abstract is composed in light of two purposes: to inform potential readers about the research, and to inform research databases about your thesis. If you have done literature review during the study, you will know the importance of abstract due to such a huge extent of reading required otherwise.
Although there are no constraints on word count and proportions of the abstract, though usually an abstract is 150-250 words long. When writing, your succinct abstract must be comprised of following components:
Aims establish the basic purpose of your research. This purpose could be a subjective (qualitative) one, or can be formed as formal objectives of your study. In either case, when writing aims, you first include some social background of your research, and then state your exact objective, such that there is a clear link between the problem and the solution your research offers. Aims should always be written in present or past tense, and should include formal verbs such as analyse, assess, evaluate, and examine.
✔ This research aimed at examining the impact of A on B
✖ This research will aim at examining the impact of A on B
The next in line are the research methods that you used to explore your research objectives/questions. Unlike the aims, this component should be objective and must detail all relevant nuances of research methodologies that you employed. The methods should include the research philosophy and approach, design and experiment (if any), sample selection and its size, as well as data collection and analysis techniques. However, justification of advantages and disadvantages of methods is not needed in abstracts. You very well may have done that already in the methodology section of the actual research. This section is usually written in past tense.
✔ This study used SPSS statistical tool to analyse data
✖ This study will use SPSS statistical tool to analyse data
Immediately after the methodology, you should summarise research results in a manner which highlight the most important aspect of the outcomes. Remember, results of a research are generally lengthy and involve a lot of nuances. However, avoid mentioning these in your abstract, because it will not only increase abstract’s length, but may also deviate the entire purpose of writing one. In case of a qualitative research, the results should be mentioned in form of a summary of 1-3 lines. Whereas, in case of quantitative study, it should precisely highlight impacts of variables upon each other as well as all the relevant numeric values. Remember!! Not to be ambiguous.
✔ This research showed a weak correlation of 0.3 between A and B
✖ This research showed a weak relation between A and B
Lastly, the conclusion is the sum total of your research. You should briefly answer the question you raised at the start of the research, in such a way that any reader could easily understand your outcomes and whether your hypothesis have been proven or disproven. Moreover, if the research has some crucial systemic limitation, then mention it also in this section. Similarly, recommendation usually entail in the end, especially if your research addressed a practical problem.
✔ The study concluded that A increases B
✖ The study shows high relation between A and B
When to Write an Abstract?
As a rule of thumb, you should write abstract in the very end of your thesis. This helps the author in identifying exactly which aspects are most important, and hence should be mentioned in the abstract. Although some gurus suggest doing it after first drafting your thesis, but it is advised to do it after your final draft. This is because in complex researches, there are many things that are added or subtracted in between the journey of first and the final draft.
Why is it Important to Write a Good Abstract?
A good abstract has become crucial component of scientific explorations because of huge number of literatures being published every day in any given domain of science. In such a case, a good abstract could create a difference of getting your publication viewed/read and cited or failing to be cited at all. A good abstract is also a creative gateway to attract readers towards your study, and a boring abstract could discourage even the most attentive readers to consider your publication worthy of reading. Most importantly, the keywords mentioned in the abstract are used by digital research engines whenever a user searches those keywords on the internet. Thus, a good abstract also keeps increasing the likelihood of your writing being read more.
Examples of Good and Bad Abstracts
A good one:
Tips for Writing an Abstract
Checklist for Abstract
- Abstract is after the title page and acknowledgement, but before the table of contents.
- The abstract is within the word limit of 150-250 words
- Research problems have been clearly mentioned
- Methodology have been succinctly elaborated
- Summary of the results have been provided
- Precise conclusion has been stated
- Review for possible corrections and refinement of language