Overview of an Abstract

Abstracts are a key part of scholarly and professional writing.

Whether you are writing a research paper,  research proposalproject proposalthesisdissertation, or capstone project, you will be required to include an abstract.

However, most writers find writing an abstract an arduous or inconsequential task, and therefore end up making numerous mistakes.

It nonetheless necessary to appreciate the importance of an abstract in a research paper as the first section of the paper that the reader comes across.

It is also important to understand what it entails.


What is an Abstract?

Before you start writing, it is imperative to understand what an abstract is.

In simple terms, an abstract can be defined as:

“A succinct summary of a research paper or a complete thesis.”

From this definition, it can be deduced that an abstract should be entirely self-contained and able to make sense on its own, without referencing the actual research paper or outside sources.

As illustrated in good research paper abstract examples, it should include the key content areas, purpose of the research, the importance or relevance of the research work, and the main outcomes.

Although the exact contents of an abstract in research paper may vary based on the discipline, it should encompass a concise summary of the whole paper.


Purpose of an Abstract

While writing an abstract is considered a habit, an abstracts serve specific purposes.

Note that understanding these purposes is critical in proper abstract writing.

As can be derived from effective research paper abstract examples, these purposes include:

1. Providing a reader with a highlight of the research paper contents, including its essence, which is necessary in determining the paper’s relevance to what the readers are looking for.

2. Providing a highlight that helps the reader to effectively follow the whole research paper work, including in-depth arguments and analyses.

3. Helping in the indexing of the research paper since internet repositories use abstracts to index full papers.


Types of Abstracts

Before you start writing, it is necessary to decide on the type of abstract that suits your paper best.

As depicted in different research paper abstract examples, you could assume one of the following types:


1. Descriptive Abstract

This is one of the most common types of abstracts.

Whether it is an abstract in research proposal or research paper, this type focuses on articulating the kind of information that is in your work.

It incorporates various key words in the work and usually includes critical elements such as the purpose, methods, and research scope.

However, it does not make any judgments on the work or present research results and conclusions.

It instead primarily describes the work that you are summarizing, and is often considered an outline instead of a summary.

It is generally short (not more than 100 words).


2. Critical Abstract

As revealed by good research paper abstract examples, this type goes beyond describing the works’ main findings to comment or judge the research’s completeness, reliability, and validity.

In some cases, writing this type of an abstract requires you to evaluate your research paper and compare it with works on a similar subject.

Due to their critical nature, these abstracts could be long (about 400 words).

They are however rarely used both in scholarly and professional works.


3. Highlight Abstract

This type of abstract in research paper seeks to capture the attention of the reader.

The main objective is to make the reader interested in the work by creating gaps that trigger curiosity.

Accordingly, such an abstract do not create a complete or objective picture of the research paper, but instead uses leading and incomplete remarks to make the reader yearn for more.

It cannot be sufficient without the associated work and it is therefore not considered a true abstract.

This type of abstract is not commonly used in scholarly writing.


4. Informative Abstract

This is the most commonly used type of abstracts.

Although they do not evaluate or critique the research paper, they go beyond describing it.

From such research paper abstract examples, it is evident that this type is a representation of the research paper.

It presents and explains all the key arguments, results, and evidence produced in the research paper.

This type incorporates information in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope), as well as the results, conclusions, and recommendations.

Its length vary based on the field but it should be about 300 words.


Contents of an Abstract

As illustrated in research paper abstract examples, various types of information are contained in an abstract.

These information sets are usually brief, where they appears in detail in the body of your work.

The amount of each type of information devoted to the abstract vary depending on the field and nature of the paper you are working on.

Types of information to included are:

1. Background of the issue under research, including the general topic or the specific topic being studied.

2. Statement of the problem or central questions being addressed.

3. Already established knowledge about the question deriving from previous research.

4. The goals, main reasons, and rationale of your research.

5. The analytical methods used.

6. Findings, results, and arguments arrived at.

7. Implications arrived at or significance of the arguments or findings.

When to Write the Abstract

Despite the fact that the abstract in a research paper appears at the beginning of your work, it should be written the last.

It is critical that you wait until all the paper is finished for you to have a good picture of what is being summarized.

Therefore, writing the abstract should be one of your very last steps when writing a research paper.

It is necessary to ensure that you have the final draft before you can start writing the abstract.

This not only helps ensure the abstract is wholesome but also that it does not contain mistakes or contradictions.


Verb Tense Choice

As is with all good research paper abstract examples, different types of tenses can be used when writing an abstract.

Common types of tenses include:

1. Simple present tense

2. Simple past tense

3. Present perfect tense

4. Present perfect progressive tense

It is important to know where to apply each type of tense.

Usually, simple present tense is used when stating facts arrived at and explaining the implications derived from the results.

On the other hand, simple past tense should be used when describing the methodology and specific study findings.

Either simple present tense or simple past tense can be used when writing the purpose of the research study.

Lastly, present perfect tense or present progressive tense should be used when writing the background or rationale of the research study.


Length of an Abstract

How long should an abstract be?

This is a question most scholars have to contend with.

Notably, the length of an abstract may vary from one field to another and based on the length of the research paper.

Typical abstracts especially in social sciences are between 150 and 250 words.

On the other hand, critical abstracts, which are common in pure sciences are lengthy and could be between 250 and 400 words.

It is the duty of the scholar to determine the length that suits the work best, depending on the key purpose of the abstract, discipline, and research paper’s length.


Sections of an Abstract

As demonstrated in different research paper abstract examples, various areas of your work should be covered in an abstract.

These areas include:

1. Purpose

This section looks at the reason as to why you wrote the research paper.

Questions to ask when writing this section include:

1. What is the significance of the research?

2. Why should a reader want to go through the entire work?


2. Problem

The section should focus on the issue that the research seeks to resolve.

Questions to ask include:

1. What problem does the research seek to solve?

2. What is the thesis, main argument, or claim advanced in the research?

3. What scope does the research cover?


3. Methodology

For this section, abstracts may vary depending on the discipline.

Abstracts for scientific research papers would usually encompass the specific approaches or models employed in the study.

On the other hand, abstracts in humanities and business may include a description of various types of evidence used in the research.


4. Results

This section of an abstract in research paper covers the results derived from the study.

Accordingly, in a scientific research this may entail the specific data indicating the study results.

Abstracts in other fields may encompass a general discussion of the findings.


5. Implications

As the last section, it should explore what the research portends in relation to the field.

Questions to ask include:

1. Does the research add to the existing body of knowledge on the topic? How?

2. Do the findings have any theoretical or practical applications on future research?



Research Paper Abstract Examples


Example 1: Social Sciences/ Humanities

Dilemma exists on how to incorporate Aristotelian virtue ethics into the view of Christian ethics on the nature of human beings. Since the biblical teachings that anchor Christian virtue ethics lean largely on the acceptance of human beings as prone to sin and evil; they do not provide for an avenue that effectively addresses complex issues. Previous studies have focused solely on the biblical teachings without acknowledging the fact that the bible does not provide for a code of conduct that sufficiently addresses all the dilemmas in society. This has restricted such studies to ideal situations’ application of Christian virtue ethics, where the ever dynamic human society ushers in new social dilemmas that require multifaceted ethical approaches. In this study, ethnographic data collected using surveys that were conducted on Christian groups has been used to carry out a thematic analysis aimed at identifying the different themes that define the place of Christian ethics in the modern society. Different from previous assumptions that Christian virtue ethics are not only be applicable within the society but also form the foundation for discourses on approaches towards development and adoption of virtues, it was observed that their application in a pluralist society is untenable. Findings from this research indicate that Christian ethics within a democratic society that views morality from an individualistic rather than societal angle may result into conflicts and contradictions with the established law.


Example 2: Sciences

Despite up to 70% of the Venous thromboembolism (VTE) cases in the US being preventable, there are about 900, 000 annual VTE incidences that result into 100,000 premature deaths.  VTE prevention strategies implementation remains a challenge due to factors such as risk assessment and ineffective pharmacological and mechanical prophylaxis. In this study, we report that the use of Ambulation Orderlies (AO) among post-cardiac surgery patients to facilitate 1 to 4 ambulation exercises a day, each between 3 and 10 minutes had significant impacts on VTE. Post-surgery patients from a local Medical Center were moved from the intensive care unit to the post-surgery floor and enrolled into the AO program, where cardiac rehabilitation team, physical therapists, nurses, and patient technicians facilitated and supported their ambulation. Pre-post comparisons were done and an interrupted time series was performed to account for temporal trends adjustments and baseline characteristics differences. Results indicated that AO programs provide a sustainable and scalable approach for VTE prevention and post-cardiac surgery outcomes.


Example 3: Structured Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The efficacy of antibiotic therapy in the management of acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is debatable. This study sought to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin in the treatment of ABS among children.


METHODS: The study employed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research design. Participants included children aged between 1 and 10 years with clinical presentation of ABS. Stratification of the participants was based on their age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity.  They were randomly selected to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) or the placebo. A symptom survey was conducted on days 0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 21, and 30. Using provided scoring rules, the participants were examined on day 14, where their conditions were assessed as cured, improved, or failed.


RESULTS: Three thousand two hundred forty-eight children with respiratory problems were screened for enrollment. 311 (9.6%) tested positive for ABS. One hundred and fifteen patients were enrolled, with 110 being randomly assigned. Participant’s mean age was 72 months. Ninety three (84.5%) participants presented with persistent symptoms, while seventeen (15.5%) presented with non-persistent symptoms. Illness among 52 (47%) children was classified as mild, with among the remaining 58 (53%) children classified as severe. Of the 55 children who received the antibiotic, 30 (54%) were cured, 15 (28%) improved, 6(11%) reported treatment failure, and 4 (7%) pulled out of the study. Among the 55 children who received placebo, 7 (14%) were cured, 10 (17%) improved, and 38 (69%) had treatment failure. Results indicated that children who received the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (54% vs 11%) and less likely to have treatment failure (11% vs 69%) compared to children receiving the placebo.


CONCLUSIONS: ABS is a common infection that causes complication in the upper respiratory system. The use of amoxicillin in treatment results into significantly more cures and fewer failures when compared to the placebo.

Leave a comment