How to write an abstract

by Dr. O. P. Faromika

Good evening house. I must appreciate everyone for waiting patiently and for giving me the opportunity to anchor this aspect of our educative series.

We have to please make it participatory. I’ll start by telling us what an abstract is. An abstract can be described as a supercompressed version of a research work or a thesis. It represents all the major elements in a supercompressed or highly condensed form. The abstract is an important component of a thesis usually presented at the beginning or a research paper. It is likely the first substantive description of your work read by an external examiner or any reader. The abstract should therefore be viewed as an opportunity to set accurate expectations

An abstract is not merely an introduction in the sense of a preface, preamble, or advance organizer that prepares the reader for the thesis.

In addition to that function, it must be capable of substituting for the whole thesis when there is insufficient time and space for the full text. The structure of the abstract should mirror the structure of the whole thesis or research paper, and should represent all its major elements. For example, if your thesis or paper has five chapters or section (introduction, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion), as may be applicable, there should be one or more sentences assigned to summarize each chapter/section. In other words, abstract should be seen as a mini thesisor write up that contains:

What was done — Introduction

Why it was done — literature Review

How it was done — Methodology

What results was obtained — Results

What is the significance of the finding — Conclusion

Having dealt with what an abstract is, it’s purpose as well as what should be in an abstract. Let’s discuss the question: In what tense should an abstract be written?

Although, the abstract is the first thing a reader sees, it is usually the last to be written. Simply put: the past tense is used for actions that has been carried out such as describing the research activity, methods and reporting results. The present tense is used for current activity such as giving background details and stating conclusions.

Question

Q1. What harm if we consider an Abstract an Executive Summary?

A1 No harm, it can be viewed as such — a supercompressed or highly condensed form of the thesis/ research article.

Q2. When does it become a crime or offence to break an abstract…as in “paragraphing” it

Q3. What number of sentences do I allocate to each section?

Q4. What should be my target length as I write the abstract?

A4. An abstract should be a single paragraph of between 150–250 words for most scientific papers

Q5. Any tip for writing a 150 word abstract as required by some journals and universities?

A5 & A3. Keep it simple, follow the rule or guidelines as discussed above, a sentence for each section and that will be fine

Q6. Ok ma. So, which tense is appropriate for abstract writing?

A6. the past tense is used for actions that has been carried out such as describing the research activity, methods reporting results. The present tense is used for current activity such as giving background details and stating conclusions

Q7. Writing abstract for journal and for a degree ( say BSc,MTech or Doctorate),is there any difference?

A7 & A2. The discussions above applies generally to abstract writing, thesis or journal article. However, most scientific papers require abstract of not more that one paragraph of between 150- 250 words. This may vary for thesis writing.

Q8. Ma, can I rephrase my conclusion as an abstract?

A8. Since the abstract is suppose to consist of all the components of your work, rephrasing the conclusion may not be sufficient for an abstract