Creating a solid research paper abstract

Writing your research paper was an incredible challenge, and it’s almost over! You probably struggled with length—either condensing your research down to meet your page maximum limit or stretching it to make the minimum. When it comes to writing the abstract, you have yet another challenge: condensing your paper’s main idea into one or two paragraphs.

What the Abstract Should Include

Your abstract should include:

  • Thesis
  • Motivation for the thesis
  • Method of research
  • Thesis support/result highlights
  • Highlights of contradictory points
  • How the research furthers your field of study
  • Keywords

Including each element

The best way to begin writing your abstract is to simply write one to three sentences for each of the necessary elements. Your thesis should be two sentences at most, while the other elements may require up to three. Keywords should be listed below the abstract, on a single line, separated by commas.

Abstract Length

There is rarely a formal length requirement or restriction for your abstract. However, it should not exceed two paragraphs or one page (double-spaced). If your abstract is to be single-spaced, it shouldn’t exceed half of a page.

Minimum Length

Generally speaking, the shorter your abstract is, the better. However, you must be certain to include each of the required elements listed above. Failing to do so can result in a deduction from your grade.

Condensing Your Ideas

If your rough draft of your abstract is far too long, don’t despair. Even experienced writers can find crafting a solid, brief abstract to be a problem. Here are some tips to help you shorten it:

  • Remove unnecessary filler words. While these words may be necessary in other forms of writing in terms of style and flow, it’s understood that an abstract is likely to be a bit dry and abrupt. Don’t overthink it.
  • Have a friend read over the abstract and make suggestions for condensing it further. Often, it’s our own writing habits that stand in the way. Another person may be able to phrase something more concisely than naturally comes to mind for you.
  • Choose highlights and samples, don’t try to list every aspect of the research. While detail is important, it’s most important that you touch on one or two points regarding each topic and result, rather than list all of the related points. If you’re not sure which are more important, ask a friend to help you cut something out.
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