How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: A Beginner’s Step By Step Guide

Research projects are a permanent imprint on college and university curriculums and cannot be complete without an abstract. Writing excellent research papers is the key to acing these projects. However, your research paper cannot be excellent if you do not know how to write an abstract APA.

If you are here because you’ve been having trouble with research abstract writing, then you are in good company. Below we give you the lowdown on what should an abstract include, how long should an abstract be and even a few scientific abstract examples.

In other words, we’ll give you tips on how to write an effective abstract for a research paper, to help you perfect the art of abstract research writing.

What is an Abstract?

You cannot learn how to write an effective abstract for a research paper if you do not know what research abstracts papers are exactly. An abstract is the section that comes right after the title page in a research paper.

It is defined as a brief summary of a larger project, in this case, the research project. It succinctly describes the major aspects of the entire project so the readers know exactly what your research paper contains as detailed in the outline.

How Long Should an Abstract be?

Although the length varies depending on the discipline and project specific requirements, the answer to how long should an abstract be is greatly reliant on the type of abstract research papers in question. That is why below we take a look at the types of research abstracts, and their length;

–         Descriptive Abstract

A descriptive abstract describes the purpose and the research methodology but doesn’t compare the research to existing studies. Neither does it summarize the conclusion.  How long should an abstract be if it’s descriptive? Abstracts in this category can be best described as content tables in paragraph forms. They’re incredibly brief and are usually 100 words or less.

–         Informative Abstracts

Also known as informational, this type of abstract is probably the reason why you’re looking for tips on how to write an effective abstract for a research paper. It’s like a mini thesis, and is the most common in research abstract writing. It provides concise but detailed information about the project, and usually presents the central argument, briefly highlights the methodology and gives an overview of the critical findings.

 This type of research abstract is enough to tell the reader what your research project paper contains. So how long should an abstract be if it’s informational?

While it all comes down to your individual project requirements, an informative abstract should be 10% or less the length of your full project report. That in most cases can be anywhere between 120 and 300 words but if your report is incredibly long, 10% could mean even two pages.

The Importance of a Research Abstract

Why should you invest your time in learning how to write an effective abstract for a research paper when it’s only 300 words or less? Because it serves the following purposes;

–         It’s the Reader’s Roadmap to Your Research

An academic research project can be as short as three pages, or as long as a 10,000-word dissertation. Regardless of the length, nothing is as frustrating as reading through a research paper, only to find out I doesn’t address any of the questions or problems whose answers you are hunting.

By writing a good abstract, you save your reader the frustration. Your abstract research papers serve as the preview of the report. This way, if the content doesn’t relate to what they need, they can look elsewhere without wasting too much time.

–         It Sets the First Impression of Your Research Paper

As you know by now, the abstract is the first part of your research paper readers readily access even when using a database search. It’s what they use to determine whether your research abstract writing is relevant to their research.

If you don’t know how to write an effective abstract for your research paper, then you have another thing coming. Why? Well, while a poorly written abstract won’t cause research paper rejection it sets the impression for your entire paper, and may affect your scores.

For instance, if your supervisor perceives your research abstract writing negatively, they’ll likely maintain that attitude towards the rest of the paper resulting in lower scores. Writing a good abstract is critical if you’re to capture the attention of your reader, and keep them engaged throughout the scope of your report.

How to Write an Abstract in APA

Now that you know what and how long should an abstract be as well as its essence, here are some critical pointers on how to write an abstract apa;

Step 1: Write Your Research Paper First

An abstract is a condensed version of your project. It includes the central argument, the methodology, key findings and even the conclusion. It’s ideal to wait until you complete your paper first as only then can you accurately determine what an abstract should include.

Step 2: Identify What an Abstract Should Include

Once you complete your report, you can now go ahead and write paper abstract. But note, if you’re to present information that’ll entice your supervisor or committee board and convince them to stick around for the rest of the report, identify what should an abstract include, and what it should leave out.

So, what should an abstract include? While the content varies from one discipline to another, it’s typical for an abstract to include a brief but precise description of the central argument.

This is usually followed by a summary of the research methodology, an overview of the important findings, and the conclusion. Your research abstract writing should also highlight the implications, or the potential applications of the research findings like in eating disorders, hospitality management, and Traffic management.

Step 3: Know What to Avoid

Knowing what should an abstract include is great, but there are minor details you may unknowingly include that may mess even the best abstract up. These include;

  • Defining terms
  • Using numeric references and footnotes
  • Adding new information or facts not included in the report
  • Mathematical notations
  • Referring extensively to other works not cited in the research

Step 4: Describe the Central Argument

Armed with knowledge on what to include and what to avoid, the next step in writing a good abstract is to briefly describe the central argument and the objective of the study or why you decided to research that specific topic. Make this brief as possible. If you can, use a maximum of three sentences.

Step 5: Summarize the Methodology

The methodology is an important part of not only the research paper, but also learning how to write an abstract apa. That said, once you lay down your thesis and objectives, use the next few sentences to introduce the reader to your research methodology. Briefly explain key techniques used, but try to be detailed. Here’s another scientific abstract example showing you how to do that;

Researchers conducted two generations of the website usability studies. During the first study, participants were asked to navigate the website and answer a set of questions. In the second study, participants were requested to answer writing-related questions using the website, and its user-centered prototype.

Step 6: Write a Succinct Overview of Critical Findings

Just as the methodology is of the essence, so are the findings in writing a good abstract. Succinctly describe the results or preliminary findings of your study. Here’s are the findings from the scientific abstract example used above;

Results of the first test indicated that a user-centered approach would significantly improve usability. The second test helped researchers conclude that a user-centered model would be the ideal approach.

Step 7: Finally, a Conclusion

Complete your research abstract writing by stating your primary findings. You should use one or two sentences to write paper abstract conclusion.

A Research Abstract; A Research Paper Summary, but Not a Proposal

Most people often mistake an abstract for a proposal, but the two are entirely different. Even those who know the difference will often make the mistake of defending their research project in the abstract section. To avoid such a costly mistake, note, abstract research papers are short, and they play one key role; to succinctly summarize the contents of the project. Proposals on the other hand are longer and while they summarize your proposed project, are meant to defend or justify your project.

In a scientific proposal for instance, you would use words such as “this project will prove the ethical and moral questions that may arise from genetic engineering.” But in writing a good abstract, you are not allowed to defend your research. If you were to write a scientific abstract example based on the same statement, then it should be something along the lines of, the project raises serious ethical questions about the morality of genetic engineering.”

Key Abstract Writing Tips

Before we conclude our guide on how to write an abstract apa, here are some key guidelines to keep in mind;

  • Always write paper abstract in third person.
  • Use keywords efficiently
  • Do not include new information in your abstract
  • Proof-read and edit just like you did the research paper itself

Start Writing Professional Abstracts Today

An abstract is the reader’s roadmap. It gives the reader a taste of what’s to come in the report. What this means is your report may be great, but if your abstract isn’t enticing and professional enough, a reader might just decide to ditch the rest of your manuscript. The good news is that with all the tips included on our how to write an abstract apa guide above, you have what it takes to write flawless abstracts.

 Besides, if you find it difficult to write paper abstract or experience a challenge crafting a particular part of the abstract, our team of highly experienced writers are always a click away, willing to do whatever it takes to help you master how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.

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