How to write the abstract of a research paper?
Why is the abstract of a research paper so important?
The abstract of a research paper is nothing but a concise and clear roadmap of the entire dissertation where the main elements have been summarized. An abstract provides a glimpse of what the research paper contains. It constitutes all the key elements of your research work such as the overall summary, observations, trends and patterns etc which provide an insight to your thesis statement.
Why do you need to write an abstract anyway?
Abstract is usually cross-examined and evaluated by your professor in order to gauge whether your research paper is worthy of a complete critical evaluation. In other words, submitting an abstract is like the first round of interview for a job. If your abstract succeeds in creating a good impression in terms of your subject knowledge and research methodology (not to mention the thesis statement), only then will your professor like to read the complete research paper.
However, if your abstract fails to make the critical first impression, your research paper might not be examined or graded further. In simple words, a lot rides on how well you structure the abstract of your research work. The key factor here is to present the most valuable and suitable set of information in the abstract that aligns well with the type of research paper you are working on.
Let us take a look into what must each type of research paper abstract have. This quick checklist will help you analyze whether or not you have drafted the perfect research abstract.
Types of research paper abstracts
- Critical abstract: What does a critical research/dissertation aim to do? It takes up a bunch of statistics and pieces of evidences and is then able to define a cause-effect relation and/or derive at a rational conclusion. This implies that the key conclusion and the trends/evidence that helped you reach it are important elements of the paper. Hence, logically speaking a critical research paper extract must have the thesis statement written in a clear and concise manner and must be supplemented with the appropriate date/trends/figures etc associated with it.
- Descriptive abstract: Unlike the critical research work, the descriptive research work tends to only provide a description of the particular topic. It doesn’t evaluate or analyze data/evidence to reach a conclusion. Descriptive research topics aim to provide a set of information only. Thus, the abstract must also contain the key findings/pieces of information necessary to define a complete description. This is usually shorter; about 100 words will do the trick.
- Highlight abstract: As the name suggest, a highlight abstract’s work is to pull in the attention of the reader by piquing his/her curiosity. It could be done by providing information on an incomplete finding or exposing pieces of evidence that may open up a plethora of possibilities. This kind of abstract/research paper writing is rarely used in academic circles mainly because it provides an incomplete picture about the research findings.
Now that we are more or less clear on what type of abstract elements should be drafted for which kind of research paper, let us delve deeper into what makes a great research abstract.
What are the “must-haves” of a research paper abstract?
Before going into the list, you must always remember that the abstract of the research paper must be written AFTER you have drafted your actual research paper. This will give you a clear cut idea of what are the contents of your research work, what are the key findings, and which ones amongst these are important enough to be included in the abstract.
- Read carefully your introduction and conclusion and analyze what is the primary goal of your research work. The purpose of writing the research paper is obviously the most significant part of the research. Thus, including the “why” of your dissertation is the first thing you must include in your research paper.
- Now go to your methodology section. Find out the key sentences from this section. This will mostly include the main method/s used by to conduct the research. Without going too in-depth of the research methodologies, include the main highlights of this section in your research abstract.
- Going further into your research work, the next pit stop should be the results section. What does it say? What were the results obtained going by the above mentioned methodology? The answers to these questions are an important aspect of your research work overall, thus, a summary of the results section must also be included in your abstract.
- So right now you have the important stuff discussed in the introduction, methodology, results, and conclusion page. Take all of this information and structure it in a rational and organized manner. And voila! You have your research abstract all ready to go!
Don’t make these mistakes!
It must be exciting to finally understand that the technique of writing a research paper abstract is not complex. However, despite knowing exactly what to do in an abstract, a lot of students find their abstract sadly landing in the reject pile. But why does this happen? It mainly happens because while adding information to their abstract, students make these common mistakes.
- Slide in a new piece of information that is nowhere mentioned in the research paper.
- Use abbreviations, terms, group names etc which are not clearly defined.
- Add in information about references/literature used in the research.
- Details of research methodology, results etc which can be avoided.
- Bring in inconsistent details in terms of the actual research findings and the abstract.
- Not following the guidelines and rules required by the target journal.
Tips on how to avoid these mistakes
- Read and re-read your research abstract while asking yourself one question – if I eliminate this will it have a drastic effect on the abstract? For eg: If I remove a particular sentence from the research methodology, will the structure/logic of the abstract collapse? If yes, then please go ahead and eliminate it. The mantra is – if it can be removed, it must be removed.
- Once you have eliminated the unnecessary details go back and check the logical flow of the abstract. It must follow this order – primary purpose, basic study design, research methods applied, key findings/results, and conclusion.
- Ask someone else to proof-read it for you. The reader must be able to clearly identify the thesis, purpose, methods, results, and conclusion of your original research from the abstract.
- Try not to include tables, figures, and other graphical representation of data in the abstract – these are details which are well covered in your research paper.
Sample research paper abstract
These key pointers will direct you towards writing the best possible research paper abstract. Now let us take a look into a sample research paper abstract. Keep the above-mentioned checklist handy and observe how each of them is applied in the below mentioned example.
Research on the effect of gaming addiction on the academic performance of male students
“The current study aims to explore the patterns that exist between the gaming addiction behaviors shown by male college-going students and their respective academic performance. The number of participants considered for this research was 500 and all of them belonged to the first year of the same engineering university. Before their classes began, each was handed out 2 surveys – one that asked them about their expected academic engagement/performance and the other asked them about their video game engagement. This also included a measure of their addiction towards gaming. The results clearly demonstrate a negative correlation between the expected academic engagement and level of video gaming addiction. The negative correlation was seen through their respective college GPA as compared to other students who didn’t engage in such recreational activities. The results are expressed in terms of male student’s academic performance success criteria and the magnitude of involvement in video gaming.”
Why does this research paper abstract work?
- The abstract states the primary aim of the research clearly.
- It also mentions the research methodology and the results obtained.
- The logical order followed by the elements is proper.
- It doesn’t resort to an in-depth detailed description of the survey and the findings.
- It doesn’t attempt to describe the implications of the research findings nor does it try to bring in the big picture issues associated with the same.