Role of an Abstract in Research Paper With Examples
Why does one write an abstract? What is so intriguing about writing an abstract in research paper after writing a full length research paper? How do research paper abstracts or summaries help a researcher during research publishing? These are the most common and frequently pondered upon questions that early career researchers search answers for over the internet!
Table of Contents
What does Abstract mean in Research?
In Research, abstract is “a well-developed single paragraph which is approximately 250 words in length”. Furthermore, it is single-spaced single spaced. Abstract outlines all the parts of the paper briefly. Although the abstract is placed in the beginning of the research paper immediately after research title , the abstract is the last thing a researcher writes.
Why Is an Abstract Necessary in Research Paper?
Abstract is a concise academic text that –
- Helps the potential reader get the relevance of your research study for their own research
- Communicates your key findings for those who have time constraints in reading your paper
- And helps rank the article on search engines based on the keywords on academic databases.
Purpose of Writing an Abstract in Research
Abstracts are required for –
- Submission of articles to journals
- Application for research grants
- Completion and submission of thesis
- Submission of proposals for conference papers.
Aspects Included in an Abstract
The format of your abstract depends on the field of research, in which you are working. However, all abstracts broadly cover the following sections:
Reason for Writing
One can start with the importance of conducting their research study. Furthermore, you could start with a broader research question and address why would the reader be interested in that particular research question.
You could mention what problem the research study chooses to address. Moreover, you could elaborate about the scope of the project, the main argument, brief about thesis objective or what the study claims.
Furthermore, you could mention a line or two about what approach and specific models the research study uses in the scientific work. Some research studies may discuss the evidences in throughout the paper, so instead of writing about methodologies you could mention the types of evidence used in the research.
The scientific research aims to get the specific data that indicates the results of the project. Therefore, you could mention the results and discuss the findings in a broader and general way.
Finally, you could discuss how the research work contributes to the scientific society and adds knowledge on the topic. Also, you could specify if your findings or inferences could help future research and researchers.
Types of Abstracts
Based on the abstract content —, 1. descriptive.
This abstract in research paper is usually short (50-100 words). These abstracts have common sections, such as –
- Focus of research
- Overview of the study.
This type of research does not include detailed presentation of results and only mention results through a phrase without contributing numerical or statistical data . Descriptive abstracts guide readers on the nature of contents of the article.
This abstract gives the essence of what the report is about and it is usually about 200 words. These abstracts have common sections, such as –
- Aim or purpose
This abstract provides an accurate data on the contents of the work, especially on the results section.
Based on the writing format —
This type of abstract has a paragraph for each section: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Conclusion. Also, structured abstracts are often required for informative abstracts.
A semi-structured abstract is written in only one paragraph, wherein each sentence corresponds to a section. Furthermore, all the sections mentioned in the structured abstract are present in the semi-structured abstract.
In a non-structured abstract there are no divisions between each section. The sentences are included in a single paragraph. This type of presentation is ideal for descriptive abstracts.
Examples of Abstracts
Abstract example 1: clinical research.
Neutralization of Omicron BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3 SARS-CoV-2 by 3 doses of BNT162b2 vaccine
Abstract: The newly emerged Omicron SARS-CoV-2 has several distinct sublineages including BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3. BA.1 accounts for the initial surge and is being replaced by BA.2, whereas BA.3 is at a low prevalence at this time. Here we report the neutralization of BNT162b2-vaccinated sera (collected 1 month after dose 3) against the three Omicron sublineages. To facilitate the neutralization testing, we have engineered the complete BA.1, BA.2, or BA.3 spike into an mNeonGreen USA-WA1/2020 SARS-CoV-2. All BNT162b2-vaccinated sera neutralize USA-WA1/2020, BA.1-, BA.2-, and BA.3-spike SARS-CoV-2s with titers of >20; the neutralization geometric mean titers (GMTs) against the four viruses are 1211, 336, 300, and 190, respectively. Thus, the BA.1-, BA.2-, and BA.3-spike SARS-CoV-2s are 3.6-, 4.0-, and 6.4-fold less efficiently neutralized than the USA-WA1/2020, respectively. Our data have implications in vaccine strategy and understanding the biology of Omicron sublineages.
Type of Abstract: Informative and non-structured
Abstract Example 2: Material Science and Chemistry
Breaking the nanoparticle’s dispersible limit via rotatable surface ligands
Abstract: Achieving versatile dispersion of nanoparticles in a broad range of solvents (e.g., water, oil, and biofluids) without repeatedly recourse to chemical modifications are desirable in optoelectronic devices, self-assembly, sensing, and biomedical fields. However, such a target is limited by the strategies used to decorate nanoparticle’s surface properties, leading to a narrow range of solvents for existing nanoparticles. Here we report a concept to break the nanoparticle’s dispersible limit via electrochemically anchoring surface ligands capable of sensing the surrounding liquid medium and rotating to adapt to it, immediately forming stable dispersions in a wide range of solvents (polar and nonpolar, biofluids, etc.). Moreover, the smart nanoparticles can be continuously electrodeposited in the electrolyte, overcoming the electrode surface-confined low throughput limitation of conventional electrodeposition methods. The anomalous dispersive property of the smart Ag nanoparticles enables them to resist bacteria secreted species-induced aggregation and the structural similarity of the surface ligands to that of the bacterial membrane assists them to enter the bacteria, leading to high antibacterial activity. The simple but massive fabrication process and the enhanced dispersion properties offer great application opportunities to the smart nanoparticles in diverse fields.
Type of Abstract: Descriptive and non-structured
Abstract Example 3: Clinical Toxicology
Evaluation of dexmedetomidine therapy for sedation in patients with toxicological events at an academic medical center
Introduction: Although clinical use of dexmedetomidine (DEX), an alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonist, has increased, its role in patients admitted to intensive care units secondary to toxicological sequelae has not been well established.
Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to describe clinical and adverse effects observed in poisoned patients receiving DEX for sedation.
Methods: This was an observational case series with retrospective chart review of poisoned patients who received DEX for sedation at an academic medical center. The primary endpoint was incidence of adverse effects of DEX therapy including bradycardia, hypotension, seizures, and arrhythmias. For comparison, vital signs were collected hourly for the 5 h preceding the DEX therapy and every hour during DEX therapy until the therapy ended. Additional endpoints included therapy duration; time within target Richmond Agitation Sedation Score (RASS); and concomitant sedation, analgesia, and vasopressor requirements.
Results: Twenty-two patients were included. Median initial and median DEX infusion rates were similar to the commonly used rates for sedation. Median heart rate was lower during the therapy (82 vs. 93 beats/minute, p < 0.05). Median systolic blood pressure before and during therapy was similar (111 vs. 109 mmHg, p = 0.745). Five patients experienced an adverse effect per study definitions during therapy. No additional adverse effects were noted. Median time within target RASS and duration of therapy was 6.5 and 44.5 h, respectively. Seventeen patients (77%) had concomitant use of other sedation and/or analgesia with four (23%) of these patients requiring additional agents after DEX initiation. Seven patients (32%) had concomitant vasopressor support with four (57%) of these patients requiring vasopressor support after DEX initiation.
Conclusion: Common adverse effects of DEX were noted in this study. The requirement for vasopressor support during therapy warrants further investigation into the safety of DEX in poisoned patients. Larger, comparative studies need to be performed before the use of DEX can be routinely recommended in poisoned patients.
Keywords: Adverse effects; Alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonist; Overdose; Safety.
Type of Abstract: Informative and structured .
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- How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples
How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples
Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis , dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.
Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.
One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:
Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.
In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
Table of contents
Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about abstracts.
Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.
This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the US during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).
Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.
Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.
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You will almost always have to include an abstract when:
- Completing a thesis or dissertation
- Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
- Writing a book or research proposal
- Applying for research grants
It’s easiest to write your abstract last, right before the proofreading stage, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:
- Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
- Be fully understandable on its own
- Reflect the structure of your larger work
Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?
You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic , but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialized terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.
After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.
This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.
- This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
- This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.
- Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
- Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.
Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.
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Next, summarize the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.
- Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
- Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
- Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.
Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.
- We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
- We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.
If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalizability of your research.
If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.
If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.
Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.
It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.
Read other abstracts
The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.
You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .
Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.
For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.
Write clearly and concisely
A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.
To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:
- Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
- Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
- Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
- Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
- Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.
If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or use the paraphrasing tool .
Check your formatting
If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .
The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.
The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .
I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.
I have briefly described my methodology .
I have summarized the most important results .
I have stated my main conclusions .
I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.
The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.
You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.
If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:
- To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
- To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.
Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.
An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.
The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .
Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:
- The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
- The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.
There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.
The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
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McCombes, S. (2023, July 18). How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/abstract/
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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper | Examples
What is a research paper abstract?
Research paper abstracts summarize your study quickly and succinctly to journal editors and researchers and prompt them to read further. But with the ubiquity of online publication databases, writing a compelling abstract is even more important today than it was in the days of bound paper manuscripts.
Abstracts exist to “sell” your work, and they could thus be compared to the “executive summary” of a business resume: an official briefing on what is most important about your research. Or the “gist” of your research. With the majority of academic transactions being conducted online, this means that you have even less time to impress readers–and increased competition in terms of other abstracts out there to read.
The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) notes that there are 12 questions or “points” considered in the selection process for journals and conferences and stresses the importance of having an abstract that ticks all of these boxes. Because it is often the ONLY chance you have to convince readers to keep reading, it is important that you spend time and energy crafting an abstract that faithfully represents the central parts of your study and captivates your audience.
With that in mind, follow these suggestions when structuring and writing your abstract, and learn how exactly to put these ideas into a solid abstract that will captivate your target readers.
Before Writing Your Abstract
How long should an abstract be.
All abstracts are written with the same essential objective: to give a summary of your study. But there are two basic styles of abstract: descriptive and informative . Here is a brief delineation of the two:
Of the two types of abstracts, informative abstracts are much more common, and they are widely used for submission to journals and conferences. Informative abstracts apply to lengthier and more technical research and are common in the sciences, engineering, and psychology, while descriptive abstracts are more likely used in humanities and social science papers. The best method of determining which abstract type you need to use is to follow the instructions for journal submissions and to read as many other published articles in those journals as possible.
Research Abstract Guidelines and Requirements
As any article about research writing will tell you, authors must always closely follow the specific guidelines and requirements indicated in the Guide for Authors section of their target journal’s website. The same kind of adherence to conventions should be applied to journal publications, for consideration at a conference, and even when completing a class assignment.
Each publisher has particular demands when it comes to formatting and structure. Here are some common questions addressed in the journal guidelines:
- Is there a maximum or minimum word/character length?
- What are the style and formatting requirements?
- What is the appropriate abstract type?
- Are there any specific content or organization rules that apply?
There are of course other rules to consider when composing a research paper abstract. But if you follow the stated rules the first time you submit your manuscript, you can avoid your work being thrown in the “circular file” right off the bat.
Identify Your Target Readership
The main purpose of your abstract is to lead researchers to the full text of your research paper. In scientific journals, abstracts let readers decide whether the research discussed is relevant to their own interests or study. Abstracts also help readers understand your main argument quickly. Consider these questions as you write your abstract:
- Are other academics in your field the main target of your study?
- Will your study perhaps be useful to members of the general public?
- Do your study results include the wider implications presented in the abstract?
Outlining and Writing Your Abstract
What to include in an abstract.
Just as your research paper title should cover as much ground as possible in a few short words, your abstract must cover all parts of your study in order to fully explain your paper and research. Because it must accomplish this task in the space of only a few hundred words, it is important not to include ambiguous references or phrases that will confuse the reader or mislead them about the content and objectives of your research. Follow these dos and don’ts when it comes to what kind of writing to include:
- Avoid acronyms or abbreviations since these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader, which takes up valuable abstract space. Instead, explain these terms in the Introduction section of the main text.
- Only use references to people or other works if they are well-known. Otherwise, avoid referencing anything outside of your study in the abstract.
- Never include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract; you will have plenty of time to present and refer to these in the body of your paper.
Use keywords in your abstract to focus your topic
A vital search tool is the research paper keywords section, which lists the most relevant terms directly underneath the abstract. Think of these keywords as the “tubes” that readers will seek and enter—via queries on databases and search engines—to ultimately land at their destination, which is your paper. Your abstract keywords should thus be words that are commonly used in searches but should also be highly relevant to your work and found in the text of your abstract. Include 5 to 10 important words or short phrases central to your research in both the abstract and the keywords section.
For example, if you are writing a paper on the prevalence of obesity among lower classes that crosses international boundaries, you should include terms like “obesity,” “prevalence,” “international,” “lower classes,” and “cross-cultural.” These are terms that should net a wide array of people interested in your topic of study. Look at our nine rules for choosing keywords for your research paper if you need more input on this.
Research Paper Abstract Structure
As mentioned above, the abstract (especially the informative abstract) acts as a surrogate or synopsis of your research paper, doing almost as much work as the thousands of words that follow it in the body of the main text. In the hard sciences and most social sciences, the abstract includes the following sections and organizational schema.
Each section is quite compact—only a single sentence or two, although there is room for expansion if one element or statement is particularly interesting or compelling. As the abstract is almost always one long paragraph, the individual sections should naturally merge into one another to create a holistic effect. Use the following as a checklist to ensure that you have included all of the necessary content in your abstract.
1) Identify your purpose and motivation
So your research is about rabies in Brazilian squirrels. Why is this important? You should start your abstract by explaining why people should care about this study—why is it significant to your field and perhaps to the wider world? And what is the exact purpose of your study; what are you trying to achieve? Start by answering the following questions:
- What made you decide to do this study or project?
- Why is this study important to your field or to the lay reader?
- Why should someone read your entire article?
In summary, the first section of your abstract should include the importance of the research and its impact on related research fields or on the wider scientific domain.
2) Explain the research problem you are addressing
Stating the research problem that your study addresses is the corollary to why your specific study is important and necessary. For instance, even if the issue of “rabies in Brazilian squirrels” is important, what is the problem—the “missing piece of the puzzle”—that your study helps resolve?
You can combine the problem with the motivation section, but from a perspective of organization and clarity, it is best to separate the two. Here are some precise questions to address:
- What is your research trying to better understand or what problem is it trying to solve?
- What is the scope of your study—does it try to explain something general or specific?
- What is your central claim or argument?
3) Discuss your research approach
Your specific study approach is detailed in the Methods and Materials section . You have already established the importance of the research, your motivation for studying this issue, and the specific problem your paper addresses. Now you need to discuss how you solved or made progress on this problem—how you conducted your research. If your study includes your own work or that of your team, describe that here. If in your paper you reviewed the work of others, explain this here. Did you use analytic models? A simulation? A double-blind study? A case study? You are basically showing the reader the internal engine of your research machine and how it functioned in the study. Be sure to:
- Detail your research—include methods/type of the study, your variables, and the extent of the work
- Briefly present evidence to support your claim
- Highlight your most important sources
4) Briefly summarize your results
Here you will give an overview of the outcome of your study. Avoid using too many vague qualitative terms (e.g, “very,” “small,” or “tremendous”) and try to use at least some quantitative terms (i.e., percentages, figures, numbers). Save your qualitative language for the conclusion statement. Answer questions like these:
- What did your study yield in concrete terms (e.g., trends, figures, correlation between phenomena)?
- How did your results compare to your hypothesis? Was the study successful?
- Where there any highly unexpected outcomes or were they all largely predicted?
5) State your conclusion
In the last section of your abstract, you will give a statement about the implications and limitations of the study . Be sure to connect this statement closely to your results and not the area of study in general. Are the results of this study going to shake up the scientific world? Will they impact how people see “Brazilian squirrels”? Or are the implications minor? Try not to boast about your study or present its impact as too far-reaching, as researchers and journals will tend to be skeptical of bold claims in scientific papers. Answer one of these questions:
- What are the exact effects of these results on my field? On the wider world?
- What other kind of study would yield further solutions to problems?
- What other information is needed to expand knowledge in this area?
After Completing the First Draft of Your Abstract
Revise your abstract.
The abstract, like any piece of academic writing, should be revised before being considered complete. Check it for grammatical and spelling errors and make sure it is formatted properly.
Get feedback from a peer
Getting a fresh set of eyes to review your abstract is a great way to find out whether you’ve summarized your research well. Find a reader who understands research papers but is not an expert in this field or is not affiliated with your study. Ask your reader to summarize what your study is about (including all key points of each section). This should tell you if you have communicated your key points clearly.
In addition to research peers, consider consulting with a professor or even a specialist or generalist writing center consultant about your abstract. Use any resource that helps you see your work from another perspective.
Consider getting professional editing and proofreading
While peer feedback is quite important to ensure the effectiveness of your abstract content, it may be a good idea to find an academic editor to fix mistakes in grammar, spelling, mechanics, style, or formatting. The presence of basic errors in the abstract may not affect your content, but it might dissuade someone from reading your entire study. Wordvice provides English editing services that both correct objective errors and enhance the readability and impact of your work.
Additional Abstract Rules and Guidelines
Write your abstract after completing your paper.
Although the abstract goes at the beginning of your manuscript, it does not merely introduce your research topic (that is the job of the title), but rather summarizes your entire paper. Writing the abstract last will ensure that it is complete and consistent with the findings and statements in your paper.
Keep your content in the correct order
Both questions and answers should be organized in a standard and familiar way to make the content easier for readers to absorb. Ideally, it should mimic the overall format of your essay and the classic “introduction,” “body,” and “conclusion” form, even if the parts are not neatly divided as such.
Write the abstract from scratch
Because the abstract is a self-contained piece of writing viewed separately from the body of the paper, you should write it separately as well. Never copy and paste direct quotes from the paper and avoid paraphrasing sentences in the paper. Using new vocabulary and phrases will keep your abstract interesting and free of redundancies while conserving space.
Don’t include too many details in the abstract
Again, the density of your abstract makes it incompatible with including specific points other than possibly names or locations. You can make references to terms, but do not explain or define them in the abstract. Try to strike a balance between being specific to your study and presenting a relatively broad overview of your work.
If you think your abstract is fine now but you need input on abstract writing or require English editing services (including paper editing ), then head over to the Wordvice academic resources page, where you will find many more articles, for example on writing the Results , Methods , and Discussion sections of your manuscript, on choosing a title for your paper , or on how to finalize your journal submission with a strong cover letter .
Click on the links below to view examples of abstracts written by MSU students from different fields of study.
Sample Abstract - Communication Arts and Sciences
The Prevalence of Theoretical Behavior Change Components in the Top Breast Cancer Websites to Encourage Detection or Prevention Behaviors and to Solicit Donations
Sample Abstract - Engineering
Sensitivity Analysis of DSC Measurements of Denaturation of a Protein Mixture
Sample Abstract - Environmental and Natural Resources
Recycling in Michigan
Sample Abstract - Humanities
Memoirs of Genocide: From Poland to Sudan
Sample Abstract - Molecular Biology
The Role of Src-Homology-3 in the Activation Mechanism of MLK3
Sample Abstract - Performing and Visual Arts
Embodying Social Advocacy
Sample Abstract - Social Science
Individual Differences in Memory in Relation to Emotional Stimuli
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Sample Abstracts for Writing
These pages show two examples of typical abstracts from honours theses. Notice that the stages of the abstracts have been labelled, so that you can see the function of each sentence or part-sentence. You can also see that there are differences in the type of information that is included in each abstract, as well as differences in level of detail.
Sample 1: Genetic Mechanisms and Dissemination of Antibiotic Resistance
Abstract (Background statement) The spread of antibiotic resistance is aided by mobile elements such as transposons and conjugative plasmids. ( Narrowing statement) Recently, integrons have been recognised as genetic elements that have the capacity to contribute to the spread of resistance. ( Elaboration of narrowing) (statement) Integrons constitute an efficient means of capturing gene cassettes and allow expression of encoded resistance. (Aims) The aims of this study were to screen clinical isolates for integrons, characterise gene cassettes and extended spectrum b-lactamase (ESBL) genes. (Extended aim) Subsequent to this, genetic linkage between ESBL genes and gentamicin resistance was investigated. (Results) In this study, 41 % of multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria and 79 % of extended-spectrum b-lactamase producing organisms were found to carry either one or two integrons, as detected by PCR. (Results) A novel gene cassette contained within an integron was identified from Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, encoding a protein that belongs to the small multidrug resistance (SMR) family of transporters. (Results) pLJ1, a transferable plasmid that was present in 86 % of the extended-spectrum b-lactamase producing collection, was found to harbour an integron carrying aadB, a gene cassette for gentamicin, kanamycin and tobramycin resistance and a blaSHV-12 gene for third generation cephalosporin resistance. (Justification of results) The presence of this plasmid accounts for the gentamicin resistance phenotype that is often associated with organisms displaying an extended-spectrum b-lactamase phenotype. (Jones 2004, p.9)
Sample 2: Permeable Treatment Walls
Abstract (Background statement) A review of groundwater remediation in use today shows that new techniques are required that solve the problems of pump and treat, containment and in-situ treatment. (Narrowing statement) One such technique is the method that involves the use of permeable treatment walls. (Elaboration) These methods use a reactive medium such as iron to remediate contaminated groundwater. (Aim*) Several methods of implementing this remediation strategy have been described. (Elaboration of aim) These methods include injection and trenching. (Specific focus of aim) The use of a funnel and gate system via a trench has been examined in detail (Methods) using a groundwater modelling option of the FLAC program. (Methods) The modelling involved an analysis of the effect of changing the lengths of the walls and gate, varying the permeability, and varying the number of gates. (Results) The results showed that increasing the wall length, gate length and permeability increases the size of the plume captured. (Key result) An important factor in designing the walls is the residence time of the water in the gate or the contact time of the contaminant with the reactive media. (Evaluation of results) A sensitivity analysis has been conducted that shows that increasing the size of the capture zone decreases the residence time (Limitations) which will limit the design. (Future applications and research) The results of the modelling and sensitivity analysis are presented such that they can be used as an aid to the design of permeable treatment walls. (Dasey G. 1996 p.i)
* This is the aim of the research, but it is not very clearly stated. It might be better if the aim was made more explicit.
Sample 3: The Effects of Flouride on the Reproduction of Three Native Australian Plant Species
Note: This abstract is referred to as an Executive Summary (original 2 pages)
(Background statement) No other form of environmental pollution has had as widespread detrimental effect on the growth and reproductive capacity of plants as air pollution. (Narrowing statement) Fluorides have long been recognized as highly toxic and research has shown that they are the most phytotoxic of all air pollutants. (Elaboration of narrowing statement) One of the most subtle impacts of fluoride on plant development is on their reproductive processes… There has been very little work directed towards forest trees, and especially native Australian species. (Broad purpose of study) An understanding of the effects of fluoride on the reproductive processes of plant species within a forest community may help predict changes within the community following an increase in atmospheric fluoride arising from industrial sources. (Narrowing of purpose of study) This study investigates the effects of increased atmospheric fluoride emissions from an aluminium smelter, on the reproductive processes of three native species, Banksia aemula, Bossiaea heterophylla and Actinotus helianthi. Elaboration of purpose Attention has also been paid to the soil seed reserve as an important resource for the replacement of adult plants within the community. (Results) For Banksia aemula the study found that the reproduction of this fluoride-sensitive species may be affected in the close vicinity of the smelter… For the two ground layer species the study found that the fluoride may be affecting the Bossiaea heterophylla but having no discernible or very little effect on the Actinotus helianthi.** (Significance of results 1) The implications of these results for the forest community are that sensitive native species such as the long-lived Banksia aemula and Bossiaea heterophylla will be removed from the plant community close to the smelter. This will reduce the resources they provide to the existing ecosystem but will, however, free more resources for the more resistant opportunist species such as Actinotus helianthi as well as the many introduced species. (Significance of results 2) The soil seed reserve study indicated that the seed reserve was very small in all areas. This would have several negative impacts on the natural regeneration of the area in the event of the closure of the smelter… (Future research) Further research is recommended to assess the biochemical pathways for both the vegetative and reproductive processes and the mechanisms of the pollination of this important species… This may need to be repeated at certain intervals to monitor any further changes that may result from the higher fluoride emissions of the new expansion.
Exercise for sample 3
The abstract (executive summary) above has been summarised to focus on key stages. Some of the omitted text is reproduced below. Can you identify the stages?
- The effects of the fluoride for the forest species were assessed by measuring several reproductive and associated characteristics of the plants found within forest areas along a fluoride gradient.
This is the only sentence which outlines the Method of the study. It is the next sentence after the Elaboration of purpose.
- Bossiaea heterophylla shows more visible signs of fluoride stress close to the smelter. Insect damage to the Bossiaea heterophylla seed pods were observed in the background sites but not in the high fluoride sites indicating that the fluoride may be having an effect on the seed predators close to the smelter.
This short text is part of the Results and follows on from the results section above.
- This study looked at the difference in visible structures associated with reproduction. Leaves of the Banksia aemula trees growing close to the smelter have accumulated large concentrations of foliar fluoride. Whether this is affecting the physiology and biochemical processes of the plan(which in turn may indirectly affect the reproduction potential of the plants) or the increased fluoride in the atmosphere is directly affecting the reproduction mechanisms is difficult to ascertain from this study.
This text is the first part of the concluding paragraph. The remainder of the paragraph discusses further research.
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How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation
Department of Psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Abstracts of scientific papers are sometimes poorly written, often lack important information, and occasionally convey a biased picture. This paper provides detailed suggestions, with examples, for writing the background, methods, results, and conclusions sections of a good abstract. The primary target of this paper is the young researcher; however, authors with all levels of experience may find useful ideas in the paper.
This paper is the third in a series on manuscript writing skills, published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry . Earlier articles offered suggestions on how to write a good case report,[ 1 ] and how to read, write, or review a paper on randomized controlled trials.[ 2 , 3 ] The present paper examines how authors may write a good abstract when preparing their manuscript for a scientific journal or conference presentation. Although the primary target of this paper is the young researcher, it is likely that authors with all levels of experience will find at least a few ideas that may be useful in their future efforts.
The abstract of a paper is the only part of the paper that is published in conference proceedings. The abstract is the only part of the paper that a potential referee sees when he is invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract is the only part of the paper that readers see when they search through electronic databases such as PubMed. Finally, most readers will acknowledge, with a chuckle, that when they leaf through the hard copy of a journal, they look at only the titles of the contained papers. If a title interests them, they glance through the abstract of that paper. Only a dedicated reader will peruse the contents of the paper, and then, most often only the introduction and discussion sections. Only a reader with a very specific interest in the subject of the paper, and a need to understand it thoroughly, will read the entire paper.
Thus, for the vast majority of readers, the paper does not exist beyond its abstract. For the referees, and the few readers who wish to read beyond the abstract, the abstract sets the tone for the rest of the paper. It is therefore the duty of the author to ensure that the abstract is properly representative of the entire paper. For this, the abstract must have some general qualities. These are listed in Table 1 .
General qualities of a good abstract
SECTIONS OF AN ABSTRACT
Although some journals still publish abstracts that are written as free-flowing paragraphs, most journals require abstracts to conform to a formal structure within a word count of, usually, 200–250 words. The usual sections defined in a structured abstract are the Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusions; other headings with similar meanings may be used (eg, Introduction in place of Background or Findings in place of Results). Some journals include additional sections, such as Objectives (between Background and Methods) and Limitations (at the end of the abstract). In the rest of this paper, issues related to the contents of each section will be examined in turn.
This section should be the shortest part of the abstract and should very briefly outline the following information:
- What is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question
- What is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present)
In most cases, the background can be framed in just 2–3 sentences, with each sentence describing a different aspect of the information referred to above; sometimes, even a single sentence may suffice. The purpose of the background, as the word itself indicates, is to provide the reader with a background to the study, and hence to smoothly lead into a description of the methods employed in the investigation.
Some authors publish papers the abstracts of which contain a lengthy background section. There are some situations, perhaps, where this may be justified. In most cases, however, a longer background section means that less space remains for the presentation of the results. This is unfortunate because the reader is interested in the paper because of its findings, and not because of its background.
A wide variety of acceptably composed backgrounds is provided in Table 2 ; most of these have been adapted from actual papers.[ 4 – 9 ] Readers may wish to compare the content in Table 2 with the original abstracts to see how the adaptations possibly improve on the originals. Note that, in the interest of brevity, unnecessary content is avoided. For instance, in Example 1 there is no need to state “The antidepressant efficacy of desvenlafaxine (DV), a dual-acting antidepressant drug , has been established…” (the unnecessary content is italicized).
Examples of the background section of an abstract
The methods section is usually the second-longest section in the abstract. It should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. Table 3 lists important questions to which the methods section should provide brief answers.
Questions regarding which information should ideally be available in the methods section of an abstract
Carelessly written methods sections lack information about important issues such as sample size, numbers of patients in different groups, doses of medications, and duration of the study. Readers have only to flip through the pages of a randomly selected journal to realize how common such carelessness is.
Table 4 presents examples of the contents of accept-ably written methods sections, modified from actual publications.[ 10 , 11 ] Readers are invited to take special note of the first sentence of each example in Table 4 ; each is packed with detail, illustrating how to convey the maximum quantity of information with maximum economy of word count.
Examples of the methods section of an abstract
The results section is the most important part of the abstract and nothing should compromise its range and quality. This is because readers who peruse an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore be the longest part of the abstract and should contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits. For example, it is bad writing to state “Response rates differed significantly between diabetic and nondiabetic patients.” A better sentence is “The response rate was higher in nondiabetic than in diabetic patients (49% vs 30%, respectively; P <0.01).”
Important information that the results should present is indicated in Table 5 . Examples of acceptably written abstracts are presented in Table 6 ; one of these has been modified from an actual publication.[ 11 ] Note that the first example is rather narrative in style, whereas the second example is packed with data.
Information that the results section of the abstract should ideally present
Examples of the results section of an abstract
This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcome measure; however, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, for the authors to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:
- The primary take-home message
- The additional findings of importance
- The perspective
Despite its necessary brevity, this section has the most impact on the average reader because readers generally trust authors and take their assertions at face value. For this reason, the conclusions should also be scrupulously honest; and authors should not claim more than their data demonstrate. Hypothetical examples of the conclusions section of an abstract are presented in Table 7 .
Examples of the conclusions section of an abstract
Citation of references anywhere within an abstract is almost invariably inappropriate. Other examples of unnecessary content in an abstract are listed in Table 8 .
Examples of unnecessary content in a abstract
It goes without saying that whatever is present in the abstract must also be present in the text. Likewise, whatever errors should not be made in the text should not appear in the abstract (eg, mistaking association for causality).
As already mentioned, the abstract is the only part of the paper that the vast majority of readers see. Therefore, it is critically important for authors to ensure that their enthusiasm or bias does not deceive the reader; unjustified speculations could be even more harmful. Misleading readers could harm the cause of science and have an adverse impact on patient care.[ 12 ] A recent study,[ 13 ] for example, concluded that venlafaxine use during the second trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of neonates born small for gestational age. However, nowhere in the abstract did the authors mention that these conclusions were based on just 5 cases and 12 controls out of the total sample of 126 cases and 806 controls. There were several other serious limitations that rendered the authors’ conclusions tentative, at best; yet, nowhere in the abstract were these other limitations expressed.
As a parting note: Most journals provide clear instructions to authors on the formatting and contents of different parts of the manuscript. These instructions often include details on what the sections of an abstract should contain. Authors should tailor their abstracts to the specific requirements of the journal to which they plan to submit their manuscript. It could also be an excellent idea to model the abstract of the paper, sentence for sentence, on the abstract of an important paper on a similar subject and with similar methodology, published in the same journal for which the manuscript is slated.
Source of Support: Nil
Conflict of Interest: None declared.
Abstract Section Examples and Writing Tips
Abstract | Introduction | Literature Review | Research question | Materials & Methods | Results | Discussion | Conclusion
In this blog, we look at how to write the abstract section of a research paper. We will go through plenty of abstract examples and understand how to construct a great abstract section for your research paper.
1. What is the purpose of the abstract section?
The abstract is one of the most important sections of your research paper. People normally see your abstract first because it will be available in conference programs and various databases. The Abstract is like a mini paper. The abstract should be self-sufficient, and just by reading the abstract the reader should get a rough idea of what you have done in the paper. This section should be the last thing your write because this is a summary of the entire paper along with your final conclusions.
2. Why your abstract is important?
Here are three reasons why you should spend a decent amount of time writing your abstract.
The abstracts are available for free. Readers will read the abstract first and then decide whether to purchase the full version of the paper or not. After submitting your paper to a journal, the editor reads the abstract and decides whether to send your paper for review or to reject it. The reviewers read the abstract first. If it is badly written, then they won’t bother wasting time reading the rest of the paper, they will assume that the rest of the paper will be equally bad and will reject the paper. So it is very important that the readers have a positive reaction to your abstract.
3. How should I structure my abstract section?
Generally, the abstract section of a research paper typically contains the following parts.
The abstract should clearly answer the following questions. Number 1: Why are you writing this paper? Number 2: What did you do? Number 3: What are your results? Number 4: What are the implications of your findings?
4. How many types of abstract are there?
There are two types of abstracts, structured abstract and unstructured abstract. Most journals follow the unstructured format. This is basically writing your abstract as a continuous paragraph. However, some journals follow a structured format. You are expected to structure your abstract under different headings. Please check your journal requirements before you start writing your abstract, as many journals in the field of health sciences require a structured abstract.
5. Abstract Examples
Let’s look at some examples of the abstract section in research papers. We will be looking at abstract examples from different fields and of different formats. This will provide you with ideas to construct an effective and appealing abstract for your paper.
5.1. Abstract Example #1 (Health sciences research paper)
Here is an abstract example from a medical research paper. The authors are starting with the topic and the problem definition. They are saying that vitamin D and obesity appear to be linked, and it is unclear if vitamin D supplements will contribute to weight loss among obese patients. Then they explain the method. They conducted a randomized clinical trial with 100 participants. The trial went on for 24 weeks and they measured BMI during the study.
Obesity and vitamin D deficiency are two conditions that usually occur simultaneously in patients. However, it is unclear whether vitamin D supplements aid in weight loss among obese patients. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we examined the effect of vitamin D supplements on weight loss over 24 weeks in 100 obese women with BMI as a primary outcome. Mean BMI decreased in the vitamin D group (22.3 ± 0.2) compared to the placebo group (26.2 ± 0.3), and a significant effect was observed (p ≤ 0·001). The findings have proven that vitamin D supplementation can be used as a potential therapeutic option for weight loss programs. _ Topic _ Aims _ Methods _ Results _ Implications
Then they move on to the results. They are saying that they found a significant difference in BMI between the vitamin D group and the placebo group. Finally, they talk about the implications of their study. They are saying that their study has provided evidence that vitamin D can be used as a therapeutic option for weight loss programs. The abstract nicely summarizes the essence of the paper. After reading it you know exactly what to expect from the paper.
5.2. Abstract Example #2 (Engineering research paper)
This abstract example is from an engineering research paper. The authors are starting with the topic. They are saying that their topic relates to removing errors from digital video. Then they are explaining the method. The authors are saying that they have proposed a new technique that can fix these errors automatically.
The quality of the video is affected by errors occurring at various stages of the production chain and is very challenging to fix. Automatic error correction methods based on the principles of motion flow estimation and image correlation are proposed. The new algorithms outperform existing techniques with superior performance in quality and speed. The new technique eliminates the visual inspection process and automatically restores the video integrity. _ Topic _ Methods _ Results _ Implications
Then they are presenting the results. They are saying that their methods are faster and superior to existing methods. Finally, they are finishing up with the implications of their study. They are saying that their methods will remove the need for the painstaking process of visually inspecting the video for errors. As you can see this abstract follows the standard format of TOPIC-METHOD-RESULT-IMPLICATIONS.
5.3. Abstract Example #3 (Review paper)
Here is an example of an abstract from a review paper. Review papers are different from traditional papers. In a traditional paper, you define a problem and you try to find a solution to the problem. Whereas in review papers, authors provide an in-depth analysis of all the existing literature on the topic.
A wide range of different techniques has been proposed for the safe production and consumption of Genetically Modified Food. This paper reviews the progress made and attempts to summarise the current state-of-the-art technologies that overcome existing food security challenges. The intention is that this will serve as a timely review and comparison of various methods based on a risk-benefit analysis that forms a basis to inform future research in this area. _ Topic _ Aims _ Implications
In this abstract example, the authors are starting with the topic. They are saying that the topic relates to food production. Then they are stating their objectives which is to summarize all the existing methods published on this topic. Then they are explaining the implications of their work, which is to provide a comparison of all the existing methods so that it will serve as a guide to future researchers. As you can see the methods and results are missing from this abstract since it is a review paper.
6. Keywords in abstract
Most papers require you to provide a keyword list below the abstract. This is very important because these keywords will be used to identify your paper when people search on the journal website and on search engines. So please put some thought into it and choose your keywords carefully. If you choose bad keywords, then your paper will not appear in the search results and you will be missing out on potential readers.
Once you submit your paper, you cannot change the keywords, so make sure you spend some time choosing the right keywords. The best way to check if you have chosen the right keywords is to search in google scholar and see if the keywords you have chosen brings up papers similar to your paper.
7. Conference abstract vs Journal abstract
There is a difference between conference and journal abstracts. Typically, researchers present work in progress at conferences, and once the work is complete, they submit the completed research work to a journal. When you are writing conference abstracts it is okay to say that it is a work in progress. If you give the impression that your work is complete when it is not, then people turning up to your presentation will be disappointed.
Here is an example of the final two lines of a conference abstract and a journal abstract of the same work written at different stages of research. The first example is a conference abstract. The authors are making it clear that they are presenting the results of a pilot study and they are planning to follow it up with a larger study to reconfirm the findings.
The results of the pilot study seem to indicate that there is a link between learning methods and student grades. This motivates a full study with a large sample size to better understand this finding. Conference abstract
The second example is a journal abstract. The conclusions presented by the authors sound much more definitive, and it is very clear from the tone that the study is complete.
The results indicate that there is a statistically significant link between learning and student grades (p<0.04). Journal abstract
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This blog explains how to write a research paper and provides writing ideas in the form of academic phrases.
Materials and Methods Examples and Writing Tips
In this blog, we will go through many materials and methods examples and understand how to write a clear and concise method section for your research paper.
Useful Phrases and Sentences for Academic & Research Paper Writing
In this blog, we explain various sections of a research paper and give you an overview of what these sections should contain.
Results Section Examples and Writing Tips
In this blog, we will go through many results section examples and understand how to write a great results section for your paper.
Writing a Medical Clinical Trial Research Paper – Example & Format
In this blog, we will teach you step-by-step how to write a clinical trial research paper for publication in a high quality scientific journal.
Introduction Paragraph Examples and Writing Tips
In this blog, we will go through a few introduction paragraph examples and understand how to construct a great introduction paragraph for your research paper.
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