Writing an abstract takes some mental effort, as you must condense your entire paper into 150 to 250 words. If you have never written an abstract, try reading the “Editorial Reviews” for books online, which is a form of abstract. In grade school, you referred to this as the synopsis or plot summary. In academic writing, it is known as an abstract.
- Formal elements of style. Every publication has its own formatting standards, so we will not belabor the point here. Your job, however, is to make certain that your abstract, as well as your overall publication, meet the expectations in the style guide. Following the style guide is a requirement, not an option.
- Writing your abstract: ingredients for success. Whether you are composing for APA, MLA, or Chicago style, the abstract is a formal summary of the critical elements of the paper: objective, methods, results, and conclusions.
- Your mission objective is… First, tell the audience about your project in a factual and descriptive manner. Why did you pursue this research topic? What did you hope to learn (or prove)? For example, you might write, “Stimulated by years of watching the Road Runner cartoons, we sought to discover whether any of the ACME gadgets would work in the real world.”
- You might not like my methods… Next, describe how you went about the study. Did you design an experiment? How was it designed? How many people involved? You could say, “We watched over 40 hours of cartoons, capturing descriptions of ACME products used. We surveyed 100 people to decide which ACME products would be most interesting to the general public. We worked with students from several departments to design, build, and test the five most popular ACME products.”
- …but I do get results! Briefly describe the results of the experiment or research. Don’t give it all away; you still want people to read what you wrote! At the same time, give them a little taste of the findings from your project. “We tested the five ACME products using plastic dummies as well as live volunteers. We found that three of the devices would be useful in the real-world environment.”
- Wrap it up, Wrap it up! Finally, give your audience your take on the overall project – was this a success or failure? “We were so inspired by the results of this experiment; we have secured a substantial grant to continue our research next year.”
Or, if you wish, simply state that the results and future projects will be discussed. “Conclusions, suggestions for continued research, and practical applications will be discussed.”