Research papers are one of the most widespread examples of scientific literature. Being rather detailed and lengthy, such manuscripts are normally accompanied by abstracts – short summaries that help get the essence of your publication.
What purposes do research paper abstracts serve?
An abstract determines the way readers perceive your intention and whether they are willing to proceed to read the full text.
Search engines use abstracts for indexing the published articles, so what you mention in your online summary will have a direct impact on how many researchers will be able to find and read your paper.
Writing an efficient research paper abstract is a crucial task for any author. Below are several tips that will help you write an ideal abstract notwithstanding the subject or research method of your article.
Tip #1. Length
A well-written abstract shall be about one paragraph (6-8 sentences) long, with the word count being around 150-250. It is rather difficult to embrace all the information, arguments, and analyses contained in the paper in such a short text but it is an important general rule to follow. By the way, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts, so always look for such guidelines before writing your abstract.
Tip #2. Contents
The sequence of the information to be included in the abstract depends heavily on the nature of your article. Yet, the following points are worth including in a scientific summary:
- The context, the general topic, and the specific topic of the paper;
- The main questions your article addresses;
- The rationale and the goals of the research;
- Your research methods;
- Main findings and results, and their implications.
Tip #3. Verb tenses
An overwhelming majority of abstracts employ the present tense, especially if the corresponding article is a social science sample. In humanities and other science samples the past tense can be used to describe previous research, though the remaining part of the abstract is usually written in the present tense.
We recommend writing the abstract after you have finished the article so that you had a clear understanding of what should be included in the summary. Before submitting the abstract, do not forget to reread and edit it, checking the logical flow of the narration and making the abstract cohesive.