A research abstract can be defined as a small paragraph that contains a summary of your entire research paper. This is usually about 250-300 words, and is the first thing a reader would look at to make a decision as to whether the paper is worthy to read. So it should be convincing and cover all the important ideas in your paper.
The abstract of an academic paper or manuscript, whether a PhD thesis or a journal article, should always include the general purpose of your work, the main research problem, the research methodology undertaken, the main results obtained, and the implications/contributions of the work. It is generally hard to condense your entire work in a short paragraph, so it is vital to be as concise as possible and only discuss these main factors to make the best use of the available space you have.
Many researchers tend to write the abstract last, even though it is the first section of a research paper, right under the title. This is because it is easier to write the abstract once you already have an overall idea about each section of the paper.
The abstract should not include any lengthy background information or a long review of the literature, or how you carried out the methodology or experimental setup. Instead, it should only briefly discuss the important points mentioned above, each in a clear sentence or two. The abstract also should not contain any abbreviations or citations to prior work. Figures, tables and equations should also be avoided, as this is not allowed in most journals and theses formats.
Finally, it is important to proofread and edit the abstract carefully, as this is the first thing your readers will come across. It will be the pivot that helps readers to determine if the paper is worthy to read. So it should be as clear and straightforward as possible to your audience, and should be edited accurately for clarity.
What is the primary purpose of an abstract?
The primary of an abstract of a research article is to present a very brief, concise, straightforward summary of your entire work to your readers. Based on this summary, they would decide whether to continue reading the article.
How long should an abstract be?
An abstract is typically 250-300 words, and should fit on the first page of a research paper, right after the title and before the Introduction section. The number of words allowed usually depends on your University or journal style guide.
When is the best time to write it?
The best time to write the abstract is after you have completed the paper or dissertation. This way, you have an overall idea of all the concepts of the work and they are still fresh in your mind. So summarizing the work would be easier to do last thing.
What should you not include in your abstract?
You should definitely not include anything that would take up valuable space and does not reflect a main point of your work. You should also not include any citations to other work, tables/figures/equations, abbreviations or any background information about the work.
What should you include in your abstract?
It is important to include the main purpose of your research, the research problem, the methodology, the main results, and a brief summary of the outcome/implications/contributions of your work.