So, what is an abstract? It is a summary of the entire piece of work. It is used in the thesis, dissertation, research papers, and journal articles. There isn’t a published research paper in the behavioral and social sciences without an abstract.
Its purpose is to, at a glance, provide valuable information to readers. For an abstract to communicate the essence of the work it represents, it should include:
- Research problem(s), purpose and importance of the study
- The basic methodology blueprint
- Relevant results, trends or findings
- A concise summary of conclusions, interpretations, and implications
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The length of the abstract depends on the requirements of a journal where it’s going to be published. How long should an abstract be then? While the required length varies, it is usually between 150 - 300 words. Journals often have stringent guidelines about the length of the abstract.
People write abstracts in various instances. The writer is often the author of the entire work. In case the work is a result of multiple authors, which most students experience while at university, the abstract is the responsibility of the first author.
Below you can find instances in which people write abstracts:
- When writing an MA thesis
- When writing a Ph.D. dissertation
- When writing a book proposal, and proposal for a book chapter
- When submitting articles to online journals and journals in general
- When writing a proposal for a conference paper
Let’s say you are about to begin your research in social sciences to check whether there is a correlation between different parenting styles and the educational achievement in your country. And, say you start your research on Google Scholar. A simple “parenting style and educational achievement” returned 27,000 results. To narrow down your search, you can even go with a query such as this one “parenting styles and educational achievement in your country.”
Among the search results, you can see many cited papers with a title that has very little to do with your research topic, such as “Parenting style and youth outcomes in the UK”. But if you examine it, you can see in the paper’s abstract that youth outcome is, in fact, educational achievement. A simple piece of information in the abstract can help you save time and tell relevant studies from the less relevant ones.
In other words, an abstract will help you make an informed decision on whether to read the whole paper or not.Indexing
Google Scholar is not the only indexing service out there. Many other online libraries allow people to search for abstracts. But they all work pretty much the same. When a user enters a query, the search algorithm cross-references all abstracts in the database to the entered keywords to deliver the most relevant results. Short abstracts that contain relevant keywords make indexing and searching easier.
Here is what to include in an abstract.
So, you want to check whether there is a correlation between parenting styles and educational achievement. Why does it matter? Use the first few sentences to point out why it is crucial and the purpose of your research.
Identify the problem your research can solve and give your best to elaborate your argument in one or two sentences.
In this section, you have to explain the design of your research and a brief overview of your methodology. This includes your research variables, what statistical methods you used (if any), and a summary of sources and evidence that support your claim.
This section informs the readers about your main findings. Include general findings and state whether your hypothesis was supported or not.
At the end of the abstract, give meaning to your results and tell readers what makes your work important.
“Environmental non-profit organizations in the UK currently face a significant funding gap.”
“Research has shown that donation intention is influenced by campaign messaging strategies, and that representations of individual victims are generally more effective than appeals based on abstract concepts like climate change.”
“This study aims to determine how environmental organizations can target fundraising campaigns to increase donations.”
“Building on existing work on targeted fundraising, it asks: To what extent does a potential donor's social distance from climate change victims in fundraising campaigns affect their intention to make a donation?”
“In this context, social distance is defined as the extent to which people feel they are in the same social group (in-group) or another social group (out-group) in relation to climate change victims.”
“Based on a review of the literature on donation intention and theories of social distance, an online survey was distributed to potential donors based across the UK. Respondents were randomly divided into two conditions (large and small social distance) and asked to respond to one of two sets of fundraising material.”
“Analysis of the responses demonstrated that large social distance was associated with stronger donation intentions than small social distance.”
“The results indicate that social distance does have an impact on donation intention. On this basis, it is recommended that environmental organizations use social distance as a key factor in designing and targeting their campaigns. Further research is needed to identify other factors that could strengthen the effectiveness of these campaigns.”
Before you can learn how to write an abstract for a research paper, you have to determine what is an abstract in a paper. An abstract is a concise summary of the entire work.
Whether you are writing an abstract for social sciences research paper or any other research paper for that matter, you need to follow up on the same structure. Extract major hypotheses, conclusion(s), methods, and results from your paper. Use this information to write a single paragraph, ensuring that the sequence goes as follows: Introduction (purpose), Methods (study design), Results(main findings), Conclusion(s)(your interpretations, conclusions, and implications).
It’s important to know the abstract vs. introduction differences.
An introduction has the purpose of draw readers in. In it, readers can learn about the background of the research paper’s subject matter. The introduction also outlines what the issues the research wants to address are, how they will be resolved, and why it is crucial. It doesn’t contain any information about methods, results, or conclusions.
An abstract, on the other hand, is a summary of the entire paper. It allows readers to understand the importance of the research paper, learn about hypotheses and methods, see the results, and read concise conclusions and interpretations. An abstract contains a few sentences from the introduction to state why the research was done in the first place.
The abstract has to be concise and easy to read. To achieve consistent readability, APA recommends using the active voice and past tense. The present tense can also be used when writing an abstract. Avoid using the future tense in abstracts.
- Good: This study investigates the relationship between parenting styles and educational achievement.
- Bad: This study will investigate the relationship between parenting styles and educational achievement.
Be careful when using present tense as APA recommends using it only when describing conclusions and implications. For a complete list of the recommended verb tenses to report information in APA Style papers, check APA’s official APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition.