TL;DR Science: Abstracts

By John Sutor
April 08, 2020 · 3 minute read

An abstract serves as a clear yet concise description of the project or research that you are working on. You can think of them as the TL;DR equivalent for a research paper! Since they are often the first part of a paper that a reader will view, it is important to sell them on the contents of the rest of your paper in this section. Though this may sound daunting, in this TL;DR, we will walk you through the necessary steps to writing an outstanding abstract.

What Information Goes into an Abstract?

The information that makes up your abstract depends on the type of abstract that you are writing. The two main types of abstracts are descriptive abstracts and informative abstracts. A descriptive abstract merely discusses the work being done in a paper without mentioning the results or the conclusion. These types of abstracts are the most concise and are typically 100 words or fewer. In a descriptive abstract, discussing the overall purpose of your study or research, and discussing the basic design of your study or research will suffice.

An informative abstract involves more of a general summary of your paper, including the findings, results, and conclusion. When discussing the findings and results of your paper in an informative abstract, you may discuss general trends found via analysis of your results, as well as briefly summarize your interpretations of these trends for your conclusion. The majority of scientific abstracts are informative abstracts since mentioning promising results and interesting trends can draw a reader to explore your paper in depth.

When Should I Write an Abstract?

Though extremely useful for guiding a reader through the contents of your paper, not every research paper requires an abstract. Although some writing styles, such as APA and MLA, mention abstracts in their writing guides, it is not always necessary to include one when writing papers such as academic reports. To play it safe, it is best to ask your teacher or professor beforehand to confirm whether or not your paper requires an abstract.

if you do have to write an abstract, the best time to incorporate it into your paper is after you have finished all other parts of your paper. Papers are fluid in nature and often change many times up to the last edit. If you were to write an abstract before writing the rest of your paper, your abstract likely won't summarize the rest of your work well after many edits. Writing an abstract after writing key paper components such as your conclusion, methodology, and findings section will allow you to better summarize your paper as you will have a better understanding of your work.

How do I Make Sure my Abstract is Great?

To make sure that you have an excellent abstract, it is important to make sure that it sufficiently discusses the rest of your paper. Accurately discussing the purpose, design, and results and conclusions if necessary, in your abstract is vital to drawing readers in. If you have questions about your abstract, it is best to consult resources such as the MLA or APA guide based on the format of your paper. Furthermore, consult your teacher about their expectations for your paper's abstract. Finally, creating a project on SciTeens and asking for help writing your abstract from within your project's feedback section will allow mentors with lots of experience to assist you in crafting the perfect abstract.

TL;DR

An abstract should serve as a clear yet concise description that aims to draw readers in to explore the rest of your paper. It should include your purpose, project statement, methodology, results, and conclusion, depending on the type of abstract that you are writing and the writing style of your paper. Abstracts should be written last so that you can best summarize your paper as a whole. If you need assistance in writing your abstract, it is best to seek help from online official writing guides, your teacher, or here on SciTeens.

Sources

https://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html

https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/abstracts/

https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/abstract

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html

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