Imagine, you are watching a movie trailer of the upcoming Marvel movie, but it does not set up the basic premise, neither introduces the main character nor captures the mood of the movie, or does not use awesome music – will you watch the movie later? For instance, your answer would be No, unless you find some positive feedback from someone you know very well. A good abstract is like a good movie trailer that will persuade any reader to decide whether to read your paper further or not. If your abstract does not create a good first impression, there is a high chance that people will not read your research paper afterwards.
So, how can we define an abstract?
An abstract is a condensed and concentrated narrative of the full text of your research manuscript which should convice the research community why years of your research work matters. Or, it can be described as an elevator pitch to the scientific community. Therefore, it is necessary to provide enough key information to make the abstract useful to your readers who might want to examine your work.
Basic components of an abstract for research paper:
An abstract should reflect the overall idea and all the parts of your research work, but in concise form in such way that a reader should be able to find why you conducted the study, how you conducted it, what are your findings and why your work is important. You should write your abstract according to the following four main elements.
Motivation or Problem Statement:
You should provide some background and motivation to the study, and address any specific hypothesis or question that you studied. Do not stretch it too long, you should be able to set the stage with two or three sentences.
Here, you should give an overview of your research methodology e.g. experimental details, relevant parameters etc.
Results or Findings:
You should write in brief about the outcome of your study. Such as do you reject or support your own hypothesis? Were you able to solve an existing problem?
Conclusion or Implications:
What is the primary take home message from your work? The concluding remarks should address this question as well it should provide the broader implications of your study.
The “do not”s in the abstract:
- Do not exceed the word limits event if it is by one. If some conference asks for a 200
words of abstract, then it is 200 – not even 201.
- Try not to commence with “this paper….”, or “this report…”.
- Do not begin sentences with “it is suggested that…”, “it is believed that…” or similar.
- Do no rephrase or repeat the title.
- Do not refer in the abstract to information which is not mentioned in the paper.
- Do not use acronyms, abbreviations, jargon or symbols.
Tips for writing a good abstract for your research paper:
- Unless you do not submit your abstract to a conference, always write the paper before
writing the abstract. You often get tempted to start with the abstract as it comes between
the title page and the paper, but it is always easier to summarize a paper or report after
it is completed.
- Write in the third person. Replace phrases like “We found or examined” with phrases like
“it was determined” or “the investigation provides” .
- Proof-red the abstract for typos, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Finding the Right Keywords:
This might sound odd to some people but including the search terms or keywords in your abstract is critical as people will use these terms or keywords to look for relevant papers on the similar topic. Though in the title or keyword fields you provide the search terms, but it is always a good practice to repeat those terms contextually throughout the abstract. If you can optimize your abstract by using proper keywords or search terms, then you can raise the ranking of your paper in search engine and which will help
it easier for other avid readers to find.
Here, we are providing a template for all the abstract of your manuscripts. You can consider it as a standard template which you can follow and write the relevant abstract accordingly.
Provide one or two sentences that give context to your study topic. Every reader of the journal should understand this first part of the abstract (present tense). Describe the specific background information that your reader needs to understand the context of your study in one or two sentences (present tense). State the specific problem in the state-of-the-art that your study addresses in one sentence using phrases such as “however”, “yet”, “despite” etc (present tense). Describe the main message of your paper in one sentence using “Here, we show/demonstrate — we address this challenge —-” (present tense).Take two or three sentences to describe your main findings. Here it is important to focus on the most important findings and to only provide details on the methods used if they are crucial for your main message (past tense). In the last one or two sentences, put your results in a broader perspective. Explain why your findings are significant and what specific impact your findings are likely or possibly going to make in your field of research or for an application (present and/or future tense).
Writing a good abstract is not an art, but is a skill that can be learned. However, it can not be developed overnight and requires some practice. To develop such skills you can simply follow the sample abstract, and pick some abstracts from some papers from different disciplines and identify the sentences that represents the different elements that are discussed in this article. Once you understand how people structure an abstract, then try to write an abstract based on your reading.