Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

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How to Write an Abstract (With Examples)

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Sarah Oakley

how to write an abstract

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What is an abstract in a paper, how long should an abstract be, 5 steps for writing an abstract, examples of an abstract, how prowritingaid can help you write an abstract.

If you are writing a scientific research paper or a book proposal, you need to know how to write an abstract, which summarizes the contents of the paper or book.

When researchers are looking for peer-reviewed papers to use in their studies, the first place they will check is the abstract to see if it applies to their work. Therefore, your abstract is one of the most important parts of your entire paper.

In this article, we’ll explain what an abstract is, what it should include, and how to write one.

An abstract is a concise summary of the details within a report. Some abstracts give more details than others, but the main things you’ll be talking about are why you conducted the research, what you did, and what the results show.

When a reader is deciding whether to read your paper completely, they will first look at the abstract. You need to be concise in your abstract and give the reader the most important information so they can determine if they want to read the whole paper.

Remember that an abstract is the last thing you’ll want to write for the research paper because it directly references parts of the report. If you haven’t written the report, you won’t know what to include in your abstract.

If you are writing a paper for a journal or an assignment, the publication or academic institution might have specific formatting rules for how long your abstract should be. However, if they don’t, most abstracts are between 150 and 300 words long.

A short word count means your writing has to be precise and without filler words or phrases. Once you’ve written a first draft, you can always use an editing tool, such as ProWritingAid, to identify areas where you can reduce words and increase readability.

If your abstract is over the word limit, and you’ve edited it but still can’t figure out how to reduce it further, your abstract might include some things that aren’t needed. Here’s a list of three elements you can remove from your abstract:

Discussion : You don’t need to go into detail about the findings of your research because your reader will find your discussion within the paper.

Definition of terms : Your readers are interested the field you are writing about, so they are likely to understand the terms you are using. If not, they can always look them up. Your readers do not expect you to give a definition of terms in your abstract.

References and citations : You can mention there have been studies that support or have inspired your research, but you do not need to give details as the reader will find them in your bibliography.

abstract for essay

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If you’ve never written an abstract before, and you’re wondering how to write an abstract, we’ve got some steps for you to follow. It’s best to start with planning your abstract, so we’ve outlined the details you need to include in your plan before you write.

Remember to consider your audience when you’re planning and writing your abstract. They are likely to skim read your abstract, so you want to be sure your abstract delivers all the information they’re expecting to see at key points.

1. What Should an Abstract Include?

Abstracts have a lot of information to cover in a short number of words, so it’s important to know what to include. There are three elements that need to be present in your abstract:

Your context is the background for where your research sits within your field of study. You should briefly mention any previous scientific papers or experiments that have led to your hypothesis and how research develops in those studies.

Your hypothesis is your prediction of what your study will show. As you are writing your abstract after you have conducted your research, you should still include your hypothesis in your abstract because it shows the motivation for your paper.

Throughout your abstract, you also need to include keywords and phrases that will help researchers to find your article in the databases they’re searching. Make sure the keywords are specific to your field of study and the subject you’re reporting on, otherwise your article might not reach the relevant audience.

2. Can You Use First Person in an Abstract?

You might think that first person is too informal for a research paper, but it’s not. Historically, writers of academic reports avoided writing in first person to uphold the formality standards of the time. However, first person is more accepted in research papers in modern times.

If you’re still unsure whether to write in first person for your abstract, refer to any style guide rules imposed by the journal you’re writing for or your teachers if you are writing an assignment.

3. Abstract Structure

Some scientific journals have strict rules on how to structure an abstract, so it’s best to check those first. If you don’t have any style rules to follow, try using the IMRaD structure, which stands for Introduction, Methodology, Results, and Discussion.

how to structure an abstract

Following the IMRaD structure, start with an introduction. The amount of background information you should include depends on your specific research area. Adding a broad overview gives you less room to include other details. Remember to include your hypothesis in this section.

The next part of your abstract should cover your methodology. Try to include the following details if they apply to your study:

What type of research was conducted?

How were the test subjects sampled?

What were the sample sizes?

What was done to each group?

How long was the experiment?

How was data recorded and interpreted?

Following the methodology, include a sentence or two about the results, which is where your reader will determine if your research supports or contradicts their own investigations.

The results are also where most people will want to find out what your outcomes were, even if they are just mildly interested in your research area. You should be specific about all the details but as concise as possible.

The last few sentences are your conclusion. It needs to explain how your findings affect the context and whether your hypothesis was correct. Include the primary take-home message, additional findings of importance, and perspective. Also explain whether there is scope for further research into the subject of your report.

Your conclusion should be honest and give the reader the ultimate message that your research shows. Readers trust the conclusion, so make sure you’re not fabricating the results of your research. Some readers won’t read your entire paper, but this section will tell them if it’s worth them referencing it in their own study.

4. How to Start an Abstract

The first line of your abstract should give your reader the context of your report by providing background information. You can use this sentence to imply the motivation for your research.

You don’t need to use a hook phrase or device in your first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. Your reader will look to establish relevance quickly, so readability and clarity are more important than trying to persuade the reader to read on.

5. How to Format an Abstract

Most abstracts use the same formatting rules, which help the reader identify the abstract so they know where to look for it.

Here’s a list of formatting guidelines for writing an abstract:

Stick to one paragraph

Use block formatting with no indentation at the beginning

Put your abstract straight after the title and acknowledgements pages

Use present or past tense, not future tense

There are two primary types of abstract you could write for your paper—descriptive and informative.

An informative abstract is the most common, and they follow the structure mentioned previously. They are longer than descriptive abstracts because they cover more details.

Descriptive abstracts differ from informative abstracts, as they don’t include as much discussion or detail. The word count for a descriptive abstract is between 50 and 150 words.

Here is an example of an informative abstract:

A growing trend exists for authors to employ a more informal writing style that uses “we” in academic writing to acknowledge one’s stance and engagement. However, few studies have compared the ways in which the first-person pronoun “we” is used in the abstracts and conclusions of empirical papers. To address this lacuna in the literature, this study conducted a systematic corpus analysis of the use of “we” in the abstracts and conclusions of 400 articles collected from eight leading electrical and electronic (EE) engineering journals. The abstracts and conclusions were extracted to form two subcorpora, and an integrated framework was applied to analyze and seek to explain how we-clusters and we-collocations were employed. Results revealed whether authors’ use of first-person pronouns partially depends on a journal policy. The trend of using “we” showed that a yearly increase occurred in the frequency of “we” in EE journal papers, as well as the existence of three “we-use” types in the article conclusions and abstracts: exclusive, inclusive, and ambiguous. Other possible “we-use” alternatives such as “I” and other personal pronouns were used very rarely—if at all—in either section. These findings also suggest that the present tense was used more in article abstracts, but the present perfect tense was the most preferred tense in article conclusions. Both research and pedagogical implications are proffered and critically discussed.

Wang, S., Tseng, W.-T., & Johanson, R. (2021). To We or Not to We: Corpus-Based Research on First-Person Pronoun Use in Abstracts and Conclusions. SAGE Open, 11(2).

Here is an example of a descriptive abstract:

From the 1850s to the present, considerable criminological attention has focused on the development of theoretically-significant systems for classifying crime. This article reviews and attempts to evaluate a number of these efforts, and we conclude that further work on this basic task is needed. The latter part of the article explicates a conceptual foundation for a crime pattern classification system, and offers a preliminary taxonomy of crime.

Farr, K. A., & Gibbons, D. C. (1990). Observations on the Development of Crime Categories. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 34(3), 223–237.

If you want to ensure your abstract is grammatically correct and easy to read, you can use ProWritingAid to edit it. The software integrates with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and most web browsers, so you can make the most of it wherever you’re writing your paper.

academic document type

Before you edit with ProWritingAid, make sure the suggestions you are seeing are relevant for your document by changing the document type to “Abstract” within the Academic writing style section.

You can use the Readability report to check your abstract for places to improve the clarity of your writing. Some suggestions might show you where to remove words, which is great if you’re over your word count.

We hope the five steps and examples we’ve provided help you write a great abstract for your research paper.

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Abstract Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips & Examples

Sumalatha G

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Abstracts of research papers have always played an essential role in describing your research concisely and clearly to researchers and editors of journals, enticing them to continue reading. However, with the widespread availability of scientific databases, the need to write a convincing abstract is more crucial now than during the time of paper-bound manuscripts.

Abstracts serve to "sell" your research and can be compared with your "executive outline" of a resume or, rather, a formal summary of the critical aspects of your work. Also, it can be the "gist" of your study. Since most educational research is done online, it's a sign that you have a shorter time for impressing your readers, and have more competition from other abstracts that are available to be read.

The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) articulates 12 issues or points considered during the final approval process for conferences & journals and emphasises the importance of writing an abstract that checks all these boxes (12 points). Since it's the only opportunity you have to captivate your readers, you must invest time and effort in creating an abstract that accurately reflects the critical points of your research.

With that in mind, let’s head over to understand and discover the core concept and guidelines to create a substantial abstract. Also, learn how to organise the ideas or plots into an effective abstract that will be awe-inspiring to the readers you want to reach.

What is Abstract? Definition and Overview

The word "Abstract' is derived from Latin abstractus meaning "drawn off." This etymological meaning also applies to art movements as well as music, like abstract expressionism. In this context, it refers to the revealing of the artist's intention.

Based on this, you can determine the meaning of an abstract: A condensed research summary. It must be self-contained and independent of the body of the research. However, it should outline the subject, the strategies used to study the problem, and the methods implemented to attain the outcomes. The specific elements of the study differ based on the area of study; however, together, it must be a succinct summary of the entire research paper.

Abstracts are typically written at the end of the paper, even though it serves as a prologue. In general, the abstract must be in a position to:

  • Describe the paper.
  • Identify the problem or the issue at hand.
  • Explain to the reader the research process, the results you came up with, and what conclusion you've reached using these results.
  • Include keywords to guide your strategy and the content.

Furthermore, the abstract you submit should not reflect upon any of  the following elements:

  • Examine, analyse or defend the paper or your opinion.
  • What you want to study, achieve or discover.
  • Be redundant or irrelevant.

After reading an abstract, your audience should understand the reason - what the research was about in the first place, what the study has revealed and how it can be utilised or can be used to benefit others. You can understand the importance of abstract by knowing the fact that the abstract is the most frequently read portion of any research paper. In simpler terms, it should contain all the main points of the research paper.


What is the Purpose of an Abstract?

Abstracts are typically an essential requirement for research papers; however, it's not an obligation to preserve traditional reasons without any purpose. Abstracts allow readers to scan the text to determine whether it is relevant to their research or studies. The abstract allows other researchers to decide if your research paper can provide them with some additional information. A good abstract paves the interest of the audience to pore through your entire paper to find the content or context they're searching for.

Abstract writing is essential for indexing, as well. The Digital Repository of academic papers makes use of abstracts to index the entire content of academic research papers. Like meta descriptions in the regular Google outcomes, abstracts must include keywords that help researchers locate what they seek.

Types of Abstract

Informative and Descriptive are two kinds of abstracts often used in scientific writing.

A descriptive abstract gives readers an outline of the author's main points in their study. The reader can determine if they want to stick to the research work, based on their interest in the topic. An abstract that is descriptive is similar to the contents table of books, however, the format of an abstract depicts complete sentences encapsulated in one paragraph. It is unfortunate that the abstract can't be used as a substitute for reading a piece of writing because it's just an overview, which omits readers from getting an entire view. Also, it cannot be a way to fill in the gaps the reader may have after reading this kind of abstract since it does not contain crucial information needed to evaluate the article.

To conclude, a descriptive abstract is:

  • A simple summary of the task, just summarises the work, but some researchers think it is much more of an outline
  • Typically, the length is approximately 100 words. It is too short when compared to an informative abstract.
  • A brief explanation but doesn't provide the reader with the complete information they need;
  • An overview that omits conclusions and results

An informative abstract is a comprehensive outline of the research. There are times when people rely on the abstract as an information source. And the reason is why it is crucial to provide entire data of particular research. A well-written, informative abstract could be a good substitute for the remainder of the paper on its own.

A well-written abstract typically follows a particular style. The author begins by providing the identifying information, backed by citations and other identifiers of the papers. Then, the major elements are summarised to make the reader aware of the study. It is followed by the methodology and all-important findings from the study. The conclusion then presents study results and ends the abstract with a comprehensive summary.

In a nutshell, an informative abstract:

  • Has a length that can vary, based on the subject, but is not longer than 300 words.
  • Contains all the content-like methods and intentions
  • Offers evidence and possible recommendations.

Informative Abstracts are more frequent than descriptive abstracts because of their extensive content and linkage to the topic specifically. You should select different types of abstracts to papers based on their length: informative abstracts for extended and more complex abstracts and descriptive ones for simpler and shorter research papers.

What are the Characteristics of a Good Abstract?

  • A good abstract clearly defines the goals and purposes of the study.
  • It should clearly describe the research methodology with a primary focus on data gathering, processing, and subsequent analysis.
  • A good abstract should provide specific research findings.
  • It presents the principal conclusions of the systematic study.
  • It should be concise, clear, and relevant to the field of study.
  • A well-designed abstract should be unifying and coherent.
  • It is easy to grasp and free of technical jargon.
  • It is written impartially and objectively.


What are the various sections of an ideal Abstract?

By now, you must have gained some concrete idea of the essential elements that your abstract needs to convey . Accordingly, the information is broken down into six key sections of the abstract, which include:

An Introduction or Background

Research methodology, objectives and goals, limitations.

Let's go over them in detail.

The introduction, also known as background, is the most concise part of your abstract. Ideally, it comprises a couple of sentences. Some researchers only write one sentence to introduce their abstract. The idea behind this is to guide readers through the key factors that led to your study.

It's understandable that this information might seem difficult to explain in a couple of sentences. For example, think about the following two questions like the background of your study:

  • What is currently available about the subject with respect to the paper being discussed?
  • What isn't understood about this issue? (This is the subject of your research)

While writing the abstract’s introduction, make sure that it is not lengthy. Because if it crosses the word limit, it may eat up the words meant to be used for providing other key information.

Research methodology is where you describe the theories and techniques you used in your research. It is recommended that you describe what you have done and the method you used to get your thorough investigation results. Certainly, it is the second-longest paragraph in the abstract.

In the research methodology section, it is essential to mention the kind of research you conducted; for instance, qualitative research or quantitative research (this will guide your research methodology too) . If you've conducted quantitative research, your abstract should contain information like the sample size, data collection method, sampling techniques, and duration of the study. Likewise, your abstract should reflect observational data, opinions, questionnaires (especially the non-numerical data) if you work on qualitative research.

The research objectives and goals speak about what you intend to accomplish with your research. The majority of research projects focus on the long-term effects of a project, and the goals focus on the immediate, short-term outcomes of the research. It is possible to summarise both in just multiple sentences.

In stating your objectives and goals, you give readers a picture of the scope of the study, its depth and the direction your research ultimately follows. Your readers can evaluate the results of your research against the goals and stated objectives to determine if you have achieved the goal of your research.

In the end, your readers are more attracted by the results you've obtained through your study. Therefore, you must take the time to explain each relevant result and explain how they impact your research. The results section exists as the longest in your abstract, and nothing should diminish its reach or quality.

One of the most important things you should adhere to is to spell out details and figures on the results of your research.

Instead of making a vague assertion such as, "We noticed that response rates varied greatly between respondents with high incomes and those with low incomes", Try these: "The response rate was higher for high-income respondents than those with lower incomes (59 30 percent vs. 30 percent in both cases; P<0.01)."

You're likely to encounter certain obstacles during your research. It could have been during data collection or even during conducting the sample . Whatever the issue, it's essential to inform your readers about them and their effects on the research.

Research limitations offer an opportunity to suggest further and deep research. If, for instance, you were forced to change for convenient sampling and snowball samples because of difficulties in reaching well-suited research participants, then you should mention this reason when you write your research abstract. In addition, a lack of prior studies on the subject could hinder your research.

Your conclusion should include the same number of sentences to wrap the abstract as the introduction. The majority of researchers offer an idea of the consequences of their research in this case.

Your conclusion should include three essential components:

  • A significant take-home message.
  • Corresponding important findings.
  • The Interpretation.

Even though the conclusion of your abstract needs to be brief, it can have an enormous influence on the way that readers view your research. Therefore, make use of this section to reinforce the central message from your research. Be sure that your statements reflect the actual results and the methods you used to conduct your research.


Good Abstract Examples

Abstract example #1.

Children’s consumption behavior in response to food product placements in movies.

The abstract:

"Almost all research into the effects of brand placements on children has focused on the brand's attitudes or behavior intentions. Based on the significant differences between attitudes and behavioral intentions on one hand and actual behavior on the other hand, this study examines the impact of placements by brands on children's eating habits. Children aged 6-14 years old were shown an excerpt from the popular film Alvin and the Chipmunks and were shown places for the item Cheese Balls. Three different versions were developed with no placements, one with moderately frequent placements and the third with the highest frequency of placement. The results revealed that exposure to high-frequency places had a profound effect on snack consumption, however, there was no impact on consumer attitudes towards brands or products. The effects were not dependent on the age of the children. These findings are of major importance to researchers studying consumer behavior as well as nutrition experts as well as policy regulators."

Abstract Example #2

Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood. The abstract:

"The research conducted in this study investigated the effects of Facebook use on women's moods and body image if the effects are different from an internet-based fashion journal and if the appearance comparison tendencies moderate one or more of these effects. Participants who were female ( N = 112) were randomly allocated to spend 10 minutes exploring their Facebook account or a magazine's website or an appearance neutral control website prior to completing state assessments of body dissatisfaction, mood, and differences in appearance (weight-related and facial hair, face, and skin). Participants also completed a test of the tendency to compare appearances. The participants who used Facebook were reported to be more depressed than those who stayed on the control site. In addition, women who have the tendency to compare appearances reported more facial, hair and skin-related issues following Facebook exposure than when they were exposed to the control site. Due to its popularity it is imperative to conduct more research to understand the effect that Facebook affects the way people view themselves."

Abstract Example #3

The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students

"The cellphone is always present on campuses of colleges and is often utilised in situations in which learning takes place. The study examined the connection between the use of cell phones and the actual grades point average (GPA) after adjusting for predictors that are known to be a factor. In the end 536 students in the undergraduate program from 82 self-reported majors of an enormous, public institution were studied. Hierarchical analysis ( R 2 = .449) showed that use of mobile phones is significantly ( p < .001) and negative (b equal to -.164) connected to the actual college GPA, after taking into account factors such as demographics, self-efficacy in self-regulated learning, self-efficacy to improve academic performance, and the actual high school GPA that were all important predictors ( p < .05). Therefore, after adjusting for other known predictors increasing cell phone usage was associated with lower academic performance. While more research is required to determine the mechanisms behind these results, they suggest the need to educate teachers and students to the possible academic risks that are associated with high-frequency mobile phone usage."


Quick tips on writing a good abstract

There exists a common dilemma among early age researchers whether to write the abstract at first or last? However, it's recommended to compose your abstract when you've completed the research since you'll have all the information to give to your readers. You can, however, write a draft at the beginning of your research and add in any gaps later.

If you find abstract writing a herculean task, here are the few tips to help you with it:

1. Always develop a framework to support your abstract

Before writing, ensure you create a clear outline for your abstract. Divide it into sections and draw the primary and supporting elements in each one. You can include keywords and a few sentences that convey the essence of your message.

2. Review Other Abstracts

Abstracts are among the most frequently used research documents, and thousands of them were written in the past. Therefore, prior to writing yours, take a look at some examples from other abstracts. There are plenty of examples of abstracts for dissertations in the dissertation and thesis databases.

3. Avoid Jargon To the Maximum

When you write your abstract, focus on simplicity over formality. You should  write in simple language, and avoid excessive filler words or ambiguous sentences. Keep in mind that your abstract must be readable to those who aren't acquainted with your subject.

4. Focus on Your Research

It's a given fact that the abstract you write should be about your research and the findings you've made. It is not the right time to mention secondary and primary data sources unless it's absolutely required.

Conclusion: How to Structure an Interesting Abstract?

Abstracts are a short outline of your essay. However, it's among the most important, if not the most important. The process of writing an abstract is not straightforward. A few early-age researchers tend to begin by writing it, thinking they are doing it to "tease" the next step (the document itself). However, it is better to treat it as a spoiler.

The simple, concise style of the abstract lends itself to a well-written and well-investigated study. If your research paper doesn't provide definitive results, or the goal of your research is questioned, so will the abstract. Thus, only write your abstract after witnessing your findings and put your findings in the context of a larger scenario.

The process of writing an abstract can be daunting, but with these guidelines, you will succeed. The most efficient method of writing an excellent abstract is to centre the primary points of your abstract, including the research question and goals methods, as well as key results.

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Types of Essays in Academic Writing

How to Write an Abstract

An abstract of a work, usually of an essay, is a concise summary of its main points. It is meant to concentrate the argument of a work, presenting it as clearly as possible.

The abstract often appears after the title and before the main body of an essay. If you are writing an abstract as part of an assignment, you should check with your instructor about where to place it.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when composing an abstract:

  • In general, avoid too much copying and pasting directly from your essay, especially from the first paragraph. An abstract is often presented directly before an essay, and it will often be the first thing readers consult after your title. You wouldn’t repeat your ideas verbatim in the body of your essay, so why would you do that in an abstract? Consider the abstract part of the work itself. 
  • Start off strong. An abstract should be a mini essay, so it should begin with a clear statement of your argument. This should be the first sentence or two.
  • Abstracts vary in length. But a good rule is to aim for five to seven sentences. The bulk of the abstract will review the evidence for your claim and summarize your findings.
  • Avoid complicated syntax. Long sentences and intricate phrasing have their place in essays, but the abstract should be concise. It is not the place for ambitious grammar.
  • The last sentence or two should point to any conclusions reached and the direction future research might take. Like the first sentence, the last should be provocative and direct. Leave your readers wanting to read your essay.

In what follows, the authors have written an effective abstract that adheres to the basic principles above:

Literary critics have long imagined that T. S. Eliot’s The Sacred Wood (1920) shaped the canon and methods of countless twentieth-century classrooms. This essay turns instead to the classroom that made The Sacred Wood : the Modern English Literature extension school tutorial that Eliot taught to working-class adults between 1916 and 1919. Contextualizing Eliot’s tutorial within the extension school movement shows how the ethos and practices of the Workers’ Educational Association shaped his teaching. Over the course of three years, Eliot and his students reimagined canonical literature as writing by working poets for working people—a model of literary history that fully informed his canon reformation in The Sacred Wood . This example demonstrates how attention to teaching changes the history of English literary study. It further reveals how all kinds of institutions, not just elite universities, have shaped the discipline’s methods and canons. (Buurma and Heffernan)

This abstract uses the first two sentences to establish the essay’s place in its field of study and to suggest how it intervenes in existing scholarship. The syntax is direct and simple. The third sentence begins to outline how the authors will support their argument. They aim to demonstrate the relevance of Eliot’s teaching to his ideas about literature, and so they move next to discuss some of the details of that teaching. Finally, the abstract concludes by telling us about the consequences of this argument. The conclusion both points to new directions for research and tells us why we should read the essay. 

Buurma, Rachel Sagner, and Laura Heffernan. Abstract of “The Classroom in the Canon: T. S. Eliot’s Modern English Literature Extension Course for Working People and  The Sacred Wood. ”  PMLA , vol. 133, no. 2, Mar. 2018, p. 463.

Estate Best 18 July 2021 AT 05:07 AM

Please how will I write an abstract for my own poem collections?

Your e-mail address will not be published

Marc Simoes 01 April 2022 AT 04:04 PM

I am teaching students how to format and write an abstract, but I find no precise guidelines in the MLA Handbook. Should the first word of the abstract body text begin with the word "Abstract" followed by a period or colon and then the abstract content? Should the word "Abstract" be underlined? Over the years, I was taught both of these ways by different instructors, but I haven't found any definitive instructions, and now my students are asking me the correct format. Please help! Thank you!

Joseph Wallace 12 April 2022 AT 01:04 PM

Although publishers like the MLA will use their own house style guidelines for abstracts in published material, there is no one correct way for students to format their abstracts. Instructors should decide what works best for their classes and assignments.

Lorraine Belo 17 April 2022 AT 10:04 PM

Can you write a brief abstract about your MLA writing

Subrata Biswas 13 July 2023 AT 10:07 AM

Generally, the abstract is written in Italics. Is there any rule as such?

Joseph Wallace 31 July 2023 AT 10:07 AM

Thanks for your question. There is no rule saying that abstracts need to be written in italics. Some publications use italics for abstracts and some do not.

Dhan 07 January 2024 AT 12:01 PM

Should I write key words at the end of the abstract of Phd dissertation?

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How to Write an APA Abstract

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

abstract for essay

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

abstract for essay

Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee 

  • Writing Your Abstract
  • How to Use Keywords

An APA abstract is a concise but comprehensive summary of a scientific paper. It is typically a paragraph long, or about 150 to 250 words. The goal of the abstract is to provide the reader with a brief and accurate idea of what a paper is about.

The APA abstract should appear on a separate page immediately after the title page and before the main content of your paper. While professional papers that appear in scientific journals and other publications require an APA abstract, they may not be required for student papers. However, you should always check with your instructor for specific requirements.

What Is APA Format?

APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association. It is used in writing for psychology and other social sciences. These style guidelines specify different aspects of a document's presentation and layout, including how pages are structured, how references are organized, and how sources are cited.

This article explains how to create an abstract in APA format for your psychology papers or other types of scientific writing. It covers the basic rules you should follow as well as specific guidelines for writing abstracts for experimental reports, literature reviews, and other articles.

What Is an Abstract in APA Format?

In addition to providing guidance for the general style and organization of a paper, APA format also stipulates using an abstract designed to briefly summarize the key details in a paper.

While it is sometimes overlooked or only an afterthought, an abstract is an integral part of any academic or professional paper. The abstract is a critical component of an APA-formatted paper. This brief overview summarizes what your paper contains. It should succinctly and accurately represent what your paper is about and what the reader can expect to find.

Following a few simple guidelines, you can create an abstract following the format. Done well, an abstract generates interest in your work and helps readers learn if the paper will interest them.

APA Format Abstract Basics

The abstract is the second page of a lab report or APA-format paper and should immediately follow the title page . Think of an abstract as a highly condensed summary of your entire paper.

The purpose of your abstract is to provide a brief yet thorough overview of your paper. It should function much like your title page—it should allow the person reading it to quickly determine what your paper is all about. Your abstract is the first thing that most people will read, and it is usually what informs their decision to read the rest of your paper.

The abstract is the single most important paragraph in your entire paper, according to the APA Publication Manual. A good abstract lets the reader know that your paper is worth reading.

According to the official guidelines of the American Psychological Association, an abstract should be brief but packed with information. Each sentence must be written with maximum impact in mind. To keep your abstract short, focus on including just four or five of the essential points, concepts, or findings.

An abstract must also be objective and accurate. The abstract's purpose is to report rather than provide commentary. It should accurately reflect what your paper is about. Only include information that is also included in the body of your paper.

Key Elements of an APA Abstract

Your abstract page should include:

  • A running head , which is a shortened version of your title that appears in all caps at the top left of each page of your paper
  • A section label , which should be the word "Abstract" centered and bolded at the top of the page
  • A page number , which should be the second page of your paper (the title page should be page 1)
  • A double-spaced paragraph of about 150 to 250 words
  • An indented list of keywords related to your paper's content. Include the label "Keywords:" in italics and list three to five keywords that are separated by commas

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

Before you write your abstract, you first need to write your paper in its entirety. In order to write a good abstract, you need to have a finished draft of your paper so you can summarize it accurately.

While the abstract will be at the beginning of your paper, it should be the last section you write.

Once you have completed the final draft of your psychology paper , use it as a guide for writing your abstract.

  • Begin your abstract on a new page . Place your running head and page number 2 in the top right-hand corner. Center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page.
  • Know your target word count . An abstract should be between 150 and 250 words. Exact word counts vary from journal to journal . If you are writing your paper for a psychology course, your professor may have specific word requirements, so be sure to ask. The abstract should be written as only one paragraph with no indentation.
  • Structure the abstract in the same order as your paper . Begin with a brief summary of the introduction , and then continue on with a summary of the method , results , and discussion sections of your paper.
  • Look at other abstracts in professional journals for examples of how to summarize your paper . Notice the main points that the authors chose to mention in the abstract. Use these examples as a guide when choosing the main ideas in your own paper.
  • Write a rough draft of your abstract . Use the format required for your type of paper (see next sections). While you should aim for brevity, be careful not to make your summary too short. Try to write one to two sentences summarizing each section of your paper. Once you have a rough draft, you can edit for length and clarity.
  • Ask a friend to read over the abstract . Sometimes, having someone look at your abstract with fresh eyes can provide perspective and help you spot possible typos and other errors.

The abstract is vital to your paper, so it should not be overlooked or treated as an afterthought. Spend time writing this section carefully to ensure maximum readability and clarity.

It is important to remember that while the abstract is the last thing you write, it is often the most read part of your paper.

Experimental Report Abstracts

The format of your abstract also depends on the type of paper you are writing. For example, an abstract summarizing an experimental paper will differ from that of a meta-analysis or case study . For an experimental report, your abstract should:

  • Identify the problem . In many cases, you should begin by stating the question you sought to investigate and your hypothesis .
  • Describe the participants in the study . State how many participants took part and how they were selected. For example: "In this study, 215 undergraduate student participants were randomly assigned to [the experimental condition] or [the control condition]."
  • Describe the study method . For example, identify whether you used a within-subjects, between-subjects, or mixed design.
  • Give the basic findings . This is essentially a brief preview of the results of your paper. 
  • Provide any conclusions or implications of the study . What might your results indicate, and what directions does it point to for future research?

Literature Review Abstracts

If your paper is a meta-analysis or literature review, your abstract should:

  • Describe the problem of interest . In other words, what is it that you set out to investigate in your analysis or review?
  • Explain the criteria used to select the studies included in the paper . There may be many different studies devoted to your topic. Your analysis or review probably only looks at a portion of these studies. For what reason did you select these specific studies to include in your research?
  • Identify the participants in the studies . Inform the reader about who the participants were in the studies. Were they college students? Older adults? How were they selected and assigned?
  • Provide the main results . Again, this is essentially a quick peek at what readers will find when they read your results section. Don't try to include everything. Just provide a very brief summary of your main findings. 
  • Describe any conclusions or implications . What might these results mean and what do they reveal about the body of research that exists on this particular topic?

Lab Reports and Articles

Psychology papers such as lab reports and APA format articles also often require an abstract. In these cases as well, the abstract should include all of the major elements of your paper, including an introduction, hypothesis, methods, results, and discussion.

Remember, although the abstract should be placed at the beginning of your paper (right after the title page), you will write the abstract last after you have completed a final draft of your paper.

To ensure that all of your APA formatting is correct, consider consulting a copy of the  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association .

Keywords in an APA Abstract

After the paragraph containing the main elements of your abstract, you can also include keywords related to your paper. Such keywords are used when indexing your paper in databases and can help researchers and students locate your paper when searching for information about those topics.

Because keywords help people find your paper, it is essential to choose the right ones. The APA suggests including between three and five keywords.

You can identify keywords by thinking about what your paper is about. For example, if your paper focuses on how social media use is related to depression in teenagers, you might include the keywords: social media, mood, depression, adolescents, social networking sites 

A Word From Verywell

The abstract may be very brief, but it is so important that the official APA style manual identifies it as the most important paragraph in your entire paper. Careful attention to detail can ensure that your abstract does a good job representing the contents of your paper. If possible, take your paper to your school's writing lab for assistance.

Nagda S. How to write a scientific abstract. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;13(3):382–383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x

Kumar A. Writing an abstract: Revealing the essence with eloquence .  J Indian Soc Periodontol . 2022;26(1):1-2. doi:10.4103/jisp.jisp_634_21

American Psychological Association. APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards: Reporting Standards for Studies With an Experimental Manipulation .

American Psychological Association. APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards: Quantitative Meta-Analysis Article Reporting Standards .

Tullu MS. Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: Being concise, precise, and meticulous is the key .  Saudi J Anaesth . 2019;13(Suppl 1):S12-S17. doi:10.4103/sja.SJA_685_18

American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). American Psychological Association; 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.

Why write an abstract?

You may write an abstract for various reasons. The two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, many online databases use abstracts to index larger works. Therefore, abstracts should contain keywords and phrases that allow for easy searching.

Say you are beginning a research project on how Brazilian newspapers helped Brazil’s ultra-liberal president Luiz Ignácio da Silva wrest power from the traditional, conservative power base. A good first place to start your research is to search Dissertation Abstracts International for all dissertations that deal with the interaction between newspapers and politics. “Newspapers and politics” returned 569 hits. A more selective search of “newspapers and Brazil” returned 22 hits. That is still a fair number of dissertations. Titles can sometimes help winnow the field, but many titles are not very descriptive. For example, one dissertation is titled “Rhetoric and Riot in Rio de Janeiro.” It is unclear from the title what this dissertation has to do with newspapers in Brazil. One option would be to download or order the entire dissertation on the chance that it might speak specifically to the topic. A better option is to read the abstract. In this case, the abstract reveals the main focus of the dissertation:

This dissertation examines the role of newspaper editors in the political turmoil and strife that characterized late First Empire Rio de Janeiro (1827-1831). Newspaper editors and their journals helped change the political culture of late First Empire Rio de Janeiro by involving the people in the discussion of state. This change in political culture is apparent in Emperor Pedro I’s gradual loss of control over the mechanisms of power. As the newspapers became more numerous and powerful, the Emperor lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people. To explore the role of the newspapers in the political events of the late First Empire, this dissertation analyzes all available newspapers published in Rio de Janeiro from 1827 to 1831. Newspapers and their editors were leading forces in the effort to remove power from the hands of the ruling elite and place it under the control of the people. In the process, newspapers helped change how politics operated in the constitutional monarchy of Brazil.

From this abstract you now know that although the dissertation has nothing to do with modern Brazilian politics, it does cover the role of newspapers in changing traditional mechanisms of power. After reading the abstract, you can make an informed judgment about whether the dissertation would be worthwhile to read.

Besides selection, the other main purpose of the abstract is for indexing. Most article databases in the online catalog of the library enable you to search abstracts. This allows for quick retrieval by users and limits the extraneous items recalled by a “full-text” search. However, for an abstract to be useful in an online retrieval system, it must incorporate the key terms that a potential researcher would use to search. For example, if you search Dissertation Abstracts International using the keywords “France” “revolution” and “politics,” the search engine would search through all the abstracts in the database that included those three words. Without an abstract, the search engine would be forced to search titles, which, as we have seen, may not be fruitful, or else search the full text. It’s likely that a lot more than 60 dissertations have been written with those three words somewhere in the body of the entire work. By incorporating keywords into the abstract, the author emphasizes the central topics of the work and gives prospective readers enough information to make an informed judgment about the applicability of the work.

When do people write abstracts?

  • when submitting articles to journals, especially online journals
  • when applying for research grants
  • when writing a book proposal
  • when completing the Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
  • when writing a proposal for a conference paper
  • when writing a proposal for a book chapter

Most often, the author of the entire work (or prospective work) writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract. Undergraduates are sometimes asked to draft abstracts of books/articles for classmates who have not read the larger work.

Types of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. They have different aims, so as a consequence they have different components and styles. There is also a third type called critical, but it is rarely used. If you want to find out more about writing a critique or a review of a work, see the UNC Writing Center handout on writing a literature review . If you are unsure which type of abstract you should write, ask your instructor (if the abstract is for a class) or read other abstracts in your field or in the journal where you are submitting your article.

Descriptive abstracts

A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short—100 words or less.

Informative abstracts

The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the complete article/paper/book. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it may be much less.

Here are examples of a descriptive and an informative abstract of this handout on abstracts . Descriptive abstract:

The two most common abstract types—descriptive and informative—are described and examples of each are provided.

Informative abstract:

Abstracts present the essential elements of a longer work in a short and powerful statement. The purpose of an abstract is to provide prospective readers the opportunity to judge the relevance of the longer work to their projects. Abstracts also include the key terms found in the longer work and the purpose and methods of the research. Authors abstract various longer works, including book proposals, dissertations, and online journal articles. There are two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. A descriptive abstract briefly describes the longer work, while an informative abstract presents all the main arguments and important results. This handout provides examples of various types of abstracts and instructions on how to construct one.

Which type should I use?

Your best bet in this case is to ask your instructor or refer to the instructions provided by the publisher. You can also make a guess based on the length allowed; i.e., 100-120 words = descriptive; 250+ words = informative.

How do I write an abstract?

The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:

  • Reason for writing: What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
  • Problem: What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
  • Methodology: An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
  • Results: Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
  • Implications: What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?

(This list of elements is adapted with permission from Philip Koopman, “How to Write an Abstract.” )

All abstracts include:

  • A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
  • The most important information first.
  • The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
  • Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
  • Clear, concise, and powerful language.

Abstracts may include:

  • The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
  • Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
  • The same chronological structure as the original work.

How not to write an abstract:

  • Do not refer extensively to other works.
  • Do not add information not contained in the original work.
  • Do not define terms.

If you are abstracting your own writing

When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.

Reverse outlining:

This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper– see our short video . For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence. Practice grouping ideas using webbing or color coding .

For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.

Cut and paste:

To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.

If you are abstracting someone else’s writing

When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:

Identify key terms:

Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.

Highlight key phrases and sentences:

Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.

Don’t look back:

After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.

Revise, revise, revise

No matter what type of abstract you are writing, or whether you are abstracting your own work or someone else’s, the most important step in writing an abstract is to revise early and often. When revising, delete all extraneous words and incorporate meaningful and powerful words. The idea is to be as clear and complete as possible in the shortest possible amount of space. The Word Count feature of Microsoft Word can help you keep track of how long your abstract is and help you hit your target length.

Example 1: Humanities abstract

Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998

This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Now let’s break down this abstract into its component parts to see how the author has distilled his entire dissertation into a ~200 word abstract.

What the dissertation does This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.

How the dissertation does it The time period studied in this dissertation includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies.

What materials are used Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports.

Conclusion This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to movement demands and the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Keywords social movements Civil Rights Movement Mississippi voting rights desegregation

Example 2: Science Abstract

Luis Lehner, “Gravitational radiation from black hole spacetimes” Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1998 DAI-B 59/06, p. 2797, Dec 1998

The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search for and analysis of detected signals. The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm. This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

This science abstract covers much of the same ground as the humanities one, but it asks slightly different questions.

Why do this study The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search and analysis of the detected signals.

What the study does The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm.

Results This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

Keywords gravitational radiation (GR) spacetimes black holes

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.

Koopman, Philip. 1997. “How to Write an Abstract.” Carnegie Mellon University. October 1997. http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html .

Lancaster, F.W. 2003. Indexing And Abstracting in Theory and Practice , 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, apa abstracts.

The abstract is a succinct, single-paragraph summary of your paper’s purpose, main points, method, findings, and conclusions, and is often recommended to be written after the rest of your paper has been completed.

abstract for essay

What are APA Abstracts?

APA Abstracts are a type of Abstract , which is a genre of discourse . Like other abstracts (e.g., MLA Abstracts or Executive Summaries )m, APA Abstracts summarize the critical parts (aka essential parts) of a longer paper.

What makes an APA Abstract unique are the following elements:

  • the abstract must be a single-paragraph summary of the paper’s content that is between 150 to 250
  • This enables the work to be indexed correctly in the archive and associated with appropriate scholarly conversations.

Key Concepts:  Attribution ;  Citation ;  Discourse Community ;  Textual Research

Examples of APA Abstracts

The information provided in the APA abstract is determined by the genre of the paper, the intended audience or community, prevailing conventions, and conventions related to organizing the Archive, humanities’ textual record of knowledge, scholarly conversations, and record of past works on particular topics.

For instance, when investigators used empirical research methods, their abstract will often have one or two sentences for each major section, such as

  • Introduction
  • Conclusion.

Or, if the investigators used textual research methods , then their abstract may follow a CARS (Create a Research Space) Model:

  • The writer, Speaker, Knowledge Worker . . . will define the ongoing scholarly conversations that inform the topic
  • The writer will identify a gap in the literature, an unresolved question.
  • Occupy the niche.

Why Do APA Abstracts Matter?

People who are in a hurry (and who isn’t?) tend to decide whether or not they’ll read a document by scanning its abstract. When investigators search the peer-reviewed literature seeking to better understand the current conversations about topics of interest to them, they are likely to scan the abstracts.

Where Do Abstracts Appear in Report Documents?

APA Abstract s are placed after the Title Page before the Introduction .

How to Write an Abstract APA

The bottom line is that good writing, even writing that is extremely technical and invariably full of jargon, is best conveyed as a story. This truism is expecially true for abstracts. After spending years perhaps on an investigation, it can be difficult to distill it into the smallest, most important parts.

So, when writing an abstract, your first consideration should be identifying the simplest narrative, the through line, that will help contextualize your research.

How should the Abstract Page be Formatted?

The abstract’s length should be a minimum of 150 words and a maximum of 250 words; it should be confined within a single paragraph. Unlike in other paragraphs in the paper, the first line of the abstract should not be indented five spaces from the left margin.

Like the rest of the paper, the pages of the abstract should be double-spaced and typed in Times New Roman, 12 pt. The margins are set at 1” on all sides. While the running head is flush with the upper left-hand corner of every page, the page number is flush with the upper right-hand corner of every page. Note that all letters of the running head should be capitalized and should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation, letters, and spaces.

The title of the abstract is centered at the top of the page; there is no extra space between the title and the paragraph. Avoid formatting the title with bold, italics, underlining, or quotation marks, or mislabeling the abstract with the title of the research paper.

When writing the abstract, note that the APA recommends using two spaces after sentences that end in a period; however, sentences that end in other punctuation marks may be followed by a single space. Additionally, the APA recommends using the active voice and past tense in the abstract, but the present tense may be used to describe conclusions and implications. Acronyms or abbreviated words should be defined in the abstract.

  • Academic Essay for Undergraduate Writing Course Fat women feel enormous pressure to be thin. This pressure is exacerbated by media portrayals of fat women that show characters who are unruly, miserable, or comical. The series Shrill (2019-2021) combats fatphobic representations by offering Annie, a fat woman, as a lead character. She is neither a punchline nor a cautionary tale. Shrill elucidates the societal stigmas of being fat without victimizing its main character. In this essay, I offer an autoethnographic critical media analysis of Shrill . I explore the Western Body Positivity movement, the effects of the United States’ hegemonic beauty ideologies, and my experiences as a white, fat woman alongside Shrill . I argue though the representation of Annie is a huge step forward, some narrative arcs remain problematic. The focus on self-love and reliance on a Black character to facilitate that self-love mirror the real-life dependency on and erasure of Black women in the Body Positivity movement.
  • Recommendation Report Students struggle with stress and anxiety: they struggle to manage their time to study, complete coursework, and excel (citation; specifics needed here). Thus, we designed a healthy coping mechanism to help USF students deal with depression, anxiety, and stress: dog therapy. This will help combat these difficulties and promote mental health awareness. For our primary research, we made a poll on Instagram where people (mainly college students) responded whether or not they would take advantage of the puppy shelter as a way to ease anxiety and stress. We found that the large majority of people reported that they would benefit from having this resource available on campus. The shelter will also bring job opportunities, volunteer work, experience, and a higher morale for students.
  • Product Pitch Millennials’ desire for environmentally-friendly coffee is sweeping the industry, and Coffi™ is perfectly positioned to bring this to the campuses nationwide. “91% of college students say they agree their place of study should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development” (UNESCO 2018). Coffi™ will focus on two different models suited to different customers:  an atmosphere where customers can purchase quality coffee and go about their business in peace, and a vending machine model that maximizes product value and convenience. Beyond our goal to create a successful business through incorporation of modern technology, we seek to serve quality products in reusable and biodegradable cups.
  • NSF Commercial Potential Abstract The Total Available Market for this product is the 35.4M students in high school and postsecondary education. Assuming 2.5% market share of the target market (2.8M students taking first-year composition) and price-point of $35/year/student by two courses, MyReviewers will generate approximately $4.9M/year in revenue or $19.6M with a 10% market share. Higher revenues are feasible once the software is adopted more broadly in general education and high school English courses. This commercialization effort has the potential to disrupt reductionist assessment practices in education and to address shifting demographic populations so that all students may secure rights to literacy.

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How to write an essay abstract

This page explains how to write an  essay abstract  including what should be included, and what shouldn’t.

Whilst most dissertations will include an abstract, being asked to write an essay abstract is more rare and usually confined to lengthier/extended essays.

Many students make the mistake of treating the abstract as an introduction paragraph to the essay, but it is not.  Instead, the abstract will include the main points stated in the essay as well as any conclusions that are drawn. It will also allow the reader to know what the essay is going to cover and what is being investigated.  A good template to use for an essay abstract is as follows:

  • Purpose :  why did you write about this topic?
  • Design/methodology/approach :  how did you investigate this topic?
  • Findings :  What did you find/what conclusions did you reach?
  • Practical implications :  Why are the conclusions significant?
  • Originality/value :  (If applicable) what does your essay offer that adds to what has already been written on the topic?

The abstract should be the last part of your essay that is written. This way you can get a feel for the main ideas you cover as you write, and will know if you were able to draw any conclusions from the information you have researched. As the essay develops, you should write down your main ideas as you go along. This will help you reference them later on and to make sure they are included.

Writing the essay abstract

Once the essay is completed:

  • Reread the essay and look for any key sentences that support your thesis statement.
  • Take the information from the key sentences and your main points and combine them in a summary. This summary can start with a restatement of the thesis, the main arguments in the essay, and a conclusion based on the information.
  • Include an explanation of your methods of research.
  • Once you have written a draft, go back and edit your abstract for length and content.
  • Any repetitive phrases should be taken out as well as minor details.
  • The essay abstract also needs to be properly edited for sentence structure and spelling errors.
  • Once you have revised it to your liking it should be placed behind the cover page of the essay.

When writing an abstract for your essay, there are some key points you need to keep in mind:

  • The abstract should not include any information that is not going to be found in the essay.
  • A good abstract will cover the reasons why you wrote about your topic, the information that supported your thesis, and how the conclusion was reached.

Essay abstract length

The length of your abstract will usually be set by your tutor at the same time as setting your essay assignment.  Usually around 100-150 words is allowed, although this limit may be increased to 250 for an extended essay.

Examples of an essay abstract

These examples show what an essay abstract would look like:

Business management essay abstract example: (total 97 words)

Title:  “Business-to-business Service Marketing: How does it differ from business-to-business product marketing?”

“Business-to-business service marketing has received comparatively less attention in the academic literature than business-to-business product marketing; much of the service marketing literature discusses the ways in which services and products are different”.  <-gives the reason why the student has chosen to write about this topic

“This essay compares service marketing to product marketing in the industrial sector from the perspective of customer value creation”.  <-explains what is covered in the essay

“The results of a study of managers in the telecommunications industry provide some insight into criteria used by customers to evaluate services and products”.  <-explains the method used by the student

“According to the results, more similarities than differences exist between service and product marketing in the industrial sector. Managerial implications of this finding are presented”.  <-explains the results

Business essay abstract example 2: (total 183 words)

Title: “ The surpluses and shortages in business-to-business marketing theory and research”

“ Business-to-business marketing has come of age in the last three decades and research in this area has been extensive and impressive. This essay examines the extant body of business-to-business marketing research and identifies surpluses and shortages with the goal of stimulating future research.”  <-gives the reason why the student has chosen to write about this topic

“ The essay focuses on two questions regarding future business-to business marketing. First, what has been the focus of understanding in business-to-business marketing theory and what should be its future focus? Second, what has been the purpose or objective to study business-to-business marketing and what should be the future objective for research?”  <-explains what is covered in the essay including limitations of the student’s research

“ It is found that research in business-to-business marketing is fundamentally changing and will continue to change. The essay identifies areas of business-to-business marketing research that have received surplus attention and areas that require additional attention.”  <-explains the results

“ The essay provides guidelines for future exploration of the business-to-business research domain.”  <-explains practical implications of what the student has found.

“The essay is analogous to the widely cited paper by Sheth (1979) that reviewed the state of consumer behavior research and identified areas that had been unexplored or under-explored, and in the process provided an impetus for new research in consumer behavior”.  <-considers originality.

Essay abstracts adapted from journal abstracts available at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com

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How To Write A Research Paper

Research Paper Abstract

Cathy A.

How to Write an Abstract For a Research Paper with Examples

12 min read

Published on: Jan 19, 2024

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

How To Write An Abstract For A Research Paper

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Struggling to encapsulate your extensive research into a concise abstract? Writing an abstract for a research paper can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be! 

This blog is your guide to deciphering the abstract, understanding its purpose, and learning the art of writing your own.

We'll break down the abstract into clear, simple steps. We'll show you what it is, why it matters, and most importantly, how to write one that's clear, concise, and grabs your reader's attention. 

So, leave your confusion behind, and let’s dive into it!

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What is an Abstract in a Paper?

An abstract in a research paper is a concise summary that provides an overview of the main points and key elements of the entire document. It is typically found at the beginning of academic papers, articles, or research reports. 

The abstract serves as a standalone piece that briefly communicates the purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions of the study.

Usually ranging from 150 to 250 words, an abstract provides readers with a quick overview of the entire text.

Purpose of Abstracts

Abstracts serve several essential purposes in academic and professional settings, and therefore the importance of abstracts in research can not be overlooked. The primary objectives of abstracts include:

  • Concise Summary : Distills key elements for quick understanding.
  • Quick Information Retrieval : Saves time by offering a snapshot of document relevance.
  • Decision-Making Tool : Helps researchers choose studies aligning with their objectives.
  • Communication of Research : Disseminates findings to diverse audiences effectively.
  • Database Indexing : Facilitates efficient literature review in academic databases.
  • Conference and Journal Submissions : Essential requirement for evaluating contributions' merit and relevance.

When to Write an Abstract?

We need to include an abstract when:

  • Submitting research papers for publication.
  • Sending research proposals for conferences or academic events.
  • Completing theses, dissertations, or comprehensive reports.
  • Drafting articles for scholarly journals.
  • Presenting academic projects or detailed proposals.

Types of Abstract

There are 2 basic types of abstract writing:

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The Contents of an Abstract

An abstract typically includes the following components:

  • Purpose/Objective : Clearly states the primary goal of the research or document.
  • Methods/Approach : Briefly outline the methodology or approach used in the study.
  • Results/Findings : Highlights the main outcomes or discoveries of the research.
  • Conclusions/Implications : Summarize the key conclusions and their broader significance.

Another way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. It stands for:

  • Introduction : Introduces the research topic and the problem under investigation.
  • Methods : Describes the research methods and experimental design employed.
  • Results : Presents the main findings or outcomes of the study.
  • Discussion : Analyzes the results, discusses their implications, and draws conclusions.

Adhering to the IMRaD structure ensures a logical flow in your abstract, making it comprehensible and informative for readers.

How to Write an Abstract in 5 Steps?

Let’s take a look at the simple steps to write an abstract for a research paper: 

Step 1: Craft an Engaging Introduction 

Begin by clearly defining the purpose of your research. Identify the practical or theoretical problem your research addresses and state the research question you aim to answer. 

Provide brief context on the social or academic relevance of your topic without delving into detailed background information. If using specialized terms, offer concise definitions. 

Use verbs like "investigate," "analyze," or "evaluate" to describe your research objective. Write in the present or past simple tense, avoiding references to the future, as the research is already complete.

Step 2: Outline Your Methods Clearly

Outline the research methods and experimental design employed in your study. Refrain from evaluating the validity or challenges of your methodology. Provide a clear description of how you conducted your research, including any specific techniques, tools, or procedures used.

Be concise but offer enough detail for readers to understand the approach you took. Use the past simple tense to describe methods. 

Step 3: Present Your Results with Precision

Highlight the main findings or outcomes of your research. Summarize the data collected and present key results without interpretation. Use clear and specific language to convey the essential elements of your study.

This section of the abstract can use either present or past simple tense.

Step 4: Articulate a Thoughtful Discussion

Analyze the results and discuss their implications. Interpret the findings in the context of your research question and objectives. Explore the broader significance of your results and any potential applications or recommendations.

Include brief mentions of any significant limitations in your research, such as those related to sample size or methods. This provides readers with insights to assess the credibility and generalizability of your study.

Step 5: List Relevant Keywords

Conclude your abstract by listing keywords that capture the essential concepts and topics addressed in your research. These keywords assist in indexing and categorizing your work for easy retrieval in academic databases.

Abstract Examples

Below are some samples to help you understand how to write an effective abstract for a research paper: 

Sample Abstract 1

Abstract for a research paper humanities

abstract for essay

Bagó, B., Kovács, M., Protzko, J., Nagy, T., Kekecs, Z., Pálfi, B., Adamkovi?, M., Adamus, S., Albalooshi, S., Albayrak?Aydemir, N., Alfian, I., Alper, S., Solas, S. Á., Alves, S. G., Amaya, S., Andresen, P., Anjum, G., Ansari, D., Arriaga, P., . . . Aczél, B. (2022). Situational factors shape moral judgements in the trolley dilemma in Eastern, Southern and Western countries in a culturally diverse sample. Nature Human Behaviour , 6 (6), 880–895. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01319-5

Sample Abstract 2

Social sciences Abstract 

abstract for essay

Reference : 

Hanlon, M., Yeung, K., & Zuo, L. (2021). Behavioral Economics of Accounting: A review of archival research on individual decision makers*. Contemporary Accounting Research , 39 (2), 1150–1214. https://doi.org/10.1111/1911-3846.12739

Sample Abstract 3

Abstract for the Sciences

abstract for essay


Widén, E., Junna, N., Ruotsalainen, S., Surakka, I., Mars, N., Ripatti, P., Partanen, J., Aro, J., Mustonen, P., Tuomi, T., Palotie, A., Salomaa, V., Kaprio, J., Partanen, J., Hotakainen, K., Pöllänen, P., & Ripatti, S. (2022). How Communicating Polygenic and Clinical Risk for Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Impacts Health Behavior: an Observational Follow-up Study. Circulation , 15 (2). https://doi.org/10.1161/circgen.121.003459

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Abstract For a Research Paper Proposal

Tips For Writing an Abstract

Here are some essential tips for writing an effective abstract:

  • Understand the Types : Familiarize yourself with different types of abstracts – such as descriptive abstracts and informative abstracts.
  • Clarity is Key: A good abstract is clear, concise, and easily understandable. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complex language.
  • Follow a Structure : Organize your abstract with a structured format, including the research problem, methodology, key findings, and conclusions.
  • Stay Within Word Limits : Adhere to specified word limits. Balancing brevity while conveying essential information is crucial.
  • Define the Research Problem : Clearly state the research problem or objective to provide context for your study.
  • Highlight Methodology : Briefly describe the methods used in your research, giving readers insight into your approach.
  • Include Vital Information: Specify the type of information covered in your research abstract.
  • Active Voice and Strong Verbs : Use active voice and strong verbs to convey a sense of authority and engagement.
  • Follow Guidelines : Adhere to formatting requirements stated in the title page or table of contents.
  • Choose Impactful Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords that potential readers might use when searching for similar studies.
  • Revise and Edit : Prioritize the clarity and coherence of your abstract, ensuring it aligns with guidelines and objectives.

 Abstract Checklist

Here's a checklist for writing an abstract for a research paper:

In summary, writing a compelling abstract is essential for conveying your research paper's core elements concisely. Remember, clarity and brevity are key. Feel free to revisit the examples provided for inspiration. 

If you face challenges in any section, including the abstract, reach out to CollegeEssay.org for professional assistance. Our expert writing service is here to guide you through academic intricacies. 

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How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation that Captivates Readers

abstract for essay

Did you know that the first scientific abstracts can be traced back to the 17th century when scholars like Sir Francis Bacon began to condense their research findings into concise summaries? Abstracts have come a long way since then, becoming an essential component of scholarly articles, research papers, and conference presentations. Learning how to write an abstract for a dissertation is a skill that can greatly enhance the visibility and impact of your work.

Short Description

In this informative article, our dissertation writer will delve into the world of abstracts and uncover their significance in the realm of academic and scientific writing. Discover what an abstract is, why it's essential, and how to craft one effectively. We'll provide you with practical tips and expert guidance to ensure your abstracts not only meet the mark but also captivate your audience. Whether you're a seasoned researcher or just starting out, this article has something valuable to offer.

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Look no further! Dive into the world of precision with our Dissertation Abstracts!

Understanding What is a Dissertation Abstract

At its core, a dissertation abstract is a brief but comprehensive overview of the main points, findings, and contributions of a larger piece of work. Its primary goal is to convey the essence of the research in a condensed form.

It typically covers key aspects of the research, such as the problem or question being addressed, the methodology used, the main results or findings, and the broader implications of the work. It's the appetizer before the main course, the map before the journey, and it plays an integral role in helping others decide if your research is worth their time and attention. Let's explore this in more detail:

what is a dissertation abstract

  • Conciseness: A brief summary, typically 150 to 250 words, must adhere to precise and economical writing, where each word carries weight. Authors must distill the core of their research into this restricted word count, making each sentence a vital element.
  • Self-Sufficient Synopsis: This self-contained summary offers a comprehensive understanding of the research, even when read independently from the main document. It should encompass key elements such as the research query, methodology, primary findings, and broader implications.
  • Impersonality: Abstracts are generally composed in the third person, avoiding personal pronouns. The focus is on the research itself, maintaining objectivity to help readers evaluate the work without authorial bias.
  • Transparency and Accessibility: A well-crafted summary should be lucid and approachable to a wide audience. While it may include technical jargon, it should strive for comprehensibility by both experts and non-specialists.
  • Precision: Accuracy is paramount in a summary. It's crucial to faithfully represent the research without exaggeration or unsupported claims.
  • Framework: Summaries often adhere to a structured format, encompassing sections like an introduction (introducing the research problem), methodology (detailing the research approach), results (highlighting main findings), and conclusion (addressing research implications). The specific format may vary according to publication or conference guidelines.
  • Key Terms: Summaries frequently incorporate a list of relevant keywords or phrases. These aid readers and search engines in locating the work efficiently. Selecting appropriate keywords is pivotal for effective indexing and discoverability.

Exploring What's the Purpose of the Dissertation Abstract

Understanding the purpose of an abstract of dissertation is essential for any academic or scientific writer. It serves as the compass that guides the composition of this concise summary. Let's delve into the specific reasons behind the creation of this piece:

  • Information Filtering: In today's information-rich age, researchers, students, and professionals often face a deluge of academic papers and articles. Abstracts play a pivotal role in helping individuals sift through this sea of information. They serve as a swift evaluation mechanism, allowing individuals to discern whether a specific research paper focuses on subjects that align with their interests and requirements.
  • Decision-Making Tool: These summaries aid decision-making at various stages, helping readers decide whether to invest time in reading the full document. Journal editors and conference organizers use descriptive and informative abstracts to select an entire paper for publication or presentation. Thus, the quality and appeal of an abstract can significantly impact the visibility and recognition of a research contribution.
  • Search and Retrieval: Abstracts facilitate the organization, cataloging, and retrieval of academic works in databases and libraries. They are key elements for search engines, enabling precise indexing, categorization, and accessibility. When you search for scholarly articles on a specific topic, the presence of keywords in abstracts greatly influences the results you receive.
  • Quick Reference: A descriptive abstract offers a swift reference point for scholars who want to recall the core findings and insights of a particular study. Researchers and students often use abstracts to determine whether a work is worth exploring in-depth for their own research.
  • Global Accessibility: In an increasingly globalized academic community, English has become the lingua franca for scholarly communication. Descriptive abstracts provide a bridge for non-English speakers to access research findings, enabling a wider dissemination of knowledge.

Dissertation Abstract Example

In our exploration of dissertation abstract examples, we've crafted a practical sample, which, in this case, would span approximately 100 pages. This abstract of dissertation example showcases the key components of a comprehensive research summary and demonstrates how to effectively condense extensive research into a concise yet informative format.

How to Write a Dissertation Abstract with 4 Key Steps

In the world of academia and research, your dissertation abstract is your first impression, your elevator pitch, and your ticket to engaging your audience. But crafting the one that truly captivates can be an art form in itself. In this guide, we'll unveil the key steps to help you master this art, from deciphering the essential components to weaving a compelling narrative that leaves a lasting impact.

how to write an abstract for dissertation

Step 1: Introduction

The introduction in your dissertation abstract is the gateway, the moment you capture your audience's attention and set the tone for what follows. It's where you frame the research question, highlight its relevance, and give your readers a compelling reason to delve further into your work.

Imagine your research paper is about a groundbreaking energy-efficient building material. Instead of a mundane start, consider opening with a captivating question: 'What if we told you that buildings of the future could be constructed with a material that not only slashes energy costs but also helps combat climate change?'

The introduction is your chance to engage, inspire, and intrigue your audience while writing an abstract, prompting them to explore the innovative and significant research that lies ahead.

Step 2: Methods

If you are wondering how to write an abstract for a dissertation, remember to provide a concise but informative glimpse into how you conducted your research in the methods section. This is where you let your readers know the tools and techniques you employed to gather your data or evidence.

For instance, if your research involves using advanced machine learning algorithms to predict financial market trends, you would describe your methods as 'We harnessed cutting-edge machine learning algorithms to analyze market data from the past decade.'

In a scientific paper on the impact of a new teaching approach on student learning, your informative abstract could state, 'Our research involved implementing a novel blended learning model, combining in-person instruction with interactive online modules.'

By offering a brief but explicit insight into your research methods, you allow your audience to grasp the rigor and innovation behind your work, setting the stage for forthcoming results and discussions.

Step 3: Results

In the results section of your dissertation abstract, you showcase the heart of your research – the findings and outcomes. This is where you provide a glimpse of the impact of your work.

Instead of vague terms like 'significant' or 'notable,' be precise and quantitative. For example, if your research has identified a reduction in energy consumption due to a new lighting technology, you might say, 'Our study revealed a remarkable 40% reduction in energy consumption when implementing the innovative LED lighting system.'

Or, for a dissertation topic on the effects of a vaccination program, you could state, 'The vaccination initiative led to a substantial 65% decrease in the incidence of the target disease within the studied population.'

By quantifying your findings and presenting specific measurements or statistics, you make your results more tangible and impactful, allowing your audience to grasp the significance of your research at a glance.

Step 4: Discussion

The discussion section of your dissertation abstract is where you connect the dots, providing insights into the broader implications of your research. It's your opportunity to convey the 'So what?' of your findings.

For example, in a study exploring the environmental impact of urban transportation changes, your abstract could conclude, 'These findings highlight the potential for sustainable urban planning to significantly reduce carbon emissions, offering a blueprint for cities to combat climate change.'

Or, in a study on the psychological effects of art therapy in elderly populations, your discussion might emphasize, 'Our research underscores the value of art therapy as an innovative approach to enhancing the mental well-being of the aging population, with implications for a more holistic and effective approach to senior care.'

In the discussion section, you should address the long-term consequences and the significance of your research, whether it's in terms of policy changes, practical applications, or fundamental shifts in the field. It's where you convey the transformative power of your work and inspire your audience to recognize its value.

3 Useful Strategies for Writing a Dissertation Abstract

In the vast landscape of academic and research publications, a dissertation abstract is often your first and, sometimes, only chance to make an impact. It's the trailer that either entices the audience to watch the full movie or lets them move on. But writing dissertation abstract is not just about summarizing your work; it's about engaging your readers, leaving them curious and eager to explore further.

To help you navigate this intricate process, we gathered three indispensable strategies. These practical approaches are designed to not only make your abstract informative but also to give it a unique edge that will linger in the minds of your audience. 

Recall the WWHS Principle

Crafting an effective abstract requires you to recall the WWHS principle: 'What, Why, How, and So What.' These four pillars from our professional essay writing service are the foundation of an abstract that informs, engages, and leaves a lasting impression on your readers.

Articulating the 'What' with Context

  • In the 'What' segment, provide a succinct yet comprehensive overview of your research. This is where you outline the central focus of your study, encompassing not only the 'what' but also the 'who' and 'where.' Clarify the subject matter of your research and introduce the key participants or elements involved. Additionally, establish the geographical context by specifying where your research took place. By presenting this contextual information, you paint a vivid picture of the setting and the essential actors within your study.

Significance Unveiled: The 'Why' in Your Research

  • Within the 'Why' section, dive into the importance of your research. Explore the motivations that fueled your research journey. What critical questions or knowledge gaps ignited your curiosity and propelled your investigation? Reveal the rationale behind your study, emphasizing its relevance to your field, practical applications, or its role in addressing pressing issues. This portion acts as the driving force behind your research, bridging the objectives of your study with the larger academic or practical context.

Mastering Research Methodology: The 'How' of Your Study

  • The 'How' component delves into the mechanics of your research methodology. Succinctly describe the methods you employed, whether it involved a qualitative case study, a quantitative survey, or an experimental design. Offer sufficient detail to grant readers a glimpse into your methodological approach without overwhelming them. This is where you underscore the rigor of your methodology, assuring your audience of the sound foundation of your research.

Discovering Meaning: The 'So What' in Your Findings

  • Finally, the 'So What' segment encapsulates the pivotal findings and the broader implications of your research. Even if you prefer the option to buy dissertations , you should remember to highlight the significant discoveries, results, or insights uncovered in your study. Explain the broader implications of these findings and their potential influence in the larger context. How might your research shape future inquiries, contribute to practical applications, or expand the existing knowledge in your field? The 'So What' segment elevates your abstract beyond mere information, transforming it into a source of invaluable knowledge.

Embrace Simplicity

Simplicity enhances clarity. It ensures that your abstract can be understood by experts and non-experts alike. Complex language or convoluted sentences can obscure your core message, so using clear and simple language is essential. Furthermore, when you're working with a limited word count, simplicity is your ally. It allows you to convey your message efficiently, ensuring that every word serves a purpose. In contrast, using complex language can quickly eat up your word limit.

An abstract isn't just for the academic community. Policymakers, journalists, and individuals from diverse backgrounds may take an interest in your work. So, simple dissertation abstracts broaden the audience, making the research relevant beyond academia.

Lastly, simplicity helps you distill the essence of scientific journals. It forces you to identify the key findings, implications, and fundamental message. In a world flooded with information, simplicity ensures that your research stands out and effectively informs, engages, and inspires.

Precision is Key

Precision plays a pivotal role in ensuring that your message is not just heard but understood with utmost clarity. It's not about verbosity or complexity; rather, it's the art of choosing the right words and framing your ideas with meticulous accuracy. Precision eliminates ambiguity, allowing your readers to grasp your message precisely as intended. Whether in a dissertation abstract, academic paper, or any form of communication, it is the beacon that guides your audience through the intricate maze of ideas, ensuring that your message lands with the impact it deserves.

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Discrimination Power of Short Essay Questions Versus Multiple Choice Questions as an Assessment Tool in Clinical Biochemistry

Basmah eldakhakhny.

1 Clinical Biochemistry, King Abdulaziz University Faculty of Medicine, Jeddah, SAU

Ayman Z Elsamanoudy

2 Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mansoura University, Faculty of Medicine, Mansoura, EGY

Assessment is fundamental to the educational process. Multiple choice questions (MCQs) and short essay questions (SEQs) are the most widely used assessment method in medical school. The current study evaluated the discriminating value of SEQs compared to MCQs as assessment tools in clinical biochemistry and correlated undergraduate students' SEQ scores with their overall scores during the academic years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. This is a descriptive-analytical study in which MCQ and SEQ papers of clinical biochemistry were analyzed. The mean score for SEQs in males was 66.7 ± 1.2 and for females it was 64.0 ± 1.1 SEM, with a p-value of 0.09; for MCQs, the mean score for males was 68.5 ± 0.9 SEM and for females it was 72.6 ± 0.8. When analyzing the difficulty index (DI) and discrimination factor (DF) of the questions, MCQs have a mean DI of 0.70 ± 0.01,and DF of 0.05 to 0.6. SEQs have a mean DI of 0.73 ± 0.03 and DF of 0.68 ± 0.01; there was a significant difference between the DF of MCQs and SEQs (p < 0.0001). Furthermore, there was a significant difference between SEQs and MCQs when categorizing students based on their scores, except for A-scored students. According to the current study, SEQs have a higher discriminating ability than MCQs and help differentiate high-achieving students from low-achieving students.


Assessment is fundamental to the educational process. It has benefits beyond measuring knowledge and competence alone. It is also crucial for directing and stimulating the learning process, as well as providing feedback to teachers and learners [ 1 ]. The assessment of the competence of undergraduate medical students is a very crucial mission [ 2 ]. The following three learning domains are to be evaluated: knowledge and understanding, skill, and value. The skills' domain is assessed at the levels of comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and criticism [ 3 ].

There are many methods for assessing the skills domain. They include a free response examination, long essay questions, short essay questions (SEQs), modified essay questions, multiple choice questions (MCQs), and others. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. The evaluation method's reliability and validity necessitate combining these methods [ 2 , 3 ]. MCQs emphasize mainly on knowledge recall, level I of revised Bloom's taxonomy; they can also assess a higher cognitive level when properly constructed. SEQs are efficient in assessing higher-order thinking and are associated with item writing flaws [ 4 , 5 ].

Assessment can be formative and summative. Formative assessment helps teachers identify students' learning gaps and modify teaching strategies [ 6 ]. Summative assessment is done at midterm and final examinations in most medical schools [ 7 ]. In the Faculty of Medicine at King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Clinical Biochemistry core course assessment tools are in the form of MCQs, SEQs, and practical examinations. The MCQs and SEQs are components of the written examinations (midterm and final examinations).

The study was conducted to compare and contrast the discriminating value of SEQs and MCQs as assessment tools in clinical biochemistry. Moreover, it aimed to correlate the students' scores of SEQs with their overall academic scores in the clinical biochemistry course at the Faculty of Medicine, KAU.

Materials and methods

This study was conducted in the Clinical Biochemistry Department, School of Medicine, KAU, during the study years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. It is a descriptive-analytical study in which MCQ and SEQ examinations of clinical biochemistry were analyzed. The ethical committee (Ethics Committee of Human Research at KAU) ruled that no formal ethics approval was required in this case.

Clinical biochemistry (BCHM 201) is a five-credit course for second-year medical students. The contact hours are in the form of four theoretical interactive lectures, one tutorial session, and one practical session per week. The students were familiarized with the assessment plan from day 1 of the course. The total score of the course (out of 100) was divided between different methods of assessments: 75% for written examinations (22.5% SEQs and 52.5% MCQs) which were in the form of midterm and final examinations, 10% for practical laboratory reports, 10% for final practical experiments, and the last 5% for team-based learning, with 60% as a passing grade. Students were divided into five groups based on their total scores in percentage: A for students who scored ≥ 90%, B for those who scored 80-89.99%, C for those who scored 70-79.99%, D for those who scored 60-69.99%, and F for those who scored < 60%.

Study protocol

In the current study, a total of 726 students' grades were analyzed, of whom 358 were male and 368 were female. The detailed scores were analyzed to study how students' achievement may differ between SEQs and MCQs. Each student's MCQ and SEQ scores were recorded, normalized to a percentage (%), and compared to the total score they received upon course completion. After each examination, an item analysis report with difficulty index (DI) and discrimination factor (DF) was created. For MCQs, item analysis was done using QuestionMark perception 5.7 software for Windows, whereas SEQ item analysis was done using the ZipGrade App Version 2.56. SEQs were marked, and the score was recorded on a ZipGrade answer sheet designed to record scores ranging from 0 to 3, with three counts as the primary answer and equal to 100% and zero counts as the lowest mark and equal to 0%. Any number in between is considered a partial answer, and students receive a percentage of the mark based on their score; the SEQs’ DF was calculated by ZipGrade using the Pearson correlation. Examinations were constructed based on the course learning outcome (CLO)-dependent blueprint and included MCQs and SEQs for each CLO from the knowledge and understanding as well as skills domain. All questions were reviewed by the examination committee members, including three professors and two associated professors of clinical biochemistry, to evaluate question quality, scientific information, and the English language. SEQs, as mentioned above, cover all CLOs and are constructed as figure interpretation, pathway completion, comparison, or written a directed brief description. Two raters (one male and one female faculty member) evaluated the SEQs as per the pre-formed standards and model answers.

Statistical analysis

Data analysis was conducted using SPSS Version 23 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY) and GraphPad Prism Version 9.5 (GraphPad Software, San Diego, California). P-value was calculated using an individual t-test to compare the mean score for males and females, a paired t-test was used for individual students' scores (SEQs, MCQs, and total), and the Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the MCQs and SEQs’ difficulty and discrimination. Pearson correlation coefficient (r) was computed to assess the linear relationship between the SEQs and MCQs in different groups. Data are presented as mean ± standard error of the mean (SEM), and a p-value was considered significant if it was <0.05.

The item analysis of 160 MCQs and 34 SEQs was conducted and is summarized in Table ​ Table1 1 and Figure ​ Figure1. 1 . MCQs have a mean DI of 0.70 ± 0.01 SEM, with a minimum score of 0.25 and a maximum score of 0.98. Their DF ranged from 0.05 to 0.6, with an average of 0.40 ± 0.01. On the other hand, the DI of SEQs ranged from 0.4 to 0.95, with an average of 0.73 ± 0.03. Their DF ranged from 0.45 to 0.85, with an average of 0.68 ± 0.01. There was no statistical difference between the DI of MCQs and SEQs. In contrast, there was a statistical significance with a p-value of <0.0001 for the DF.

P-value was calculated using the Mann-Whitney U test. Data are presented as mean ± SEM.

SEQ, short essay question; MCQ, multiple choice question; SEM, standard error of mean

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Object name is cureus-0015-00000035427-i01.jpg

A total of 160 MCQs and 34 SEQs were analyzed. (a) There is no statistically significant difference in the difficulty of SEQs and MCQs. (b) The difference between the DF of SEQs and MCQs shows that SEQs have much higher discrimination with p < 0.0001 (as indicated by asterisks).

The data are presented as mean ± SEM

A total of 726 students' grades were analyzed, of whom 358 were male and 368 were female. The mean score for SEQs in males was 66.7 ±1.2 SEM and for females it was 64.0 ± 1.1 SEM, with a p-value of 0.09. For MCQs, the mean score for males was 68.5 ± 0.9 SEM and for females it was 72.6 ± 0.8 SEM, with p < 0.001. Finally, the total mean scores were 79 ± 1 SEM in males and 81 ± 1 in females, with a p-value of 0.02. Data can be seen in Figure ​ Figure2 2 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is cureus-0015-00000035427-i02.jpg

A total of 726 students' grades were analyzed, of whom 358 were male and 368 were female. Data showed statistical significance in MCQs and total scores.

Data are presented as mean ± SEM.

**P-value of 0.001. *P-value of 0.02.

Students were further classified into A-F groups based on their overall course grades, and their SEQ scores were compared to their MCQ and total scores. Group B had the highest number of students (258), while group F had the lowest (47). Interestingly, looking at the average grade of all students, there was a 5% difference between the mean SEQ and MCQ scores, and almost a 15% difference between SEQs and total scores, with the higher grade in MCQs and total scores compared to SEQs. These differences are not statistically significant in students with average grades A. However, the gap keeps increasing in students with lower scores (group F). The difference reaches 15 % between SEQs and MCQs and 30% between SEQs and the total scores. These comparisons are detailed in Table ​ Table2 2 and Figure ​ Figure3. 3 . Finally, a Pearson correlation coefficient (r) was calculated, as shown in Table ​ Table3, 3 , to determine whether there was a linear relationship between SEQs, MCQs, and total grades. When looking at overall students, there was a strong positive correlation between SEQ scores and both MCQ (r = 0.85 and p < 0.0001) and total grades (r = 0.91 and p < 0.0001). Interestingly, this correlation becomes weak when looking at the group individually, ranging from 0.27 to 0.38, between SEQs and MCQs, although it is statistically significant, and ranging from 0.58 to 0.65 between SEQs and total score. Only group D had an r of 0.18, with no significance.

P-value was calculated using paired t-test. SEQs. Data are presented as mean ± SEM.

r: Pearson correlation coefficient

SEQ, short essay question; MCQ, multiple choice question

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Object name is cureus-0015-00000035427-i03.jpg

The overall scores of 726 students were divided into five groups (A-F), and the means of their SEQs, MCQs, and total scores were compared. A-F show that the difference in all students and each group between SEQs, MCQs, and totals scores are all statistically significant except for group A.

Data are presented as mean ± SEM. ****p-value < 0.0001.

The current study was designed to assess the use of SEQs (structured essay type and short answer questions) in addition to MCQs as an assessment method for higher cognitive skills in clinical biochemistry.

MCQs have high reliability when the set of questions is valid with sufficient numbers of questions applied [ 8 , 9 ]. From our point of view, MCQs alone are not enough. They must be combined with another type of assessment to test the higher cognitive function.

MCQs are applicable for evaluating knowledge, understanding, and conception of factual information (the lower levels of cognitive processing) [ 10 ]. It can be constructed to measure application and analysis, but it requires a level of experience in formulating questions to measure a higher level of cognition [ 11 ]. MCQs are widely used due to their high reliability, validity, and ease of counting [ 12 ]. On the other hand, SEQs are structured in an open-ended format and intended to increase reproducibility and objectivity [ 9 ]. They are more complex, requiring students to recall facts and use higher-order cognitive skills [ 13 ]. It encourages the students to develop and use their critical thinking capabilities [ 14 ] besides their ability to enable the student to think and come to a conclusion about the answer, which is not a benefit in MCQs [ 15 ]. Therefore, it provides more benefits for assessment despite the time consumption during its preparation and scoring [ 4 ].

In the current study, the SEQs are more discriminating than MCQs, even though there is no statistically significant difference between the two types of questions in their DI scores.

Kunjappagounder et al. [ 16 ] reported that a well-framed essay question is an efficient tool for evaluating students' levels in the cognitive domain [ 16 ]. It is more discriminating than multiple questions. Our study's results are in agreement with those in the studies by Jaleel et al. (2020) [ 17 ], Kunjappagounder et al. [ 16 ], and Maryani et al. [ 18 ].

Evaluating questions item analysis is very important for assessing the SEQs. It consists of the analytical study of the individual questions and the whole test [ 19 ]. Measuring the degree of difficulty and discrimination is necessary for the reliability and validity of the assessment [ 16 ].

Item analysis is used for evaluating the degree of understanding by the students as well as providing feedback to the examiner. The most important indices are discrimination and difficulty indices. The DF shows the ability of a question to differentiate between a higher- and a lower-ability student [ 19 - 21 ].

The mean score of MCQs is much higher than that of the SEQs in the present study, which is consistent with the results of many earlier studies by Oyebola et al. [ 22 ], Wilkinson and Shaw [ 23 ], and Aalaei et al. [ 24 ].

Aalaei et al. [ 24 ] reported a similar finding; good discrimination is documented in the essay question more than in the multiple choice type [ 24 ]. Many factors can explain this finding, including guessing and the presence of the correct answer between the distractors, which can make them easier to be answered. However, the level of thought and concentration applied to the essay questions has a significant impact on distinguishing high achievers from lower achievers [ 24 ].

Moreover, SEQs necessitate students to interpret and analyze their thoughts to provide the answers; they also evaluate written communication skills [ 17 ].

This finding could show that any student with a reasonable degree of conceptual knowledge of the subject can score well in MCQs regardless of the depth of their understanding, which does not apply to essay-type questions. Consequently, the teaching process and examination model must highlight the deep learning approaches and structure concepts rather than memorization learning.

The high discriminating value of the essay question is also confirmed by the finding of the current study when categorizing the grades into A to F, which showed that the low achievers (F grades students) have a 30% gap between their MCQs and total scores in comparison to their SEQ scores.

As expected, the present study revealed positive linear correlations between SEQs, MCQs, and total grades. These correlations were also reported in other subjects, such as pharmacology [ 25 ], otorhinolaryngology [ 26 ], pediatrics [ 27 ], and basic medical sciences, including physiology and medical biochemistry [ 4 , 17 ].

However, the observed weak correlations in the low achiever grades (F) with non-significant correlation in D scorers confirm the previous concept of the higher discrimination ability of the essay question over the MCQs.

The limitation of the current study is the low number of SEQs compared to the MCQs. This is due to examination time limitations, as answering SEQs requires a longer duration than that for MCQs. Therefore, in this study, the proportion of the SEQs is much low in relation to the whole examination.


We conclude that when comparing MCQs and SEQs (the structured and the open-ended ones) with the same level of cognition, SEQs have a higher discriminating ability and are helpful in differentiating high scorers from low scorers. Moreover, it is a good tool for assessing the high cognitive function regarding analysis and building concepts. Therefore, it is recommended to increase the percentage of the SEQs in the summative examinations and apply other types, such as extended essays, modified essays, and constructed-response questions. Moreover, we recommend using these questions in different branches of basic medical science.

The content published in Cureus is the result of clinical experience and/or research by independent individuals or organizations. Cureus is not responsible for the scientific accuracy or reliability of data or conclusions published herein. All content published within Cureus is intended only for educational, research and reference purposes. Additionally, articles published within Cureus should not be deemed a suitable substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional. Do not disregard or avoid professional medical advice due to content published within Cureus.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Human Ethics

Consent was obtained or waived by all participants in this study

Animal Ethics

Animal subjects: All authors have confirmed that this study did not involve animal subjects or tissue.



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    An abstract is a concise summary of a research paper or entire thesis. It is an original work, not an excerpted passage. An abstract must be fully self-contained and make sense by itself, without further reference to outside sources or to the actual paper. It highlights key content areas, your research purpose, the relevance or importance of ...

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    The abstract: "This quantitative research study was conducted to illustrate the relationship (s) between social media use and its effect on police brutality awareness. In 2015, social media was used to assist in revealing an act of impulsive police brutality on an adult black woman in Waller County, Texas.

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