Components of an abstract in academic research- Research Paper, proposal, scientific paper, thesis

This post will make an effort to address the major components of an abstract in academic research, which include articles, Research papers, proposals, scientific papers, and a thesis, among others.

What is an abstract

An abstract is a short and coherent summary of research work, academic paper, thesis, and dissertation. The abstract is seen before the introduction segment of the completed work; however, it should be written following the completion of the research work.

An abstract is meant to provide your reader or audience with overview information on what your research study was about, the research problems, objectives, methodology, findings as well as recommendations.

A good abstract should be a stand-only summary; this implies that the audience/reader should be able to gain an understanding of the research by only reading the abstract, without necessarily reading the full work.

Oftentimes, young researchers get trapped in the error of writing their abstract before even embarking on the study; that’s weird. This only happens when you are copying another student’s work. Imagine starting your building construction from the roofing instead of the foundation laying!

Of course, such a project becomes a nightmare. Just as the foundation provides the base for the building, your completed work justifies your abstract.

Also, be reminded that your abstract is a good point to start from when you are preparing for your defence. This is for the fact that it contains almost all the information you’ll need for your defence. Hence, do not fall for the temptation of trying to cram your abstract, as this will increase your unpreparedness during project defence as you will not be able to answer questions when they come.

An abstract is provided in the first section of virtually all types of academic writing. It can be defined as a brief or concise summary of a particular subject matter or academic piece. In other words, an abstract is the first part of any academic piece, which provides an in-depth summary of the entire piece or subject matter.

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Examples of the types of academic papers which demand an abstract include a thesis, a dissertation, a conference preceding and a research proposal. The sole aim of an abstract in academic writing is to provide the readers with a brief overview of what the proposed academic piece is all about.

Types of Abstracts in Academic Writing

An abstract can either be (I)Informative or (II)Descriptive(III) Critical.

It can be regarded as ‘Descriptive’ or ‘Complete’ when it consists of a detailed and brief summary of all sections in the academic piece. The term ‘sections’ in this context refers to the subject matter of the academic piece, its background of the study, aims and objectives, methodology as well as the results included.

In other words, an informative abstract summarizes the entire research paper and summarizes its main points. Ideally, it ought to contain between 150 to 250 words.

Similarly, an abstract is regarded as ‘Descriptive’ or ‘Limited’ when it consists of a general description of the research paper without any identification or highlights of its intricate points or substances.

Lastly, an abstract is regarded as ‘Critical’ when it provides a brief overview of the academic piece with special references to the inclusion of intricate points as well as additional comments or judgments regarding the conclusion of the subject matter in the academic piece. Such types of abstracts are not used frequently, and it ideally consists of 400-500 words.

Components of an Abstract

A well-written abstract ought to consist of the following elements or components:

  • The research problem
  • The objectives of the research.
  • The Research Methods.
  • The conclusion.

The Research Problem

This section includes a summary of the general problem or issues affecting the subject matter of the academic research. It takes up only five per cent of the abstract’s word count.

The objectives of the Research

This section of the abstract includes a general overview of what the writer seeks to achieve during the research paper. Remember it ought to be as brief and concise as possible; hence, the writer is encouraged to finish the research paper before coming back to write an abstract. That way, it will be easier for the writer to come up with summaries of the research objectives.

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The Research Methods

This includes a brief overview of the method of approach used by the writer to conduct the research and come up with a tangible result regarding the problem of the research. The research methods which the writer uses under this veil include a case study, questionnaires as well as empirical research.

The Conclusion

This section of the abstract is aimed at providing a brief overview of the solution to the proposed question in the research as well as how this solution ought to be conducted or concluded.

Importance of an abstract in academic writing

The importance of an abstract in academic writing includes the following:

  • It is used as a means of communicating the complexity or simplicity of the academic paper.
  • It serves as the first impression a reader gets about a research paper. Hence, it is used by many organizations in a bid to identify the abstracts that best suit the job or proposal description.
  • It serves as a means of saving the readers from going through the entire article to understand the subject matter of the research paper when it can be done at one glance.
  • It serves as a means of testing and ascertaining the summarisation skills of the writer of the research paper.

Importance points to note while writing an abstract

In order to compose a well-structured and composed abstract, the reader is advised to perform and refrain from doing the following:

  • Avoid the use of long and unnecessarily ambiguous words when writing an abstract.
  • Avoid the use of citations of any sort in an abstract.
  • Avoid the inclusion of additional information in the abstract. The particulars of the abstract must be included in the body of the actual research paper at one point or another. If it is not included in the paper then it should not be included in the abstract.
  • The abstract should not be considered as a part of the academic piece. It should be written independently with the aim of providing significant information about the paper to the readers.
  • Be as concise and brief as possible.
  • Have a considerable amount of knowledge regarding the subject matter of the research paper before writing the abstract of a paper. That way, it will be easier for the writer to touch all the necessary areas in the paper while writing the abstract.
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Features of an Abstract

A good abstract provides readers with information on the following;

  1. The research general aim or objectives which could be your research topic.
  2. The research specific objectives (as formulated for the study)
  3. Research problem (also, research questions as generated from the research objectives)
  4. Research design
  5. The population of the study
  6. Sampling techniques adopted
  7. Method and instrument for data collection
  8. Method and instrument for data analysis
  9. The research findings and, lastly
  10. The research recommendations.

When writing your abstract, it is important that you keep it short and concise; it should follow a logical sequence that allows for easy understanding. Pay particular attention to abstract instructions, if any.

Some departments or journals often have specific requirements to follow when formatting your abstract. Many a time, the emphasis is placed on the word count. Some may allow 150 words, 200 or 250. Ensure to keep all the rules in mind when writing your abstract.

Most importantly, first impression matters; if your abstract is not logically arranged, it discourages your readers from reading further. Hence, it’s vital for you to use conjunctions and connecting words to promote the sequential flow of your sentences.



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