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An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long.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

what is the abstract part of a research paper

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

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An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the major aspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.

Writing an Abstract. The Writing Center. Clarion University, 2009; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century . Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010;

Importance of a Good Abstract

Sometimes your professor will ask you to include an abstract, or general summary of your work, with your research paper. The abstract allows you to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Therefore, enough key information [e.g., summary results, observations, trends, etc.] must be included to make the abstract useful to someone who may want to examine your work.

How do you know when you have enough information in your abstract? A simple rule-of-thumb is to imagine that you are another researcher doing a similar study. Then ask yourself: if your abstract was the only part of the paper you could access, would you be happy with the amount of information presented there? Does it tell the whole story about your study? If the answer is "no" then the abstract likely needs to be revised.

Farkas, David K. “A Scheme for Understanding and Writing Summaries.” Technical Communication 67 (August 2020): 45-60;  How to Write a Research Abstract. Office of Undergraduate Research. University of Kentucky; Staiger, David L. “What Today’s Students Need to Know about Writing Abstracts.” International Journal of Business Communication January 3 (1966): 29-33; Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Abstracts and the Writing of Abstracts . Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Types of Abstracts

To begin, you need to determine which type of abstract you should include with your paper. There are four general types.

Critical Abstract A critical abstract provides, in addition to describing main findings and information, a judgment or comment about the study’s validity, reliability, or completeness. The researcher evaluates the paper and often compares it with other works on the same subject. Critical abstracts are generally 400-500 words in length due to the additional interpretive commentary. These types of abstracts are used infrequently.

Descriptive Abstract 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 only describes the work being summarized. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less. Informative Abstract 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 researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it 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 usually no more than 300 words in length.

Highlight Abstract A highlight abstract is specifically written to attract the reader’s attention to the study. No pretense is made of there being either a balanced or complete picture of the paper and, in fact, incomplete and leading remarks may be used to spark the reader’s interest. In that a highlight abstract cannot stand independent of its associated article, it is not a true abstract and, therefore, rarely used in academic writing.

II.  Writing Style

Use the active voice when possible , but note that much of your abstract may require passive sentence constructions. Regardless, write your abstract using concise, but complete, sentences. Get to the point quickly and always use the past tense because you are reporting on a study that has been completed.

Abstracts should be formatted as a single paragraph in a block format and with no paragraph indentations. In most cases, the abstract page immediately follows the title page. Do not number the page. Rules set forth in writing manual vary but, in general, you should center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page with double spacing between the heading and the abstract. The final sentences of an abstract concisely summarize your study’s conclusions, implications, or applications to practice and, if appropriate, can be followed by a statement about the need for additional research revealed from the findings.

Composing Your Abstract

Although it is the first section of your paper, the abstract should be written last since it will summarize the contents of your entire paper. A good strategy to begin composing your abstract is to take whole sentences or key phrases from each section of the paper and put them in a sequence that summarizes the contents. Then revise or add connecting phrases or words to make the narrative flow clearly and smoothly. Note that statistical findings should be reported parenthetically [i.e., written in parentheses].

Before handing in your final paper, check to make sure that the information in the abstract completely agrees with what you have written in the paper. Think of the abstract as a sequential set of complete sentences describing the most crucial information using the fewest necessary words. The abstract SHOULD NOT contain:

  • A catchy introductory phrase, provocative quote, or other device to grab the reader's attention,
  • Lengthy background or contextual information,
  • Redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information;
  • Acronyms or abbreviations,
  • References to other literature [say something like, "current research shows that..." or "studies have indicated..."],
  • Using ellipticals [i.e., ending with "..."] or incomplete sentences,
  • Jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader,
  • Citations to other works, and
  • Any sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.

Abstract. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Abstract. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Abstracts. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Borko, Harold and Seymour Chatman. "Criteria for Acceptable Abstracts: A Survey of Abstracters' Instructions." American Documentation 14 (April 1963): 149-160; Abstracts. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Hartley, James and Lucy Betts. "Common Weaknesses in Traditional Abstracts in the Social Sciences." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60 (October 2009): 2010-2018; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010; Procter, Margaret. The Abstract. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Riordan, Laura. “Mastering the Art of Abstracts.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 115 (January 2015 ): 41-47; Writing Report Abstracts. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Abstracts. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-First Century . Oxford, UK: 2010; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Writing Tip

Never Cite Just the Abstract!

Citing to just a journal article's abstract does not confirm for the reader that you have conducted a thorough or reliable review of the literature. If the full-text is not available, go to the USC Libraries main page and enter the title of the article [NOT the title of the journal]. If the Libraries have a subscription to the journal, the article should appear with a link to the full-text or to the journal publisher page where you can get the article. If the article does not appear, try searching Google Scholar using the link on the USC Libraries main page. If you still can't find the article after doing this, contact a librarian or you can request it from our free i nterlibrary loan and document delivery service .

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

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

step-by-step-guide-to-abstract-writing

Introduction

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.

purpose-of-abstract-writing

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.

the-various-sections-of-abstract-writing

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.

examples-of-good-abstract-writing

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

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.

Interested in learning more about dedicated research solutions? Go to the SciSpace product page to find out how our suite of products can help you simplify your research workflows so you can focus on advancing science.

Literature search in Scispace

The best-in-class solution is equipped with features such as literature search and discovery, profile management, research writing and formatting, and so much more.

But before you go,

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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper | Examples

what is the abstract part of a research paper

What is a research paper abstract?

Research paper abstracts summarize your study quickly and succinctly to journal editors and researchers and prompt them to read further. But with the ubiquity of online publication databases, writing a compelling abstract is even more important today than it was in the days of bound paper manuscripts.

Abstracts exist to “sell”  your work, and they could thus be compared to the “executive summary” of a business resume: an official briefing on what is most important about your research. Or the “gist” of your research. With the majority of academic transactions being conducted online, this means that you have even less time to impress readers–and increased competition in terms of other abstracts out there to read.

The APCI (Academic Publishing and Conferences International) notes that there are  12 questions or “points” considered in the selection process  for journals and conferences and stresses the importance of having an abstract that ticks all of these boxes. Because it is often the ONLY chance you have to convince readers to keep reading, it is important that you spend time and energy crafting an abstract that faithfully represents the central parts of your study and captivates your audience.

With that in mind, follow these suggestions when structuring and writing your abstract, and learn how exactly to put these ideas into a solid abstract that will captivate your target readers.

Before Writing Your Abstract

How long should an abstract be.

All abstracts are written with the same essential objective: to give a summary of your study. But there are two basic styles of abstract: descriptive and informative . Here is a brief delineation of the two:

Of the two types of abstracts, informative abstracts are much more common, and they are widely used for submission to journals and conferences. Informative abstracts apply to lengthier and more technical research and are common in the sciences, engineering, and psychology, while descriptive abstracts are more likely used in humanities and social science papers. The best method of determining which abstract type you need to use is to follow the instructions for journal submissions and to read as many other published articles in those journals as possible.

Research Abstract Guidelines and Requirements

As any article about research writing will tell you, authors must always closely follow the specific guidelines and requirements indicated in the Guide for Authors section of their target journal’s website. The same kind of adherence to conventions should be applied to journal publications, for consideration at a conference, and even when completing a class assignment.

Each publisher has particular demands when it comes to formatting and structure. Here are some common questions addressed in the journal guidelines:

  • Is there a maximum or minimum word/character length?
  • What are the style and formatting requirements?
  • What is the appropriate abstract type?
  • Are there any specific content or organization rules that apply?

There are of course other rules to consider when composing a research paper abstract. But if you follow the stated rules the first time you submit your manuscript, you can avoid your work being thrown in the “circular file” right off the bat.

Identify Your Target Readership

The main purpose of your abstract is to lead researchers to the full text of your research paper. In scientific journals, abstracts let readers decide whether the research discussed is relevant to their own interests or study. Abstracts also help readers understand your main argument quickly. Consider these questions as you write your abstract:

  • Are other academics in your field the main target of your study?
  • Will your study perhaps be useful to members of the general public?
  • Do your study results include the wider implications presented in the abstract?

Outlining and Writing Your Abstract

What to include in an abstract.

Just as your  research paper title  should cover as much ground as possible in a few short words, your abstract must cover  all  parts of your study in order to fully explain your paper and research. Because it must accomplish this task in the space of only a few hundred words, it is important not to include ambiguous references or phrases that will confuse the reader or mislead them about the content and objectives of your research. Follow these  dos  and  don’ts  when it comes to what kind of writing to include:

  • Avoid acronyms or abbreviations since these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader, which takes up valuable abstract space. Instead, explain these terms in the Introduction section of the main text.
  • Only use references to people or other works if they are well-known. Otherwise, avoid referencing anything outside of your study in the abstract.
  • Never include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract; you will have plenty of time to present and refer to these in the body of your paper.

Use keywords in your abstract to focus your topic

A vital search tool is the research paper keywords section, which lists the most relevant terms directly underneath the abstract. Think of these keywords as the “tubes” that readers will seek and enter—via queries on databases and search engines—to ultimately land at their destination, which is your paper. Your abstract keywords should thus be words that are commonly used in searches but should also be highly relevant to your work and found in the text of your abstract. Include 5 to 10 important words or short phrases central to your research in both the abstract and the keywords section.

For example, if you are writing a paper on the prevalence of obesity among lower classes that crosses international boundaries, you should include terms like “obesity,” “prevalence,” “international,” “lower classes,” and “cross-cultural.” These are terms that should net a wide array of people interested in your topic of study. Look at our nine rules for choosing keywords for your research paper if you need more input on this.

Research Paper Abstract Structure

As mentioned above, the abstract (especially the informative abstract) acts as a surrogate or synopsis of your research paper, doing almost as much work as the thousands of words that follow it in the body of the main text. In the hard sciences and most social sciences, the abstract includes the following sections and organizational schema.

Each section is quite compact—only a single sentence or two, although there is room for expansion if one element or statement is particularly interesting or compelling. As the abstract is almost always one long paragraph, the individual sections should naturally merge into one another to create a holistic effect. Use the following as a checklist to ensure that you have included all of the necessary content in your abstract.

how to structure an abstract list

1) Identify your purpose and motivation

So your research is about rabies in Brazilian squirrels. Why is this important? You should start your abstract by explaining why people should care about this study—why is it significant to your field and perhaps to the wider world? And what is the exact purpose of your study; what are you trying to achieve? Start by answering the following questions:

  • What made you decide to do this study or project?
  • Why is this study important to your field or to the lay reader?
  • Why should someone read your entire article?

In summary, the first section of your abstract should include the importance of the research and its impact on related research fields or on the wider scientific domain.

2) Explain the research problem you are addressing

Stating the research problem that your study addresses is the corollary to why your specific study is important and necessary. For instance, even if the issue of “rabies in Brazilian squirrels” is important, what is the problem—the “missing piece of the puzzle”—that your study helps resolve?

You can combine the problem with the motivation section, but from a perspective of organization and clarity, it is best to separate the two. Here are some precise questions to address:

  • What is your research trying to better understand or what problem is it trying to solve?
  • What is the scope of your study—does it try to explain something general or specific?
  • What is your central claim or argument?

3) Discuss your research approach

Your specific study approach is detailed in the Methods and Materials section .  You have already established the importance of the research, your motivation for studying this issue, and the specific problem your paper addresses. Now you need to discuss  how  you solved or made progress on this problem—how you conducted your research. If your study includes your own work or that of your team, describe that here. If in your paper you reviewed the work of others, explain this here. Did you use analytic models? A simulation? A double-blind study? A case study? You are basically showing the reader the internal engine of your research machine and how it functioned in the study. Be sure to:

  • Detail your research—include methods/type of the study, your variables, and the extent of the work
  • Briefly present evidence to support your claim
  • Highlight your most important sources

4) Briefly summarize your results

Here you will give an overview of the outcome of your study. Avoid using too many vague qualitative terms (e.g, “very,” “small,” or “tremendous”) and try to use at least some quantitative terms (i.e., percentages, figures, numbers). Save your qualitative language for the conclusion statement. Answer questions like these:

  • What did your study yield in concrete terms (e.g., trends, figures, correlation between phenomena)?
  • How did your results compare to your hypothesis? Was the study successful?
  • Where there any highly unexpected outcomes or were they all largely predicted?

5) State your conclusion

In the last section of your abstract, you will give a statement about the implications and  limitations of the study . Be sure to connect this statement closely to your results and not the area of study in general. Are the results of this study going to shake up the scientific world? Will they impact how people see “Brazilian squirrels”? Or are the implications minor? Try not to boast about your study or present its impact as  too  far-reaching, as researchers and journals will tend to be skeptical of bold claims in scientific papers. Answer one of these questions:

  • What are the exact effects of these results on my field? On the wider world?
  • What other kind of study would yield further solutions to problems?
  • What other information is needed to expand knowledge in this area?

After Completing the First Draft of Your Abstract

Revise your abstract.

The abstract, like any piece of academic writing, should be revised before being considered complete. Check it for  grammatical and spelling errors  and make sure it is formatted properly.

Get feedback from a peer

Getting a fresh set of eyes to review your abstract is a great way to find out whether you’ve summarized your research well. Find a reader who understands research papers but is not an expert in this field or is not affiliated with your study. Ask your reader to summarize what your study is about (including all key points of each section). This should tell you if you have communicated your key points clearly.

In addition to research peers, consider consulting with a professor or even a specialist or generalist writing center consultant about your abstract. Use any resource that helps you see your work from another perspective.

Consider getting professional editing and proofreading

While peer feedback is quite important to ensure the effectiveness of your abstract content, it may be a good idea to find an academic editor  to fix mistakes in grammar, spelling, mechanics, style, or formatting. The presence of basic errors in the abstract may not affect your content, but it might dissuade someone from reading your entire study. Wordvice provides English editing services that both correct objective errors and enhance the readability and impact of your work.

Additional Abstract Rules and Guidelines

Write your abstract after completing your paper.

Although the abstract goes at the beginning of your manuscript, it does not merely introduce your research topic (that is the job of the title), but rather summarizes your entire paper. Writing the abstract last will ensure that it is complete and consistent with the findings and statements in your paper.

Keep your content in the correct order

Both questions and answers should be organized in a standard and familiar way to make the content easier for readers to absorb. Ideally, it should mimic the overall format of your essay and the classic “introduction,” “body,” and “conclusion” form, even if the parts are not neatly divided as such.

Write the abstract from scratch

Because the abstract is a self-contained piece of writing viewed separately from the body of the paper, you should write it separately as well. Never copy and paste direct quotes from the paper and avoid paraphrasing sentences in the paper. Using new vocabulary and phrases will keep your abstract interesting and free of redundancies while conserving space.

Don’t include too many details in the abstract

Again, the density of your abstract makes it incompatible with including specific points other than possibly names or locations. You can make references to terms, but do not explain or define them in the abstract. Try to strike a balance between being specific to your study and presenting a relatively broad overview of your work.

Wordvice Resources

If you think your abstract is fine now but you need input on abstract writing or require English editing services (including paper editing ), then head over to the Wordvice academic resources page, where you will find many more articles, for example on writing the Results , Methods , and Discussion sections of your manuscript, on choosing a title for your paper , or on how to finalize your journal submission with a strong cover letter .    

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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  • How to Write an Abstract

Abstract

Expedite peer review, increase search-ability, and set the tone for your study

The abstract is your chance to let your readers know what they can expect from your article. Learn how to write a clear, and concise abstract that will keep your audience reading.

How your abstract impacts editorial evaluation and future readership

After the title , the abstract is the second-most-read part of your article. A good abstract can help to expedite peer review and, if your article is accepted for publication, it’s an important tool for readers to find and evaluate your work. Editors use your abstract when they first assess your article. Prospective reviewers see it when they decide whether to accept an invitation to review. Once published, the abstract gets indexed in PubMed and Google Scholar , as well as library systems and other popular databases. Like the title, your abstract influences keyword search results. Readers will use it to decide whether to read the rest of your article. Other researchers will use it to evaluate your work for inclusion in systematic reviews and meta-analysis. It should be a concise standalone piece that accurately represents your research. 

what is the abstract part of a research paper

What to include in an abstract

The main challenge you’ll face when writing your abstract is keeping it concise AND fitting in all the information you need. Depending on your subject area the journal may require a structured abstract following specific headings. A structured abstract helps your readers understand your study more easily. If your journal doesn’t require a structured abstract it’s still a good idea to follow a similar format, just present the abstract as one paragraph without headings. 

Background or Introduction – What is currently known? Start with a brief, 2 or 3 sentence, introduction to the research area. 

Objectives or Aims – What is the study and why did you do it? Clearly state the research question you’re trying to answer.

Methods – What did you do? Explain what you did and how you did it. Include important information about your methods, but avoid the low-level specifics. Some disciplines have specific requirements for abstract methods. 

  • CONSORT for randomized trials.
  • STROBE for observational studies
  • PRISMA for systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Results – What did you find? Briefly give the key findings of your study. Include key numeric data (including confidence intervals or p values), where possible.

Conclusions – What did you conclude? Tell the reader why your findings matter, and what this could mean for the ‘bigger picture’ of this area of research. 

Writing tips

The main challenge you may find when writing your abstract is keeping it concise AND convering all the information you need to.

what is the abstract part of a research paper

  • Keep it concise and to the point. Most journals have a maximum word count, so check guidelines before you write the abstract to save time editing it later.
  • Write for your audience. Are they specialists in your specific field? Are they cross-disciplinary? Are they non-specialists? If you’re writing for a general audience, or your research could be of interest to the public keep your language as straightforward as possible. If you’re writing in English, do remember that not all of your readers will necessarily be native English speakers.
  • Focus on key results, conclusions and take home messages.
  • Write your paper first, then create the abstract as a summary.
  • Check the journal requirements before you write your abstract, eg. required subheadings.
  • Include keywords or phrases to help readers search for your work in indexing databases like PubMed or Google Scholar.
  • Double and triple check your abstract for spelling and grammar errors. These kind of errors can give potential reviewers the impression that your research isn’t sound, and can make it easier to find reviewers who accept the invitation to review your manuscript. Your abstract should be a taste of what is to come in the rest of your article.

what is the abstract part of a research paper

Don’t

  • Sensationalize your research.
  • Speculate about where this research might lead in the future.
  • Use abbreviations or acronyms (unless absolutely necessary or unless they’re widely known, eg. DNA).
  • Repeat yourself unnecessarily, eg. “Methods: We used X technique. Results: Using X technique, we found…”
  • Contradict anything in the rest of your manuscript.
  • Include content that isn’t also covered in the main manuscript.
  • Include citations or references.

Tip: How to edit your work

Editing is challenging, especially if you are acting as both a writer and an editor. Read our guidelines for advice on how to refine your work, including useful tips for setting your intentions, re-review, and consultation with colleagues.

  • How to Write a Great Title
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  • How to Report Statistics
  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions
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How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on 1 March 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

  • Introduction

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the UK during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

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what is the abstract part of a research paper

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You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

  • Completing a thesis or dissertation
  • Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s easiest to write your abstract last, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
  • Be fully understandable on its own
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your topic, but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialised terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyse,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

  • This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

  • Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
  • Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

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Next, summarise the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.

  • Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.

Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

  • We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
  • We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalisability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarise the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarises the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 150–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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What Exactly is an Abstract, and How Do I Write One?

An abstract is a short summary of your completed research. It is intended to describe your work without going into great detail. Abstracts should be self-contained and concise, explaining your work as briefly and clearly as possible. Different disciplines call for slightly different approaches to abstracts, as will be illustrated by the examples below, so it would be wise to study some abstracts from your own field before you begin to write one.

General Considerations

Probably the most important function of an abstract is to help a reader decide if he or she is interested in reading your entire publication. For instance, imagine that you’re an undergraduate student sitting in the library late on a Friday night. You’re tired, bored, and sick of looking up articles about the history of celery. The last thing you want to do is reading an entire article only to discover it contributes nothing to your argument. A good abstract can solve this problem by indicating to the reader if the work is likely to be meaningful to his or her particular research project. Additionally, abstracts are used to help libraries catalogue publications based on the keywords that appear in them.

An effective abstract will contain several key features:

  • Motivation/problem statement: Why is your research/argument important? What practical, scientific, theoretical or artistic gap is your project filling?
  • Methods/procedure/approach: What did you actually do to get your results? (e.g. analyzed 3 novels, completed a series of 5 oil paintings, interviewed 17 students)
  • Results/findings/product: As a result of completing the above procedure, what did you learn/invent/create?
  • Conclusion/implications: What are the larger implications of your findings, especially for the problem/gap identified previously? Why is this research valuable?

In Practice

Let’s take a look at some sample abstracts, and see where these components show up. To give you an idea of how the author meets these “requirements” of abstract writing, the various features have been color-coded to correspond with the numbers listed above. The general format of an abstract is largely predictable, with some discipline-based differences. One type of abstract not discussed here is the “Descriptive Abstract,” which only summarizes and explains existing research, rather than informing the reader of a new perspective. As you can imagine, such an abstract would omit certain components of our four-colored model.

SAMPLE ABSTRACTS

ABSTRACT #1: History / Social Science

"Their War": The Perspective of the South Vietnamese Military in Their Own Words Author: Julie Pham

Despite the vast research by Americans on the Vietnam War, little is known about the perspective of South Vietnamese military, officially called the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF). The overall image that emerges from the literature is negative: lazy, corrupt, unpatriotic, apathetic soldiers with poor fighting spirits. This study recovers some of the South Vietnamese military perspective for an American audience through qualititative interviews with 40 RVNAF veterans now living in San José, Sacramento, and Seattle, home to three of the top five largest Vietnamese American communities in the nation. An analysis of these interviews yields the veterans' own explanations that complicate and sometimes even challenge three widely held assumptions about the South Vietnamese military: 1) the RVNAF was rife with corruption at the top ranks, hurting the morale of the lower ranks; 2) racial relations between the South Vietnamese military and the Americans were tense and hostile; and 3) the RVNAF was apathetic in defending South Vietnam from communism. The stories add nuance to our understanding of who the South Vietnamese were in the Vietnam War. This study is part of a growing body of research on non-American perspectives of the war. In using a largely untapped source of Vietnamese history—oral histories with Vietnamese immigrants—this project will contribute to future research on similar topics.

That was a fairly basic abstract that allows us to examine its individual parts more thoroughly.

Motivation/problem statement: The author identifies that previous research has been done about the Vietnam War, but that it has failed to address the specific topic of South Vietnam’s military. This is good because it shows how the author’s research fits into the bigger picture. It isn’t a bad thing to be critical of other research, but be respectful from an academic standpoint (i.e. “Previous researchers are stupid and don’t know what they’re talking about” sounds kind of unprofessional).

Methods/procedure/approach: The author does a good job of explaining how she performed her research, without giving unnecessary detail. Noting that she conducted qualitative interviews with 40 subjects is significant, but she wisely does not explicitly state the kinds of questions asked during the interview, which would be excessive.

Results/findings/product: The results make good use of numbering to clearly indicate what was ascertained from the research—particularly useful, as people often just scan abstracts for the results of an experiment.

Conclusion/implications: Since this paper is historical in nature, its findings may be hard to extrapolate to modern-day phenomena, but the author identifies the importance of her work as part of a growing body of research, which merits further investigation. This strategy functions to encourage future research on the topic.

ABSTRACT #2: Natural Science “A Lysimeter Study of Grass Cover and Water Table Depth Effects on Pesticide Residues in Drainage Water” Authors: A. Liaghat, S.O. Prasher

A study was undertaken to investigate the effect of soil and grass cover, when integrated with water table management (subsurface drainage and controlled drainage), in reducing herbicide residues in agricultural drainage water. Twelve PVC lysimeters, 1 m long and 450 mm diameter, were packed with a sandy soil and used to study the following four treatments: subsurface drainage, controlled drainage, grass (sod) cover, and bare soil. Contaminated water containing atrazine, metolachlor, and metribuzin residues was applied to the lysimeters and samples of drain effluent were collected. Significant reductions in pesticide concentrations were found in all treatments. In the first year, herbicide levels were reduced significantly (1% level), from an average of 250 mg/L to less than 10 mg/L . In the second year, polluted water of 50 mg/L, which is considered more realistic and reasonable in natural drainage waters, was applied to the lysimeters and herbicide residues in the drainage waters were reduced to less than 1 mg/L. The subsurface drainage lysimeters covered with grass proved to be the most effective treatment system.

Motivation/problem statement: Once again, we see that the problem—more like subject of study —is stated first in the abstract. This is normal for abstracts, in that you want to include the most important information first. The results may seem like the most important part of the abstract, but without mentioning the subject, the results won’t make much sense to readers. Notice that the abstract makes no references to other research, which is fine. It is not obligatory to cite other publications in an abstract, and in fact, doing so might distract your reader from YOUR experiment. Either way, it is likely that other sources will surface in your paper’s discussion/conclusion.

Methods/procedure/approach: Notice that the authors include pertinent numbers and figures in describing their methods. An extended description of the methods would probably include a long list of numerical values and conditions for each experimental trial, so it is important to include only the most important values in your abstract—ones that might make your study unique. Additionally, we see that a methodological description appears in two different parts of the abstract. This is fine. It may work better to explain your experiment by more closely connecting each method to its result. One last point: the author doesn’t take time to define—or give any background information about—“atrazine,” “metalachlor,” “lysimeter,” or “metribuzin.” This may be because other ecologists know what these are, but even if that’s not the case, you shouldn’t take time to define terms in your abstract.

Results/findings/product: Similar to the methods component of the abstract, you want to condense your findings to include only the major result of the experiment. Again, this study focused on two major trials, so both trials and both major results are listed. A particularly important word to consider when sharing results in an abstract is “significant.” In statistics, “significant” means roughly that your results were not due to chance. In your paper, your results may be hundreds of words long, and involve dozens of tables and graphs, but ultimately, your reader only wants to know: “What was the main result, and was that result significant?” So, try to answer both these questions in the abstract.

Conclusion/implications: This abstract’s conclusion sounds more like a result: “…lysimeters covered with grass were found to be the most effective treatment system.” This may seem incomplete, since it does not explain how this system could/should/would be applied to other situations, but that’s okay. There is plenty of space for addressing those issues in the body of the paper.

ABSTRACT #3: Philosophy / Literature [Note: Many papers don’t precisely follow the previous format, since they do not involve an experiment and its methods. Nonetheless, they typically rely on a similar structure.]

“Participatory Legitimation: A Reply to Arash Abizadeh” Author: Eric Schmidt, Louisiana State University, 2011

Arash Abizadeh’s argument against unilateral border control relies on his unbounded demos thesis, which is supported negatively by arguing that the ‘bounded demos thesis’ is incoherent. The incoherency arises for two reasons: (1) Democratic principles cannot be brought to bear on matters (border control) logically prior to the constitution of a group, and (2), the civic definition of citizens and non-citizens creates an ‘externality problem’ because the act of definition is an exercise of coercive power over all persons. The bounded demos thesis is rejected because the “will of the people” fails to legitimate democratic political order because there can be no pre-political political will of the people. However, I argue that “the will of the people” can be made manifest under a robust understanding of participatory legitimation, which exists concurrently with the political state, and thus defines both its borders and citizens as bounded , rescuing the bounded demos thesis and compromising the rest of Abizadeh’s article.

This paper may not make any sense to someone not studying philosophy, or not having read the text being critiqued. However, we can still see where the author separates the different components of the abstract, even if we don’t understand the terminology used.

Motivation/problem statement: The problem is not really a problem, but rather another person’s belief on a subject matter. For that reason, the author takes time to carefully explain the exact theory that he will be arguing against.

Methods/procedure/approach: [Note that there is no traditional “Methods” component of this abstract.] Reviews like this are purely critical and don’t necessarily involve performing experiments as in the other abstracts we have seen. Still, a paper like this may incorporate ideas from other sources, much like our traditional definition of experimental research.

Results/findings/product: In a paper like this, the “findings” tend to resemble what you have concluded about something, which will largely be based on your own opinion, supported by various examples. For that reason, the finding of this paper is: “The ‘will of the people,’ actually corresponds to a ‘bounded demos thesis.’” Even though we aren’t sure what the terms mean, we can plainly see that the finding (argument) is in support of “bounded,” rather than “unbounded.”

Conclusion/implications: If our finding is that “bounded” is correct, then what should we conclude? [In this case, the conclusion is simply that the initial author, A.A., is wrong.] Some critical papers attempt to broaden the conclusion to show something outside the scope of the paper. For example, if A.A. believes his “unbounded demos thesis” to be correct (when he is actually mistaken), what does this say about him? About his philosophy? About society as a whole? Maybe people who agree with him are more likely to vote Democrat, more likely to approve of certain immigration policies, more likely to own Labrador retrievers as pets, etc.

Applying These Skills

Now that you know the general layout of an abstract, here are some tips to keep in mind as you write your own:

1. The abstract stands alone

  • An abstract shouldn’t be considered “part” of a paper—it should be able to stand independently and still tell the reader something significant.

2. Keep it short

  • A general rule of abstract length is 200-300 words, or about 1/10th of the entire paper.

3. Don’t add new information

  • If something doesn’t appear in your actual paper, then don’t put it in the abstract.

4. Be consistent with voice, tone, and style

  • Try to write the abstract in the same style as your paper (i.e. If you’re not using contractions in your paper, the do not use them in your abstract).

5. Be concise

  • Try to shorten your sentences as often as possible. If you can say something clearly in five words rather than ten, then do it.

6. Break up its components

  • If allowed, subdivide the components of your abstract with bolded headings for “Background,” “Methods,” etc.

7. The abstract should be part of your writing process

  • Consider writing your abstract after you finish your entire paper.
  • There’s nothing wrong with copying and pasting important sentences and phrases from your paper … provided that they’re your own words.
  • Write multiple drafts, and keep revising. An abstract is very important to your publication (or assignment) and should be treated as such.

"Abstracts." The Writing Center. The University of North Carolina, n.d. Web. 1 Jun 2011. http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/abstracts.html "Abstracts." The Writing Center. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, n.d. Web. 1 Jun 2011. http://www.rpi.edu/web/writingcenter/abstracts.html

Last updated August 2013

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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

Published 16 October, 2023

what is the abstract part of a research paper

The abstract is the most important part of any research paper. It’s a summary that gives an overview of what your research is about and why it matters and how it contributes to knowledge, but it also needs to grab readers’ attention and make them want to read the whole thing. An abstract is an autonomous, brief, and intense declaration that describes the work with enormous scope. Its components differ by the discipline of the project. You have to give a concise view of your massive project in the abstract. In this blog post, we’ll discuss its meaning, types, and how to write an abstract for a research paper.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a succinct summary of a research paper that gives its main ideas and often includes details on how the study was conducted. If you’re conducting research, the abstract will summarize your study and will provide key information such as the problem being addressed, what methodology to be used in your study, how many subjects are enrolled, and what you expect to find in terms of results.

An abstract is the most essential element of every research work either it is a thesis, dissertation, or any other. The abstract gives a concise view or a brief description of a larger project. It is a powerful, short, and independent declaration that describes the enormous scope of your paper.

What to Include in an abstract for a research paper?

Students have to take care of some basic mistakes, which students mostly do while writing an abstract on paper. You should not draw any sketch, diagram, flow charts, and pie charts in your abstract. As of now, at this point, it must be very clear in your mind that abstract is the descriptive information of your project, which you write in a summarized form.

  • Your abstract should include all the contents of the project, along with its scope.
  • It should also describe your finding, methodologies, objectives, and conclusion.
  • Commonly searched keywords are also be added in your abstract, but they must be very relevant to your topic. Sometimes students just add keywords that do not have any link with their topic. This irritates the reader and left a bad impression on the mind of the reader.

The motive for writing an abstract is just for the readers so that they can know the objective of your topic. It should be very clear in the mind of the students that you have only to write a summary of the project. An abstract is just a description of your project. It should contain information about what you actually covered in your project and not elaborating your topic and project’s content.

For your clear understanding, let me take an example if you are writing an abstract on dowry. In this, you will write about your survey research , investigation, and conclusion. You are not going to write why people give dowry, what dowry is, and other things related to it.

Read Also: Problem Statement In Research Paper

Types of Abstracts

As there are many types of abstract, so it becomes challenging for the students to choose the appropriate one for their project. The type of abstract that you are going to write will directly depend on the type of research work you are undertaking. So a complete knowledge of the types of abstract is beneficial for college students. And this would also help them to choose the correct one for their work.

So, here is an explained description of the types of the abstract. This would help you to choose the correct abstract for your project.

There are four types of abstract, as follows:

Descriptive abstract

Informative abstract, critical abstract, highlight abstract.

4 Types of Abstracts

Now, in the further part of this section, we are going to give you complete information regarding each of the abstracts. This would help you to differentiate between the different types of abstract. And also help college students to choose the correct abstract for their project wisely. It would resolve the confusion of students about types of abstracts.

A descriptive abstract is an outline of work. It may include the purpose, methods, and scope of research being summarized but does not make judgments about it or provide results/conclusions from the study.

In this type of intellectual, you are going to describe your summarized data. In this, you are not comparing it with other pages of your work. As the name itself suggests that you only have to describe the summary. Comparing this with other papers of your research is not part of a descriptive abstract.

After choosing the type of abstract, you must be very clear in your mind about what to write in it. If you do not take care of the rules and main points of each abstract, then it would completely change the type of abstract.

The informative abstract is a summary of the paper that includes background information, research methods, and scope. The author should also include their conclusions in an informative abstract as well as important recommendations for future research so readers are better informed about the topic.

An informative abstract is the most common type of abstract being used by researchers. In this, students are going to describe the main arguments and the essential points of your project. The students explain the focused aspects of work and highlight them.

While focusing the mind of readers towards the main points, there are also some other points, which you can add on. You can write the conclusion of your project and the recommendation given by the authors.

A critical abstract is a summary of the main findings and information in an article. It also provides a judgment or comment on whether this research can be considered valid, reliable, complete, etc., as well as comparing it to other works that have been done on the same subject.

In this abstract students are going to describe the main points, information, and findings. Along with this, they also add the comment and their judgment regarding the study’s completeness and validity of the research .

In summary, critical abstract includes focusing on the main point along with comments and judgments of your study’s reliability. With all this, you compare it to other papers of your works. Evaluation of your research is also done in this type of abstract.

It is rarely used in academic works. An abstract is written to attract the readers’ minds towards your work. It must be very precise and attractive so that it can easily catch the reader’s attention. As the name suggests, it must include the highly important points which you must want to highlight in your work.

There is not so much explanation regarding the highlight abstract; it just covers your highlighted aspects. The main aim of the student, who is writing this type of abstract, is that they just want the reader’s attention towards their research work. The college student must keep it in their mind, that it is rarely used in their academic work.

Elements of An Abstract For Research Paper –

Although there are many types of abstract, there is one thing that is common for all kinds of abstract. So there will not be any big issue if one could not remember the differentiating point between all types of abstracts. Apart from differentiating features, if students only remember these elements, then this would solve their problem to a maximum level.

After knowing the elements of the abstract, college students can write an effective abstract, even if they do not remember the different types of abstracts. There are some differentiating features among each type of abstract, but on the other hand, there is also one common point among them. So it is crucial for students to remember these points at least.

All abstract must be present with 4 types of elements to the reader:

These are the common elements that are present among all of them. Before going to tell you about the writing skills for an abstract, you must know entirely about the aspects of the abstract.

Objective  

This section accounts for the first few sentences of the abstract. It aware the readers about the research you carried out in your work. An objective gives an account to the reader about the problem and issues you have been explored in the research work. It also includes the solution you studied for the issue. Along with all this, the writer also explains his inspiration for the project. But it must be kept in mind that it should not be too long and takes only a few sentences of the abstract.

After you complete your objective, it’s time to move on to the next part of the abstract, i.e. methods. That means in this section of the abstract; you are going to write about the research methodology you used in your research works. You will write the steps of the methods, that are being used by you in finding the solution to the issue. And the steps of the process vary with your research topic.

For example

  • For the humanity project, you write the methods for the framework of your research.
  • In relation to the service project, the student will write the outline of services performed and processes followed by you.

So we can say that, regardless of the subject and field, in this part of the abstract you will write the methods you used to reach the final solution, result, and conclusion.

In this, you will write the final outcome of your research work. It is self-explanatory to write the definitive answer to your work in this part. If the result is not completed yet, then you can add the theories regarding the probable outcome. The length of the result must be much specified; you must not write additional points in this part. Students must write the main points so that the outcome is clear to the reader and the length is not too long.

It is the last among the four elements of the abstract. Like in other paperwork, the conclusion is written in just a or two-sentence length where you would be summarized what you have written above in your project. In the abstract, the student will summarize the result in conclusion. While writing the conclusion, one question must be in your mind i.e. “what is the value of these results?”. This question will help you to write the conclusion of the abstract correctly.

Note:- A brief introduction of not more than 2-3 sentences , is added before the objective. But this is only in the case of most extensive research works. In the majority of research work, we skip the introduction and directly start our abstract with the objective. Writing an introduction section before the objective, just acts as a brief description for the reader about what is being written in the objective.

So by knowing the elements of the abstract, students are clear about the format and sequence being used for writing it. It would help them to write an effective abstract and in a sequential manner. Elements must be present in every abstract.

Common Mistakes during Abstract writing

The most common mistake students do while writing the abstract is that they write it in the same way as they write their whole project. The style of writing the abstract is different from the rest of the paperwork. There are many points you should keep in mind while writing an abstract.

There are some points, i.e. elements, that must be included in your abstract, but on the other hand, some points must be avoided. The points, which are mentioned below must be avoided while writing an abstract:-

  • Informal language and the idioms
  • Symbols or abbreviations
  • Figures, illustrations, images, graphs, or tables
  • Unfinished phrases
  • It should be comparatively brief; the word amount should not be pumped up
  • Extended background information for which research paper is concerned, it should be brief
  • New data which is not included in the study article
  • Phrases such as “present research show” or “confirm studies.”
  • Terms that may be confusing to readers
  • Unnecessary details which do not add to the abstract’s general purpose

Steps that make your abstract writing perfect

At this stage, you are clear with the definition of abstract, along with its type and elements of abstract. Now it’s time to know how to write an effective abstract. One should be very clear in his mind that their abstract will be understandable, convenient to read, and attractive to the reader. For an effective abstract, length is a very important factor. Your abstract should not be too long, and on the other side, it must contain all the essential points of your project.

Ideally, in the abstract, you attract the reader’s mind towards the main objective of your project. And your topic would be evident in their minds through your abstract. So, one must focus on writing a useful abstract for a research paper. Your abstract will define the interest of the readers towards your research work.

Following steps that students must keep in their minds for writing an abstract:-

Step 1. Complete your research work

Firstly, complete your whole research work. Once you are done with your research work, then you are very much clear about what to write in your abstract. Above mentioned points, along with these steps, must be kept in your mind for writing an abstract.

After finishing your entire research work, it would automatically be apparent in your mind what would be going to write in your abstract. And you will describe your project in your abstract, in a very précised and concise manner. One should follow each step for good results.

Step 2. Make a list of essential points

Do not waste much time thinking about what to write and which point to write and how to conclude everything in just 2 or 3 sentences. Just read out your introduction and conclusion thoroughly. Then figure the essential points that you think you should add to your abstract. And write them out in your abstract. You have just to summarize your objective and conclusion in the abstract.  It is for the objective and outcome part of the abstract.

Step 3. Include methods and materials

College students must make rough notes of what they have done while completing their research work. The Research methodology or technique they used for the solution must be written on these rough notes. These notes further help them to write their method part of the abstract without any unnecessary headache and tension.

Once you write all the methods and techniques you have used for your work, it would be immensely more comfortable for you to write them in the abstract. As the method section, only include the process and methods. If you are writing illogical and unrelated points in this section would not attract the reader’s mind at all. Do not write unnecessary information; just write down the methods used by use to reach the outcome.

Step 4. Answer the questions related to research

The following questions answers must be present in your abstract. These are must-answer questions that the reader would be going to seek in your abstract. They are:-

The primary purpose of your research work? Why is it necessary to carry out the research on your topic? The process you follow to reach the final outcome? What did these results mean to you? And what answers do readers get from your project? How did you reach the final conclusion? How will readers get the answer to their questions?

Answers to all these questions must be written in your abstract. After knowing the answers to all these questions in your abstract, the reader will feel satisfied, and he will further want to read your whole project with great interest.

Step 5. Exclude irrelevant information

As at this level of this handout, it is very much apparent in your mind that the length of the abstract would not be too long. So for a precise length of your abstract, read it from top to bottom with concentration. Then eliminate the points you think are not as relevant and is only increasing the length of your abstract. Do this 2 or 3 times to remove the extra points you have written in your abstract. It will make you’re abstract shorter in length and more descriptive. As more precise and descriptive, your abstract will be, would be going to attract the readers and increase the interest of the readers in your research work.

Step 6. Review the abstract 

It is a significant step, as students are very less aware of it and sometimes just skip this step. In this step, you are again going to read your abstract thoroughly. This time you are not going to exclude any extra points and check the consistency of information. In this step, you are going to review your grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, sentence structure, and symbols and abbreviations (if used).

Students must keep in their mind that, never submit their work of any type without performing this step. Because nowadays, students are too much active on social media, so it becomes prevalent for them to use short forms and symbols. Using short forms or symbols and grammar and spelling mistakes in your paperwork leaves a wrong impression on the reader’s mind. So always perform this step for both your research work and abstract.

Now, after all your hard work and efforts, your paper works along with the abstract is ready. The abstract is error-free, informative, descriptive, concise, precise, and complete. Now your summary is prepared along with your research work to submit to your professor.

Get professional help For Abstract writing from My Research Topics

Even though it seems natural to write an abstract, in actual it isn’t. To get an informative abstract for a research paper, college students can also take the help of experts. Professional academic writers of My Research Topics are available round the clock (24*7) to serve their clients. Our pocket-friendly services for the students help them invariant subjects.

Students can freely ask the experts for help if they are not satisfied with their service. Our all experts are highly qualified and efficient enough in their work to deliver their service even before the more stringent deadline. If for any reason, the student is not able to complete his work and is left with much less time, then also you can hire the experts and submit quality work to your professors.

We never compromise with the quality of our service and treat every client with unique and best possible content by doing proper research to collect the data. You can quickly free yourself from the stress of incomplete work. And amaze your supervisors with the best idea and content for any of your academic paper writing.

From the abstract only, your readers should be able to understand the basic concepts of every aspect of your research work. It is so that they can decide whether the paper will serve its purpose or not. Hence you should try to keep your abstract as attractive and readable as you can.

Try to cover every possible aspect, along with the thesis statement in your abstract in a concise manner by keeping in mind the type of your readers. You can also check some sample abstracts for paper presentations if you are facing any kind of trouble.

Read Also: Discourse Analysis Research Methodology – Meaning, Uses and Procedure

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what is the abstract part of a research paper

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How to Write an Abstract

  • Research Process

Abstracts are the first thing people read when they come across your manuscript on online databases. It's also a deciding factor in peer reviews. Do not overlook its importance.

Updated on March 24, 2022

How to Write an Abstract

You've finished your entire paper. All those hours put into your research have finally paid off. Research writing can be tough .

But hold on; you're not quite finished yet. You forgot to write your abstract!

The abstract can sometimes be overlooked, but that does not mean it's unimportant. In fact, some researchers argue that the abstract is the most important part of your manuscript. It's the first thing people read when they come across your manuscript on online databases. Depending on how well written it is, it could also be the first and last thing your audience reads.

It's also what publications and journals use to determine whether they want to publish your research. Continue reading to learn how to write an abstract and how AJE can help you with your writing.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of the major findings in your research paper. It is usually found at the beginning of your research paper. A good abstract should be able to give the average lay reader a strong sense of the main findings within your full-text paper.

Abstracts are typically one paragraph depending on how you decide to structure it. Your target publication could have specific guidelines that determine the structure of your abstract. However, all abstracts have the commonality of being brief summaries of your longer research.

Types of abstracts

Informative abstracts.

A good informative abstract acts as a thorough summary for your full paper. It should be a structured abstract. It includes sections for the introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion. Each section should only be a couple sentences each. The total number of words should typically be around 250, but they can be longer, too.

Informative abstracts are typically meant for psychology, science, and engineering papers.

Components of an informative abstract

Introduction.

The introduction should only be one or two sentences. This is where you state your thesis and why your research is important. The introduction should state:

  • Your paper's purpose
  • The problems your research solves
  • Historical references

Start writing your methods sections by explaining what you did in the experiment. Begin by setting the scene. The methods section should only be a couple sentences long.

Who/what was involved in the study?

  • State who or what was used in the experiment. Include the population studied; mention any plants, animals, or humans and how many were involved.

When did the experiment take place?

  • State the time frame or duration of the experiment.

Where did the experiment take place?

  • Give the geographical location of the experiment.

Tips for writing the methods section

  • Write your research methods section as you are doing your experimentation. Some details of your experiment could be left out if you wait too long between the experiment and writing an abstract.
  • If you're having trouble structuring your methods, look at what others have done. Look at an abstract from a study in your target publication.

The results section should describe your most important findings with the data to back it up. Write this section in the past tense.

Conclusions

Your conclusions section should only be two to three sentences. In this short amount of space, you should include your interpretation of the experiment to answer the main question of your research. It should answer this question: How do these results have an effect on my area of study or the wider population?

Descriptive abstracts

A descriptive abstract is also called a limited abstract for a good reason. It's much shorter than an informative abstract - about half the size. It's a very brief summary.

It should include background information, the study's purpose, the focus of the paper, and an optional overview of the contents.

A descriptive abstract is generally used for psychology, social sciences, and humanities papers.

Tip for writing a descriptive abstract

If you're having trouble writing a descriptive abstract, take your main headings from your table of contents and write them into a paragraph format.

Critical abstracts

A critical abstract is less common than the other abstracts, but it's still worth knowing. It still includes your general findings, but it also has a section devoted to the completeness, validity, and readability of your paper. In a critical abstract, your work is compared with other studies on your subject matter.

Incorporate keywords found in your research paper

It is wise to list the key phrases and words in your research paper for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes. Your key terms section helps search engines like Google and Bing direct readers and other researchers to your work. The key words section comes at the bottom of your abstract. It can be formatted as follows:

Keywords: example 1, example 2, example 3

How to format the abstract

Some researchers make their abstract a single paragraph that looks like one giant block of text. If you wish to make it easier on your readers, you can break your abstract into sections depending on your target journal's specifications.

It should immediately follow the title page. There should be no page number on the abstract page.

When should you write your abstract?

Since the abstract is the first thing your audience reads, it would make sense to write an abstract first, right?

Not exactly.

Trying to summarize your research before you've written your research paper can be incredibly challenging.

Instead, the abstract should be the last thing you write. Your research should still be fresh in your mind and you should have no problem summarizing the important findings.

There are plenty of other tips for writing your abstract as well.

Final Thoughts

Abstract writing can be difficult. Luckily, AJE's editing staff can edit your abstract . If your target journal requests a graphic abstract, our Figure Formatting team can make you one for you.

Jonny Rhein, BA

Jonny Rhein, BA

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How to Write an Abstract (With Examples)

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how to write an abstract

Table of Contents

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.

what is the abstract part of a research paper

Good writing = better grades

ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of all your assignments.

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.

Get started with ProWritingAid

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How to Write an Abstract APA Format

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

An APA abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article, research paper, dissertation, or report.

It is written in accordance with the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is a widely used format in social and behavioral sciences. 

An APA abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of between 150–250 words, the major aspects of a research paper or dissertation in a prescribed sequence that includes:
  • The rationale: the overall purpose of the study, providing a clear context for the research undertaken.
  • Information regarding the method and participants: including materials/instruments, design, procedure, and data analysis.
  • Main findings or trends: effectively highlighting the key outcomes of the hypotheses.
  • Interpretations and conclusion(s): solidify the implications of the research.
  • Keywords related to the study: assist the paper’s discoverability in academic databases.

The abstract should stand alone, be “self-contained,” and make sense to the reader in isolation from the main article.

The purpose of the abstract is to give the reader a quick overview of the essential information before reading the entire article. The abstract is placed on its own page, directly after the title page and before the main body of the paper.

Although the abstract will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s good practice to write your abstract after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

Note : This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), released in October 2019.

Structure of the Abstract

[NOTE: DO NOT separate the components of the abstract – it should be written as a single paragraph. This section is separated to illustrate the abstract’s structure.]

1) The Rationale

One or two sentences describing the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated. You are basically justifying why this study was conducted.

  • What is the importance of the research?
  • Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
  • For example, are you filling a gap in previous research or applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data?
  • Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer can experience an array of psychosocial difficulties; however, social support, particularly from a spouse, has been shown to have a protective function during this time. This study examined the ways in which a woman’s daily mood, pain, and fatigue, and her spouse’s marital satisfaction predict the woman’s report of partner support in the context of breast cancer.
  • The current nursing shortage, high hospital nurse job dissatisfaction, and reports of uneven quality of hospital care are not uniquely American phenomena.
  • Students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are more likely to exhibit behavioral difficulties than their typically developing peers. The aim of this study was to identify specific risk factors that influence variability in behavior difficulties among individuals with SEND.

2) The Method

Information regarding the participants (number, and population). One or two sentences outlining the method, explaining what was done and how. The method is described in the present tense.

  • Pretest data from a larger intervention study and multilevel modeling were used to examine the effects of women’s daily mood, pain, and fatigue and average levels of mood, pain, and fatigue on women’s report of social support received from her partner, as well as how the effects of mood interacted with partners’ marital satisfaction.
  • This paper presents reports from 43,000 nurses from more than 700 hospitals in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and Germany in 1998–1999.
  • The study sample comprised 4,228 students with SEND, aged 5–15, drawn from 305 primary and secondary schools across England. Explanatory variables were measured at the individual and school levels at baseline, along with a teacher-reported measure of behavior difficulties (assessed at baseline and the 18-month follow-up).

3) The Results

One or two sentences indicating the main findings or trends found as a result of your analysis. The results are described in the present or past tense.

  • Results show that on days in which women reported higher levels of negative or positive mood, as well as on days they reported more pain and fatigue, they reported receiving more support. Women who, on average, reported higher levels of positive mood tended to report receiving more support than those who, on average, reported lower positive mood. However, average levels of negative mood were not associated with support. Higher average levels of fatigue but not pain were associated with higher support. Finally, women whose husbands reported higher levels of marital satisfaction reported receiving more partner support, but husbands’ marital satisfaction did not moderate the effect of women’s mood on support.
  • Nurses in countries with distinctly different healthcare systems report similar shortcomings in their work environments and the quality of hospital care. While the competence of and relation between nurses and physicians appear satisfactory, core problems in work design and workforce management threaten the provision of care.
  • Hierarchical linear modeling of data revealed that differences between schools accounted for between 13% (secondary) and 15.4% (primary) of the total variance in the development of students’ behavior difficulties, with the remainder attributable to individual differences. Statistically significant risk markers for these problems across both phases of education were being male, eligibility for free school meals, being identified as a bully, and lower academic achievement. Additional risk markers specific to each phase of education at the individual and school levels are also acknowledged.

4) The Conclusion / Implications

A brief summary of your conclusions and implications of the results, described in the present tense. Explain the results and why the study is important to the reader.

  • For example, 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?

Implications of these findings are discussed relative to assisting couples during this difficult time in their lives.

  • Resolving these issues, which are amenable to managerial intervention, is essential to preserving patient safety and care of consistently high quality.
  • Behavior difficulties are affected by risks across multiple ecological levels. Addressing any one of these potential influences is therefore likely to contribute to the reduction in the problems displayed.

The above examples of abstracts are from the following papers:

Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J. A., Busse, R., Clarke, H., … & Shamian, J. (2001). Nurses’ reports on hospital care in five countries . Health affairs, 20(3) , 43-53.

Boeding, S. E., Pukay-Martin, N. D., Baucom, D. H., Porter, L. S., Kirby, J. S., Gremore, T. M., & Keefe, F. J. (2014). Couples and breast cancer: Women’s mood and partners’ marital satisfaction predicting support perception . Journal of Family Psychology, 28(5) , 675.

Oldfield, J., Humphrey, N., & Hebron, J. (2017). Risk factors in the development of behavior difficulties among students with special educational needs and disabilities: A multilevel analysis . British journal of educational psychology, 87(2) , 146-169.

5) Keywords

APA style suggests including a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. This is particularly common in academic articles and helps other researchers find your work in databases.

Keywords in an abstract should be selected to help other researchers find your work when searching an online database. These keywords should effectively represent the main topics of your study. Here are some tips for choosing keywords:

Core Concepts: Identify the most important ideas or concepts in your paper. These often include your main research topic, the methods you’ve used, or the theories you’re discussing.

Specificity: Your keywords should be specific to your research. For example, suppose your paper is about the effects of climate change on bird migration patterns in a specific region. In that case, your keywords might include “climate change,” “bird migration,” and the region’s name.

Consistency with Paper: Make sure your keywords are consistent with the terms you’ve used in your paper. For example, if you use the term “adolescent” rather than “teen” in your paper, choose “adolescent” as your keyword, not “teen.”

Jargon and Acronyms: Avoid using too much-specialized jargon or acronyms in your keywords, as these might not be understood or used by all researchers in your field.

Synonyms: Consider including synonyms of your keywords to capture as many relevant searches as possible. For example, if your paper discusses “post-traumatic stress disorder,” you might include “PTSD” as a keyword.

Remember, keywords are a tool for others to find your work, so think about what terms other researchers might use when searching for papers on your topic.

The Abstract SHOULD NOT contain:

Lengthy background or contextual information: The abstract should focus on your research and findings, not general topic background.

Undefined jargon, abbreviations,  or acronyms: The abstract should be accessible to a wide audience, so avoid highly specialized terms without defining them.

Citations: Abstracts typically do not include citations, as they summarize original research.

Incomplete sentences or bulleted lists: The abstract should be a single, coherent paragraph written in complete sentences.

New information not covered in the paper: The abstract should only summarize the paper’s content.

Subjective comments or value judgments: Stick to objective descriptions of your research.

Excessive details on methods or procedures: Keep descriptions of methods brief and focused on main steps.

Speculative or inconclusive statements: The abstract should state the research’s clear findings, not hypotheses or possible interpretations.

  • Any illustration, figure, table, or references to them . All visual aids, data, or extensive details should be included in the main body of your paper, not in the abstract. 
  • Elliptical or incomplete sentences should be avoided in an abstract . The use of ellipses (…), which could indicate incomplete thoughts or omitted text, is not appropriate in an abstract.

APA Style for Abstracts

An APA abstract must be formatted as follows:

Include the running head aligned to the left at the top of the page (professional papers only) and page number. Note, student papers do not require a running head. On the first line, center the heading “Abstract” and bold (do not underlined or italicize). Do not indent the single abstract paragraph (which begins one line below the section title). Double-space the text. Use Times New Roman font in 12 pt. Set one-inch (or 2.54 cm) margins. If you include a “keywords” section at the end of the abstract, indent the first line and italicize the word “Keywords” while leaving the keywords themselves without any formatting.

Example APA Abstract Page

Download this example as a PDF

APA Style Abstract Example

Further Information

  • APA 7th Edition Abstract and Keywords Guide
  • Example APA Abstract
  • How to Write a Good Abstract for a Scientific Paper or Conference Presentation
  • How to Write a Lab Report
  • Writing an APA paper

How long should an APA abstract be?

An APA abstract should typically be between 150 to 250 words long. However, the exact length may vary depending on specific publication or assignment guidelines. It is crucial that it succinctly summarizes the essential elements of the work, including purpose, methods, findings, and conclusions.

Where does the abstract go in an APA paper?

In an APA formatted paper, the abstract is placed on its own page, directly after the title page and before the main body of the paper. It’s typically the second page of the document. It starts with the word “Abstract” (centered and not in bold) at the top of the page, followed by the text of the abstract itself.

What are the 4 C’s of abstract writing?

The 4 C’s of abstract writing are an approach to help you create a well-structured and informative abstract. They are:

Conciseness: An abstract should briefly summarize the key points of your study. Stick to the word limit (typically between 150-250 words for an APA abstract) and avoid unnecessary details.

Clarity: Your abstract should be easy to understand. Avoid jargon and complex sentences. Clearly explain the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions of your study.

Completeness: Even though it’s brief, the abstract should provide a complete overview of your study, including the purpose, methods, key findings, and your interpretation of the results.

Cohesion: The abstract should flow logically from one point to the next, maintaining a coherent narrative about your study. It’s not just a list of disjointed elements; it’s a brief story of your research from start to finish.

What is the abstract of a psychology paper?

An abstract in a psychology paper serves as a snapshot of the paper, allowing readers to quickly understand the purpose, methodology, results, and implications of the research without reading the entire paper. It is generally between 150-250 words long.

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Enago Academy

Role of an Abstract in Research Paper With Examples

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Why does one write an abstract? What is so intriguing about writing an abstract in research paper after writing a full length research paper? How do research paper abstracts or summaries help a researcher during research publishing? These are the most common and frequently pondered upon questions that early career researchers search answers for over the internet!

Table of Contents

What does Abstract mean in Research?

In Research, abstract is “a well-developed single paragraph which is approximately 250 words in length”. Furthermore, it is single-spaced single spaced. Abstract outlines all the parts of the paper briefly. Although the abstract is placed in the beginning of the research paper immediately after research title , the abstract is the last thing a researcher writes.

Why Is an Abstract Necessary in Research Paper?

Abstract is a concise academic text that –

  • Helps the potential reader get the relevance of your research study for their own research
  • Communicates your key findings for those who have time constraints in reading your paper
  • And helps rank the article on search engines based on the keywords on academic databases.

Purpose of Writing an Abstract in Research

Abstracts are required for –

  • Submission of articles to journals
  • Application for research grants
  • Completion and submission of thesis
  • Submission of proposals for conference papers.

Aspects Included in an Abstract

The format of your abstract depends on the field of research, in which you are working. However, all abstracts broadly cover the following sections:

Reason for Writing

One can start with the importance of conducting their research study. Furthermore, you could start with a broader research question and address why would the reader be interested in that particular research question.

Research Problem

You could mention what problem the research study chooses to address. Moreover, you could elaborate about the scope of the project, the main argument, brief about thesis objective or what the study claims.

  • Methodology

Furthermore, you could mention a line or two about what approach and specific models the research study uses in the scientific work. Some research studies may discuss the evidences in throughout the paper, so instead of writing about methodologies you could mention the types of evidence used in the research.

The scientific research aims to get the specific data that indicates the results of the project. Therefore, you could mention the results and discuss the findings in a broader and general way.

Finally, you could discuss how the research work contributes to the scientific society and adds knowledge on the topic. Also, you could specify if your findings or inferences could help future research and researchers.

Types of Abstracts

Based on the abstract content —, 1. descriptive.

This abstract in research paper is usually short (50-100 words). These abstracts have common sections, such as –

  • Focus of research
  • Overview of the study.

This type of research does not include detailed presentation of results and only mention results through a phrase without contributing numerical or statistical data . Descriptive abstracts guide readers on the nature of contents of the article.

2. Informative

This abstract gives the essence of what the report is about and it is usually about 200 words. These abstracts have common sections, such as –

  • Aim or purpose

This abstract provides an accurate data on the contents of the work, especially on the results section.

Based on the writing format —

1. structured.

This type of abstract has a paragraph for each section: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Conclusion. Also, structured abstracts are often required for informative abstracts.

2. Semi-structured

A semi-structured abstract is written in only one paragraph, wherein each sentence corresponds to a section. Furthermore, all the sections mentioned in the structured abstract are present in the semi-structured abstract.

3. Non-structured

In a non-structured abstract there are no divisions between each section. The sentences are included in a single paragraph. This type of presentation is ideal for descriptive abstracts.

Examples of Abstracts

Abstract example 1: clinical research.

Neutralization of Omicron BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3 SARS-CoV-2 by 3 doses of BNT162b2 vaccine

Abstract: The newly emerged Omicron SARS-CoV-2 has several distinct sublineages including BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3. BA.1 accounts for the initial surge and is being replaced by BA.2, whereas BA.3 is at a low prevalence at this time. Here we report the neutralization of BNT162b2-vaccinated sera (collected 1 month after dose 3) against the three Omicron sublineages. To facilitate the neutralization testing, we have engineered the complete BA.1, BA.2, or BA.3 spike into an mNeonGreen USA-WA1/2020 SARS-CoV-2. All BNT162b2-vaccinated sera neutralize USA-WA1/2020, BA.1-, BA.2-, and BA.3-spike SARS-CoV-2s with titers of >20; the neutralization geometric mean titers (GMTs) against the four viruses are 1211, 336, 300, and 190, respectively. Thus, the BA.1-, BA.2-, and BA.3-spike SARS-CoV-2s are 3.6-, 4.0-, and 6.4-fold less efficiently neutralized than the USA-WA1/2020, respectively. Our data have implications in vaccine strategy and understanding the biology of Omicron sublineages.

Type of Abstract: Informative and non-structured

Abstract Example 2: Material Science and Chemistry

Breaking the nanoparticle’s dispersible limit via rotatable surface ligands

Abstract: Achieving versatile dispersion of nanoparticles in a broad range of solvents (e.g., water, oil, and biofluids) without repeatedly recourse to chemical modifications are desirable in optoelectronic devices, self-assembly, sensing, and biomedical fields. However, such a target is limited by the strategies used to decorate nanoparticle’s surface properties, leading to a narrow range of solvents for existing nanoparticles. Here we report a concept to break the nanoparticle’s dispersible limit via electrochemically anchoring surface ligands capable of sensing the surrounding liquid medium and rotating to adapt to it, immediately forming stable dispersions in a wide range of solvents (polar and nonpolar, biofluids, etc.). Moreover, the smart nanoparticles can be continuously electrodeposited in the electrolyte, overcoming the electrode surface-confined low throughput limitation of conventional electrodeposition methods. The anomalous dispersive property of the smart Ag nanoparticles enables them to resist bacteria secreted species-induced aggregation and the structural similarity of the surface ligands to that of the bacterial membrane assists them to enter the bacteria, leading to high antibacterial activity. The simple but massive fabrication process and the enhanced dispersion properties offer great application opportunities to the smart nanoparticles in diverse fields.

Type of Abstract: Descriptive and non-structured

Abstract Example 3: Clinical Toxicology

Evaluation of dexmedetomidine therapy for sedation in patients with toxicological events at an academic medical center

Introduction: Although clinical use of dexmedetomidine (DEX), an alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonist, has increased, its role in patients admitted to intensive care units secondary to toxicological sequelae has not been well established.

Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to describe clinical and adverse effects observed in poisoned patients receiving DEX for sedation.

Methods: This was an observational case series with retrospective chart review of poisoned patients who received DEX for sedation at an academic medical center. The primary endpoint was incidence of adverse effects of DEX therapy including bradycardia, hypotension, seizures, and arrhythmias. For comparison, vital signs were collected hourly for the 5 h preceding the DEX therapy and every hour during DEX therapy until the therapy ended. Additional endpoints included therapy duration; time within target Richmond Agitation Sedation Score (RASS); and concomitant sedation, analgesia, and vasopressor requirements.

Results: Twenty-two patients were included. Median initial and median DEX infusion rates were similar to the commonly used rates for sedation. Median heart rate was lower during the therapy (82 vs. 93 beats/minute, p < 0.05). Median systolic blood pressure before and during therapy was similar (111 vs. 109 mmHg, p = 0.745). Five patients experienced an adverse effect per study definitions during therapy. No additional adverse effects were noted. Median time within target RASS and duration of therapy was 6.5 and 44.5 h, respectively. Seventeen patients (77%) had concomitant use of other sedation and/or analgesia with four (23%) of these patients requiring additional agents after DEX initiation. Seven patients (32%) had concomitant vasopressor support with four (57%) of these patients requiring vasopressor support after DEX initiation.

Conclusion: Common adverse effects of DEX were noted in this study. The requirement for vasopressor support during therapy warrants further investigation into the safety of DEX in poisoned patients. Larger, comparative studies need to be performed before the use of DEX can be routinely recommended in poisoned patients.

Keywords: Adverse effects; Alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonist; Overdose; Safety.

Type of Abstract: Informative and structured .

How was your experience  writing an abstract? What type of abstracts have you written? Do write to us or leave a comment below.

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Writing an abstract - a six point checklist (with samples)

Posted in: abstract , dissertations

what is the abstract part of a research paper

The abstract is a vital part of any research paper. It is the shop front for your work, and the first stop for your reader. It should provide a clear and succinct summary of your study, and encourage your readers to read more. An effective abstract, therefore should answer the following questions:

  • Why did you do this study or project?
  • What did you do and how?
  • What did you find?
  • What do your findings mean?

So here's our run down of the key elements of a well-written abstract.

  • Size - A succinct and well written abstract should be between approximately 100- 250 words.
  • Background - An effective abstract usually includes some scene-setting information which might include what is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question (a few short sentences).
  • Purpose  - The abstract should also set out the purpose of your research, in other words, what is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present).
  • Methods - The methods section should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. It should include brief details of the research design, sample size, duration of study, and so on.
  • Results - The results section is the most important part of the abstract. This is because readers who skim an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.
  • Conclusion - This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcomes of the study. However, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:
  • The primary take-home message
  • Any additional findings of importance
  • Implications for future studies 

abstract 1

Example Abstract 2: Engineering Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone.

bone

Abstract from: Dalstra, M., Huiskes, R. and Van Erning, L., 1995. Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone. Journal of biomechanical engineering, 117(3), pp.272-278.

And finally...  A word on abstract types and styles

Abstract types can differ according to subject discipline. You need to determine therefore which type of abstract you should include with your paper. Here are two of the most common types with examples.

Informative Abstract

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 researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it 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 usually no more than 300 words in length.

Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgements 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 only describes the work being summarised. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less.

(Adapted from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136027/ )

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  • How to Write An Abstract For Research Papers: Tips & Examples

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In many ways, an abstract is like a trailer of a movie or the synopsis of your favorite book. Its job is to whet the reader’s appetite by sharing important information about your work. After reading a well-written abstract, one should have enough interest to explore the full research thesis. 

So how do you write an interesting abstract that captures the core of your study? First, you need to understand your research objectives and match them with the key results of your study. In this article, we will share some tips for writing an effective abstract, plus samples you can learn from. 

What is an Abstract in Research Writing?

In simple terms, an abstract is a concise write-up that gives an overview of your systematic investigation. According to Grammarly, it is a self-contained summary of a larger work, and it serves as a preview of the bigger document. 

It usually appears at the beginning of your thesis or research paper and helps the reader to have an overview of your work without going into great detail. This means that when someone reads your abstract, it should give them a clear idea of the purpose of your systematic investigation, your problem statement, key results, and any gaps requiring further investigation. 

So how long should your abstract be to capture all of these details? The reality is you don’t need a lot of words to capture key pieces of information in your abstract. Typically, 6–7 sentences made up of 150–250 words should be just right. 

Read: Writing Research Proposals: Tips, Examples & Mistakes

What are the Characteristics of a Good Abstract? 

  • A good abstract clearly states the aims and objectives of the research.
  • It outlines the research methodology for data gathering , processing and analysis. 
  • A good abstract summarizes specific research results.
  • It states the key conclusions of the systematic investigation.
  • It is brief yet straight to the point. 
  • A good abstract is unified and coherent. 
  • It is easy to understand and devoid of technical jargon. 
  • It is written in an unbiased and objective manner. 

What is the Purpose of an Abstract? 

Every abstract has two major purposes. First, it communicates the relevance of your systematic investigation to readers. After reading your abstract, people can determine how relevant your study is to their primary or secondary research purpose. 

The second purpose of an abstract is to communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper. Research papers typically run into tens of pages so it takes time to read and digest them. To help readers grasp the core ideas in a systematic investigation, it pays to have a well-written abstract that outlines important information concerning your study. 

In all, your abstract should accurately outline the most important information in your research. Many times, it determines whether people would go ahead to read your dissertation. Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your thesis easily findable.

Learn About: How to Write a Problem Statement for your Research

What are the Sections of an Abstract?

You already know the key pieces of information that your abstract should communicate. These details are broken into six important sections of the abstract which are: 

  • The Introduction or Background
  • Research Methodology
  • Aims and Objectives 
  • Limitations

Let’s discuss them in detail. 

  • The Introduction or Background 

The introduction or background is the shortest part of your abstract and usually consists of 2–3 sentences. In fact, some researchers write a single sentence as the introduction of their abstract. The whole idea here is to take the reader through the important events leading to your research. 

Understandably, this information may appear difficult to convey in a few sentences. To help out, consider answering these two questions in the background to your study : 

  • What is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question? 
  • What is not known about the subject (this is the focus of your study)? 

As much as possible, ensure that your abstract’s introduction doesn’t eat into the word count for the other key information. 

  • Research Methodology 

This is the section where you spell out any theories and methods adopted for your study. Ideally, you should cover what has been done and how you went about it to achieve the results of your systematic investigation. It is usually the second-longest section in the abstract. 

In the research methodology section, you should also state the type of research you embarked on; that is, qualitative research or quantitative research —this will inform your research methods too. If you’ve conducted quantitative research, your abstract should contain information like the sample size, data collection methods , sampling technique, and duration of your experiment. 

Explore: 21 Chrome Extensions for Academic Researchers in 2021

In the end, readers are most interested in the results you’ve achieved with your study. This means you should take time to outline every relevant outcome and show how they affect your research population . Typically, the results section should be the longest one in your abstract and nothing should compromise its range and quality. 

An important thing you should do here is spelled out facts and figures about research outcomes. Instead of a vague statement like, “we noticed that response rates differed greatly between high-income and low-income respondents”, try this: “The response rate was higher in high-income respondents than in their low-income counterparts (59% vs 30%, respectively; P

  • Conclusion 

Like the introduction, your conclusion should contain a few sentences that wrap up your abstract. Most researchers express a theoretical opinion about the implications of their study, here. 

Your conclusion should contain three important elements: 

  • The primary take-home message
  • The additional findings of importance
  • The perspective 

Although the conclusion of your abstract should be short, it has a great impact on how readers perceive your study. So, take advantage of this section to reiterate the core message in your systematic investigation. Also, make sure any statements here reflect the true outcomes and methods of your research. 

  • Limitations 

Chances are you must have faced certain challenges in the course of your research—it could be at the data collection phase or during sampling . Whatever these challenges are, it pays to let your readers know about them, and the impact they had on your study. 

For example, if you had to switch to convenience sampling or snowball sampling due to difficulties in contacting well-suited research participants, you should include this in your abstract. Also, a lack of previous studies in the research area could pose a limitation on your study. Research limitations provide an opportunity to make suggestions for further research. 

Research aims and objectives speak to what you want to achieve with your study. Typically, research aims focus on a project’s long-term outcomes while the objectives focus on the immediate, short-term outcome of the investigation. You may summarize both using a single paragraph comprising a few sentences.

Stating your aims and objectives will give readers a clear idea of the scope, depth, and direction that your research will ultimately take. Readers would measure your research outcomes against stated aims and objectives to know if you achieved the purpose of your study. 

Use For Free: Research Form Templates

Abstract Writing Styles and General Guidelines 

Now that you know the different sections plus information that your abstract should contain, let’s look at how to write an abstract for your research paper.

A common question that comes up is, should I write my abstract first or last? It’s best to write your abstract after you’ve finished working on the research because you have full information to present to your readers. However, you can always create a draft at the beginning of your systematic investigation and fill in the gaps later.  

Does writing an abstract seem like a herculean task? Here are a few tips to help out. 

1. Always create a framework for your abstract 

Before you start writing, take time to develop a detailed outline for your abstract. Break it into sections and sketch the main and supporting points for each section. You can list keywords plus 1–2 sentences that capture your core messaging. 

2. Read Other Abstracts 

Abstracts are one of the most common research documents, and thousands of them have been written in time past. So, before writing yours, try to study a couple of samples from others. You can find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases.

3. Steer Clear of Jargon As Much As Possible 

While writing your abstract, emphasize clarity over style. This means you should communicate in simple terms and avoid unnecessary filler words and ambiguous sentences. Remember, your abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic. 

4. Focus on Your Research

It goes without saying that your abstract should be solely focused on your research and what you’ve discovered. It’s not the time to cite primary and secondary data sources unless this is absolutely necessary. 

This doesn’t mean you should ignore the scholarly background of your work. You might include a sentence or two summarizing the scholarly background to show the relevance of your work to a broader debate, but there’s no need to mention specific publications. 

Going further, here are some abstract writing guidelines from the University of Bergen: 

  • An abstract briefly explains the salient aspects of the content. 
  • Abstracts should be accurate and succinct, self-contained, and readable.  
  • The abstract should paraphrase and summarise rather than quote from the paper.
  • Abstracts should relate only to the paper to be presented/assessed.

Types of Abstracts with Examples 

According to the University of Adelaide, there are two major types of abstracts written for research purposes. First, we have informative abstracts and descriptive abstracts. 

1. Informative Abstract  

An informative abstract is the more common type of abstract written for academic research. It highlights the most important aspects of your systematic investigation without going into unnecessary or irrelevant details that the reader might not find useful. 

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 longer work, it may be much less.

In any informative abstract, you’d touch on information like the purpose, method, scope, results, and conclusion of your study. By now, you’re thinking, “this is the type of abstract we’ve been discussing all along”, and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. 

Advantages of Informative Abstracts

  • These abstracts save time for both the researcher and the readers. 
  • It’s easy to refer to these abstracts as secondary research sources. 

Disadvantages of Informative Abstracts

  • These types of abstracts lack personality.

Example of an Informative Abstract

  • Sample Informative Abstract Based on Experimental Work From Colorado State University
  • Sample Informative Abstract Based on Non-experimental Work From Colorado State University

2. Descriptive Abstract 

A descriptive abstract reads like a synopsis and focuses on enticing the reader with interesting information. They don’t care as much for data and details, and instead read more like overviews that don’t give too much away. 

You’d find descriptive abstracts in artistic criticism pieces and entertainment research as opposed to scientific investigations. This type of abstract makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. They are usually written in 100 words or less. 

Advantages of Descriptive Abstracts

  • It gives a very brief overview of the research paper. 
  • It is easier to write descriptive abstracts compared to informational abstracts. 

Disadvantages of Descriptive Abstracts

  • They are suitable for scientific research. 
  • Descriptive abstracts might omit relevant information that deepens your knowledge of the systematic investigation.

Example of Descriptive Abstracts 

  • Sample Descriptive Abstract From Colorado State University

FAQs About Writing Abstracts in Research Papers

1. How Long Should an Abstract Be?

A typical abstract should be about six sentences long or less than 150 words. Most universities have specific word count requirements that fall within 150–300 words. 

2. How Do You Start an Abstract Sentence?

There are several ways to start your abstract. Consider the following methods: 

  • State a problem or uncertainty
  • Make a general statement with the present research action.
  • State the purpose or objective of your research
  • State a real-world phenomena or a standard practice.

3. Should you cite in an abstract?

While you can refer to information from specific research papers, there’s no need to cite sources in your abstract. Your abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others. 

4. What should not be included in an abstract?

An abstract shouldn’t have numeric references, bibliographies, sections, or even footnotes. 

5. Which tense is used in writing an abstract?

An abstract should be written in the third-person present tense. Use the simple past tense when describing your methodology and specific findings from your study. 

Writing an abstract might appear challenging but with these steps, you should get it right. The easiest approach to writing a good abstract is centering it on key information including your research problem and objectives, methodology, and key results.

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How to Write a Research Paper: Parts of the Paper

  • Choosing Your Topic
  • Citation & Style Guides This link opens in a new window
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  • Evaluating Information
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Parts of the Research Paper Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea, and indicate how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas.

1. The Title The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon. Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title.

2. The Abstract The abstract is used by readers to get a quick overview of your paper. Typically, they are about 200 words in length (120 words minimum to  250 words maximum). The abstract should introduce the topic and thesis, and should provide a general statement about what you have found in your research. The abstract allows you to mention each major aspect of your topic and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Because it is a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last. 

3. The Introduction The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and explain the focus of the research. You will introduce your overview of the topic,  your main points of information, and why this subject is important. You can introduce the current understanding and background information about the topic. Toward the end of the introduction, you add your thesis statement, and explain how you will provide information to support your research questions. This provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper.

4. Thesis Statement Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide your supporting facts and arguments. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. It also points toward the paper's development. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

Students often learn to write a thesis as a first step in the writing process, but often, after research, a writer's viewpoint may change. Therefore a thesis statement may be one of the final steps in writing. 

Examples of Thesis Statements from Purdue OWL

5. The Literature Review The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and how it specifically relates to the research thesis. It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched. The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors. It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles. You will want  to:

  • Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.
  • Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.

More about writing a literature review. . .

6. The Discussion ​The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe what you have learned from your research. Make the reader understand why your topic is important. The discussion should always demonstrate what you have learned from your readings (and viewings) and how that learning has made the topic evolve, especially from the short description of main points in the introduction.Explain any new understanding or insights you have had after reading your articles and/or books. Paragraphs should use transitioning sentences to develop how one paragraph idea leads to the next. The discussion will always connect to the introduction, your thesis statement, and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction. You want to: 

  • Demonstrate critical thinking, not just reporting back facts that you gathered.
  • If possible, tell how the topic has evolved over the past and give it's implications for the future.
  • Fully explain your main ideas with supporting information.
  • Explain why your thesis is correct giving arguments to counter points.

7. The Conclusion A concluding paragraph is a brief summary of your main ideas and restates the paper's main thesis, giving the reader the sense that the stated goal of the paper has been accomplished. What have you learned by doing this research that you didn't know before? What conclusions have you drawn? You may also want to suggest further areas of study, improvement of research possibilities, etc. to demonstrate your critical thinking regarding your research.

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  • v.53(2); Apr-Jun 2011

How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation

Chittaranjan andrade.

Department of Psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Abstracts of scientific papers are sometimes poorly written, often lack important information, and occasionally convey a biased picture. This paper provides detailed suggestions, with examples, for writing the background, methods, results, and conclusions sections of a good abstract. The primary target of this paper is the young researcher; however, authors with all levels of experience may find useful ideas in the paper.

INTRODUCTION

This paper is the third in a series on manuscript writing skills, published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry . Earlier articles offered suggestions on how to write a good case report,[ 1 ] and how to read, write, or review a paper on randomized controlled trials.[ 2 , 3 ] The present paper examines how authors may write a good abstract when preparing their manuscript for a scientific journal or conference presentation. Although the primary target of this paper is the young researcher, it is likely that authors with all levels of experience will find at least a few ideas that may be useful in their future efforts.

The abstract of a paper is the only part of the paper that is published in conference proceedings. The abstract is the only part of the paper that a potential referee sees when he is invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract is the only part of the paper that readers see when they search through electronic databases such as PubMed. Finally, most readers will acknowledge, with a chuckle, that when they leaf through the hard copy of a journal, they look at only the titles of the contained papers. If a title interests them, they glance through the abstract of that paper. Only a dedicated reader will peruse the contents of the paper, and then, most often only the introduction and discussion sections. Only a reader with a very specific interest in the subject of the paper, and a need to understand it thoroughly, will read the entire paper.

Thus, for the vast majority of readers, the paper does not exist beyond its abstract. For the referees, and the few readers who wish to read beyond the abstract, the abstract sets the tone for the rest of the paper. It is therefore the duty of the author to ensure that the abstract is properly representative of the entire paper. For this, the abstract must have some general qualities. These are listed in Table 1 .

General qualities of a good abstract

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SECTIONS OF AN ABSTRACT

Although some journals still publish abstracts that are written as free-flowing paragraphs, most journals require abstracts to conform to a formal structure within a word count of, usually, 200–250 words. The usual sections defined in a structured abstract are the Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusions; other headings with similar meanings may be used (eg, Introduction in place of Background or Findings in place of Results). Some journals include additional sections, such as Objectives (between Background and Methods) and Limitations (at the end of the abstract). In the rest of this paper, issues related to the contents of each section will be examined in turn.

This section should be the shortest part of the abstract and should very briefly outline the following information:

  • What is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question
  • What is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present)

In most cases, the background can be framed in just 2–3 sentences, with each sentence describing a different aspect of the information referred to above; sometimes, even a single sentence may suffice. The purpose of the background, as the word itself indicates, is to provide the reader with a background to the study, and hence to smoothly lead into a description of the methods employed in the investigation.

Some authors publish papers the abstracts of which contain a lengthy background section. There are some situations, perhaps, where this may be justified. In most cases, however, a longer background section means that less space remains for the presentation of the results. This is unfortunate because the reader is interested in the paper because of its findings, and not because of its background.

A wide variety of acceptably composed backgrounds is provided in Table 2 ; most of these have been adapted from actual papers.[ 4 – 9 ] Readers may wish to compare the content in Table 2 with the original abstracts to see how the adaptations possibly improve on the originals. Note that, in the interest of brevity, unnecessary content is avoided. For instance, in Example 1 there is no need to state “The antidepressant efficacy of desvenlafaxine (DV), a dual-acting antidepressant drug , has been established…” (the unnecessary content is italicized).

Examples of the background section of an abstract

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The methods section is usually the second-longest section in the abstract. It should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. Table 3 lists important questions to which the methods section should provide brief answers.

Questions regarding which information should ideally be available in the methods section of an abstract

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Carelessly written methods sections lack information about important issues such as sample size, numbers of patients in different groups, doses of medications, and duration of the study. Readers have only to flip through the pages of a randomly selected journal to realize how common such carelessness is.

Table 4 presents examples of the contents of accept-ably written methods sections, modified from actual publications.[ 10 , 11 ] Readers are invited to take special note of the first sentence of each example in Table 4 ; each is packed with detail, illustrating how to convey the maximum quantity of information with maximum economy of word count.

Examples of the methods section of an abstract

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The results section is the most important part of the abstract and nothing should compromise its range and quality. This is because readers who peruse an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore be the longest part of the abstract and should contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits. For example, it is bad writing to state “Response rates differed significantly between diabetic and nondiabetic patients.” A better sentence is “The response rate was higher in nondiabetic than in diabetic patients (49% vs 30%, respectively; P <0.01).”

Important information that the results should present is indicated in Table 5 . Examples of acceptably written abstracts are presented in Table 6 ; one of these has been modified from an actual publication.[ 11 ] Note that the first example is rather narrative in style, whereas the second example is packed with data.

Information that the results section of the abstract should ideally present

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Examples of the results section of an abstract

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CONCLUSIONS

This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcome measure; however, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, for the authors to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:

  • The primary take-home message
  • The additional findings of importance
  • The perspective

Despite its necessary brevity, this section has the most impact on the average reader because readers generally trust authors and take their assertions at face value. For this reason, the conclusions should also be scrupulously honest; and authors should not claim more than their data demonstrate. Hypothetical examples of the conclusions section of an abstract are presented in Table 7 .

Examples of the conclusions section of an abstract

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MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS

Citation of references anywhere within an abstract is almost invariably inappropriate. Other examples of unnecessary content in an abstract are listed in Table 8 .

Examples of unnecessary content in a abstract

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It goes without saying that whatever is present in the abstract must also be present in the text. Likewise, whatever errors should not be made in the text should not appear in the abstract (eg, mistaking association for causality).

As already mentioned, the abstract is the only part of the paper that the vast majority of readers see. Therefore, it is critically important for authors to ensure that their enthusiasm or bias does not deceive the reader; unjustified speculations could be even more harmful. Misleading readers could harm the cause of science and have an adverse impact on patient care.[ 12 ] A recent study,[ 13 ] for example, concluded that venlafaxine use during the second trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of neonates born small for gestational age. However, nowhere in the abstract did the authors mention that these conclusions were based on just 5 cases and 12 controls out of the total sample of 126 cases and 806 controls. There were several other serious limitations that rendered the authors’ conclusions tentative, at best; yet, nowhere in the abstract were these other limitations expressed.

As a parting note: Most journals provide clear instructions to authors on the formatting and contents of different parts of the manuscript. These instructions often include details on what the sections of an abstract should contain. Authors should tailor their abstracts to the specific requirements of the journal to which they plan to submit their manuscript. It could also be an excellent idea to model the abstract of the paper, sentence for sentence, on the abstract of an important paper on a similar subject and with similar methodology, published in the same journal for which the manuscript is slated.

Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Research Paper Structure

Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly likely that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines.  Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.

Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style

A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1  Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices.  These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to " How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller). 2

What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors.  The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page.  In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.

One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.

Introduction

What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.

What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed.  It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure.  If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section.  A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.

What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed.  It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.

What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper.  The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings.  Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.

List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source).  Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).

Tables and Figures

Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither).  In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References.   Tables are included first, followed by Figures.   However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S. Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see "Deviations from APA Style" below).

Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided.  This is often placed in an Appendix.

Variations of Research Papers in APA Style

Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern.  These variations include: 

  • Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section. 
  • Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered.  Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References.  Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.

Departures from APA Style

In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).  Such deviations may include:

  • Placement of Tables and Figures  – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first). 
  • Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun).  In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research.  Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
  • Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely.  You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

  • For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines

  • Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 3.
  • Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 26.  

External Resources

  • Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
  • How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
  • WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper
  • Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style

1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 41-60).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2 geller, e. (2018).  how to write an apa-style research report . [instructional materials]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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Improving gradient methods via coordinate transformations: Applications to quantum machine learning

Pablo bermejo, borja aizpurua, and román orús, phys. rev. research 6 , 023069 – published 19 april 2024.

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  • INTRODUCTION
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In this paper, we introduce a generic strategy to accelerate and improve the overall performance of machine-learning algorithms, both in their classical and quantum versions, heavily rely on optimization algorithms based on gradients, such as gradient descent. The overall performance is dependent on the appearance of local minima and barren plateaus, which slow down calculations and lead to nonoptimal solutions. In practice, this results in dramatic computational and energy costs for artificial intelligence applications. Our method is based on coordinate transformations, like variational rotations, adding extra directions in parameter space that depend on the cost function itself, and which allowus to explore the configuration landscape more efficiently. The validity of our method is benchmarked by boosting several quantum machine-learning algorithms, getting a very significant improvement in their performance.

Figure

  • Received 30 June 2023
  • Accepted 3 April 2024

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevResearch.6.023069

what is the abstract part of a research paper

Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.

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  • 1 Multiverse Computing, Paseo de Miramón 170, E-20014 San Sebastián, Spain
  • 2 Donostia International Physics Center, Paseo Manuel de Lardizabal 4, E-20018 San Sebastián, Spain
  • 3 Ikerbasque Foundation for Science, Maria Diaz de Haro 3, E-48013 Bilbao, Spain
  • * [email protected]
  • [email protected]

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Vol. 6, Iss. 2 — April - June 2024

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(a) Cost function f ( x ) presents a plateau as a function of optimization variable x , so that gradient methods get stalled at point P due to a null gradient. (b) A change in the polar coordinates of point P leads to a point P ′ , which can then be collapsed back to the landscape of the cost function, leading to point P c . Optimization from point P c is no longer stalled since the gradient is nonzero. (c) A frame rotation leads to a description of point P with different Cartesian coordinates f r ( x r ) and x r . In the new rotated frame, the gradient at P is nonzero, so that gradient methods are no longer stalled.

Improvement in the average number of iterations as a function of the learning rate, for the algorithm in Ref. [ 5 ] to alleviate barren plateaus with local cost functions. Comparison between PennyLane and the change of coordinates (CC) implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, in function fitting using a quantum signal processing polynomial, for the algorithm in Ref. [ 7 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the change of coordinates (CC) implementations.

Convergence of cost function and accuracy vs number of optimization steps, in the variational quantum classifier from Ref. [ 8 ] for the Iris dataset. Comparison between PennyLane and the change of coordinates (CC) implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, in the variational quantum thermalizer from Ref. [ 9 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the change of coordinates (CC) implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, in the variational quantum linear solver from Ref. [ 14 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the rotation implementations, where we implemented two rotation approaches.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, in the quantum models for Fourier series from Ref. [ 13 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the rotation implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, in the variational quantum eigensolver for different spin sectors from Ref. [ 6 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the rotation implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, for the perturbative gadgets for variational quantum algorithms from Ref. [ 11 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the rotation implementations.

Convergence of cost function vs number of optimization steps, for the variational quantum continuous optimizer from Ref. [ 12 ]. Comparison between PennyLane and the rotation implementations.

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The search for drivers of hominin speciation and extinction has tended to focus on the impact of climate change. Far less attention has been paid to the role of interspecific competition. However, research across vertebrates more broadly has shown that both processes are often correlated with species diversity, suggesting an important role for interspecific competition. Here we ask whether hominin speciation and extinction conform to the expected patterns of negative and positive diversity dependence, respectively. We estimate speciation and extinction rates from fossil occurrence data with preservation variability priors in a validated Bayesian framework and test whether these rates are correlated with species diversity. We supplement these analyses with calculations of speciation rate across a phylogeny, again testing whether these are correlated with diversity. Our results are consistent with clade-wide diversity limits that governed speciation in hominins overall but that were not quite reached by the Australopithecus and Paranthropus subclade before its extinction. Extinction was not correlated with species diversity within the Australopithecus and Paranthropus subclade or within hominins overall; this is concordant with climate playing a greater part in hominin extinction than speciation. By contrast, Homo is characterized by positively diversity-dependent speciation and negatively diversity-dependent extinction—both exceedingly rare patterns across all forms of life. The genus Homo expands the set of reported associations between diversity and macroevolution in vertebrates, underscoring that the relationship between diversity and macroevolution is complex. These results indicate an important, previously underappreciated and comparatively unusual role of biotic interactions in Homo macroevolution, and speciation in particular. The unusual and unexpected patterns of diversity dependence in Homo speciation and extinction may be a consequence of repeated Homo range expansions driven by interspecific competition and made possible by recurrent innovations in ecological strategies. Exploring how hominin macroevolution fits into the general vertebrate macroevolutionary landscape has the potential to offer new perspectives on longstanding questions in vertebrate evolution and shed new light on evolutionary processes within our own lineage.

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Clade density and the evolution of diversity-dependent diversification

Marcio R. Pie, Raquel Divieso & Fernanda S. Caron

The diversification of a lineage is the net output of speciation minus extinction. A theme that runs through much research into human evolution is whether the determinants of hominin diversification conform to or diverge from those seen in other taxa. At one extreme lie ideas such as Wolpoff’s ‘single species hypothesis’ 1 , which suggested that there can be no speciation in the hominin lineage, as its niche is ‘culture’. Culture, in Wolpoff’s view, is uniquely human and prevents boundaries between populations from occurring; hence, speciation was prohibited in hominins, but not in other clades. At the other extreme are interpretations that emphasize commonalities between patterns of hominin speciation and extinction and those of other clades 2 . Within this group, research interest has primarily been devoted to examining the role of climate in shaping hominin diversification 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 . What has received far less attention as a potential driver of hominin diversification than climate, however, is competition.

Competition occurs across taxonomic scales, from interindividual competition within populations 8 to intergroup competition within species 9 and interspecific competition 10 . Competition at each of these levels has been shown to act as an important driver of evolution at equal or higher scales 11 , 12 , 13 . Here we focus on interspecific competition for niches (hereafter ‘competition’) and its consequences above the species level. Although the concept of ‘niche’ has only rarely been formally defined in previous work on diversity-dependent speciation 14 , 15 , 16 , its implicit definition in previous work is that of a Hutchinsonian ecological niche 17 —an n -dimensional hypervolume describing all environmental resources and conditions required for species persistence. We adopt this conventional definition throughout this paper. The consequences of competition can include three processes: speciation, extinction and morphological change through, for example, character displacement 13 , 18 . There is some indirect evidence that competition resulted in morphological evolution in our lineage: competition between Homo and Paranthropus in East Africa probably led to character displacement in the mandibular premolar morphology of these two groups 19 . However, much less work has been devoted to exploring the effects of competition on hominin speciation or extinction.

Ecological competition with large carnivores is thought to have exerted a strong effect on hominin ranging patterns 20 , 21 , hunting behaviour 22 and, of particular interest at a macroevolutionary scale, geographic dispersals 23 , 24 . Although it is unknown whether competition with large carnivores had direct effects on hominin speciation or extinction, the link between dispersals and these macroevolutionary processes is well established 25 . Compared with competition between hominins and non-hominins, the dynamics and effects of competition between hominin species have received comparatively little attention. Although competition may have contributed to a pulse of hominin extinction around 1.5 million years ago 26 , and some recent reviews have used evidence for hominin sympatry in East and South Africa to suggest the possibility of competition 27 , 28 , an explicit investigation of the extent to which competition drove hominin diversification is lacking.

Competition has probably had a major role in animal diversification, however, leaving signals in correlations between species diversity, on the one hand, and speciation and extinction on the other 14 , 16 , 29 , 30 , 31 . Speciation can be both positively or negatively diversity dependent or occur independently of a clade’s own diversity. Under positive diversity dependence, speciation rates rise as a function of the novel evolutionary opportunities and interactions created by other species 32 . This pattern is exceptionally rare among all forms of life, however, having been reported only in island-dwelling beetles 33 , plants and arthropods 34 , and this latter case is contentious 35 , 36 . Instead, if a relationship exists between vertebrate speciation and diversity, this is usually negative 14 , 16 , 30 , 31 . There are two processes by which speciation may be negatively controlled by diversity: competition for (1) niche space, or (2) geographic space 15 . In both, speciation is regulated by bounded ecological opportunities. In classical Darwinian diversity dependence 16 , 37 , speciation into a niche occupied by a closely related species is prohibited, producing a negative relationship. At a higher level of taxonomic organization, models of asymptotic diversity predict slowdowns in speciation as a finite number of niches within an adaptive grade, or a finite number of ranges within bounded space, become occupied by closely related species as a clade grows 25 , 38 . However, findings of diversity-independent speciation in some clades has led to intense debate about whether negative diversity dependence is universal across vertebrates; the same is true for the related question of whether absolute limits to niches or geographic ranges even exist 39 , 40 .

The relationship between extinction and diversity has received less explicit empirical attention than that between speciation and diversity. However, when a relationship is reported, extinction is typically positively diversity dependent 41 , 42 . These patterns align with expectations based on theory. Under Darwinian diversity dependence, competition between ecologically similar species should result in extinction of outcompeted species 37 even in the absence of absolute limits to species diversity. Models of asymptotic diversity 16 , 43 predict increased rates of extinction as species diversity approaches an explicitly predicted diversity limit. Asymptotic diversity dynamics have been reported for multiple vertebrate clades 44 , 45 , although other studies have suggested that these trends are unclear among terrestrial vertebrates 32 . As is the case for speciation, then, there is some empirical evidence for a typical direction of the relationship between diversity and extinction—in this case, positive—but the universality of this pattern among vertebrates, too, remains an open question.

Hominin evolution is represented by a well-studied and rich fossil record and occurs across temporal and spatial scales that sit squarely at the expected intersection of climatic and competitive processes 46 . Therefore, exploring how hominin macroevolution fits into the general vertebrate macroevolutionary landscape has the potential to offer new perspectives on longstanding questions in vertebrate evolution, as well as addressing the comparative dearth of explicit research on diversity-dependent macroevolution in the hominin lineage.

Here we ask whether hominins also follow the pattern of diversity-dependent diversification that characterizes many other vertebrate clades. More specifically, we ask: were hominins characterized by negative diversity-dependent speciation and positive diversity-dependent extinction?

At which taxonomic level should these patterns be expected? Negative diversity-dependent speciation and positive diversity-dependent extinction at the level of the hominin clade as a whole would imply either that hominins were characterized by species’ inabilities to diverge ecologically from each other, as in Darwinian diversity dependence—and in an extension of Wolpoff’s ‘culture’ argument—or that hominins occupy a bounded set of niches in broader ecological context, as in asymptotic diversity dependence. One possibility is that hominin diversification is not diversity dependent, either because hominin speciation and extinction are purely climate-driven and not determined by diversity-mediated competitive dynamics 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , or because the lineage was characterized by consistent ecological divergence, or because a limit to species diversity did not exist or was not reached. A second possibility is that hominins, overall, conform to the expected patterns. This would indicate a powerful and underappreciated role for interspecific competition in hominin evolution.

However, Darwinian diversity dependence 16 , 37 predicts stronger signals of diversity-dependent dynamics within and not across adaptive grades 15 , 16 , 37 , as species within adaptive grades should be more ecologically similar to each other. Given that there is strong support for Homo having occupied an adaptive grade distinct from earlier hominins 47 , 48 , we contrast the patterns found between Homo and Plio-Pleistocene non- Homo species ( Australopithecus and Paranthropus ). In addition to the two possible patterns described above, this comparison presents a third possibility: conflicting patterns between adaptive grades. Such a pattern will have resonance with the major issue of how far hominin evolution conforms to general evolutionary patterns, and why it might diverge.

Analyses based on speciation and extinction times

To explore whether species diversity predicts species origination and extinction, we ran birth–death models in a validated Bayesian framework 49 , 50 on five datasets of estimated times of species origination and extinction. The first dataset comprised published first and last appearance dates (FADs and LADs), which are conventionally used as proxies for times of species origination and extinction without accounting for variability in fossil preservation rates. The subsequent four datasets were based on our database of hominin fossil occurrences, recorded at two operational definitions of localities (at the finest-grained occurrence level available ( n  = 385 occurrences) and at the broadest occurrence level (that in which all occurrences at a site complex were merged into a single occurrence; n  = 267 occurrences)). We applied two sets of explicit fossil preservation rate priors (time-based variability and within-lifetime variability; both models also included between-lineage variability) to these two occurrence datasets, generating four new sets of times of species origination and extinction. As there were no differences in the direction of inferred relationships between these datasets, we report results for both models of preservation from the most fine-grained occurrence level here. Results for the broadest occurrence level are provided in Supplementary Table 1 .

Times of speciation and extinction estimated for fine-grained occurrences under (1) lineage- and time-based variability and (2) lineage- and within-species lifetime variability in fossil preservation rates are presented in Table 1 . Those for the same analyses across the broadest occurrence level are reported in Supplementary Table 2 . Speciation times were significantly different between the new dates estimated under both preservation rate priors and between dates estimated under preservation rate priors and the published FADs and LADs of fossil species (pairwise paired t -tests with Bonferroni correction, P  < 0.05). Extinction times did not differ significantly between dates estimated under both preservation rate priors, but both of these did differ significantly from the published FADs and LADs (pairwise paired t -tests with Bonferroni correction, P  < 0.05). Compared to published FADs, estimates of speciation and extinction times that account fossil preservation extended species’ lifespans. These models estimate that species originated, on average, 0.49 million years earlier (within-lifetime variability) and 0.37 million years earlier (time-based variability) than published dates suggest, and that they went extinct 0.27 million years later (within-lifetime variability) and 0.15 million years later (time-based variability) than published dates suggest (Fig. 1a and Table 1 ).

figure 1

a , Species lifespans, comprising the time between speciation and extinction dates based on three datasets. Orange: published fossil FADs and LADs estimated without taking fossil preservation into account. Light blue: speciation and extinction dates estimated in a Bayesian framework incorporating time-based variability in fossil preservation rates. Dark blue: speciation and extinction dates estimated in a Bayesian framework incorporating within-lineage variability in fossil preservation rates. Note that these taxa are those the published dates and our new database have in common; actual analyses incorporated Homo ergaster in the no-preservation-prior dataset and Homo rudolfensis in the preservation prior datasets. Homo erectus s.l. refers to Homo erectus sensu lato. b , The Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 phylogeny used in this study, with species coloured by taxonomic grouping (yellow: Homo; green: non- Homo ).

Across each of the three datasets, the results suggest at reasonable confidence that speciation was a negatively diversity-dependent process across the hominin clade as a whole (Fig. 2a and Table 2 ). The 50% credible intervals did not overlap with 0, although the 95% credible intervals did. In two models, >75% of the posterior distribution was negative. For non- Homo species, the signal was more diffuse. Although mean correlation parameter estimates were negative, the 50% credible interval overlapped with 0 in all cases (Fig. 2a ). By contrast, the results suggest at reasonable confidence that speciation in Homo was positively diversity-dependent across all three datasets (Fig. 2a and Table 2 ). In the model with no preservation priors, the 50% credible interval overlapped with 0, but the correlation parameter was positive in 67.9% of the iterations. In models incorporating fossil preservation variability, the 50% credible intervals did not overlap with 0, although the 95% credible intervals did (Fig. 2a ). In these models, the correlation parameter was positive in 78% and 83.8% of the iterations of the time-based preservation variability model and the within-lifetime preservation variability models, respectively.

figure 2

a , Results from PyRate birth–death models, run across three datasets with different fossil preservation priors (no preservation priors: published FADs and LADs; time-based preservation variability, where preservation is allowed to vary every 1 million years—prior applied to fossil occurrence data from three databases; and within-lifetime preservation variability, where preservation rate is allowed to vary across a species’ lifespan—prior applied to fossil occurrence data from three databases). In the latter two models, the preservation rate was also allowed to vary between lineages. The posterior distribution of the correlation parameter is shown, with the 50% credible interval shaded and the 95% credible interval indicated by the outline. The mean correlation parameter is indicated by a thick line. Results for speciation are indicated in blue; those for extinction are shown in red. b , The relationship between diversity 500,000 years before tip height and speciation rate (tip DR) across the Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 phylogeny. Shaded area indicates 95% confidence interval.

The strongest signal across both processes was that extinction in Homo was unexpectedly negatively diversity dependent. For all three models, >75% of the posterior distribution of the diversity correlation parameter was negative, and the 50% credible intervals did not overlap with 0; and in the two models incorporating fossil preservation variability, >99% of the distribution was negative (Fig. 2a and Table 2 ). The pattern in Homo stands in stark contrast to the lack of a strong signal within non- Homo or the hominin clade as a whole. Although the mean of the posterior distribution of the correlation parameter was positive in all but one model (non- Homo , no preservation priors), <75% of the posterior distributions for these models was positive, and the 50% and 95% credible intervals overlapped with 0 in all cases (Fig. 2a and Table 2 ).

Phylogeny-based analyses of speciation rate

To explore support for the results from models incorporating variability in fossil preservation versus those from the model without, we developed a complementary but independent analytical approach and calculated the speciation rate across a phylogeny. There was a statistically significant difference in the relationship between diversity and speciation between Homo and non- Homo groups (phylogenetic generalized least squares (GLS): difference between Homo and non- Homo regression slope, P  < 0.05). In non- Homo species, speciation rate decreased as a function of diversity, consistent with a negative diversity-dependent speciation regime, whereas Homo was characterized by a significant positive relationship between speciation rate and diversity (Fig. 1b ). Model outputs are provided in Supplementary Table 3 .

The differences between Homo and non- Homo are unlikely to be the consequence of higher undersampling of non- Homo species richness: the same result was obtained across 99% of trees with 12.5% increased non- Homo species richness and 98%, 95% and 94% of trees with 25%, 37.5% and 50% increased non- Homo species richness, respectively.

The phylogeny-based method performs reasonably well across small datasets; across the small trees simulated under a diversity-dependent process, it correctly inferred negative diversity dependence across 73% of the trees, and this remained 73% when up to 40% species were randomly removed from the phylogenies to simulate incomplete sampling. The method falsely identified a relationship between diversity and speciation across 31% of the simulated constant-rate birth–death trees, and this rose to 41% when up to 40% species were randomly removed from the phylogenies. In the incorrect sample of 31%, negative diversity dependence was inferred across nearly all trees (97%), and this did not change across the phylogenies across which incomplete sampling was simulated. Positive diversity-dependent speciation was incorrectly inferred across 0.02% of the complete simulated constant-rate birth–death trees and 0.3% of the trees across which incomplete sampling was simulated. Taken together, these results suggest that there can be reasonable but not total confidence that non- Homo speciation was characterized by negative diversity dependence; there is a 69% chance that it was not a false positive result across a tree generated under a non-diversity-dependent process. There is only a 0.02% chance that the positive diversity-dependent speciation of Homo is a methodological artefact.

We investigated whether hominin speciation and extinction are correlated with species diversity, as they are across many—but not all—vertebrate clades. Our results across the clade as a whole suggest that speciation was probably negatively regulated by diversity, and that this was also true for the group comprising Australopithecus and Paranthropus , although the signal was weaker in this subclade. By contrast, there is reasonably strong evidence that the relationship between speciation and diversity in the genus Homo diverges from that in other hominins and many other vertebrates: across two analytical approaches, Homo speciation was positively diversity dependent. Homo extinction, furthermore, showed a very strongly negatively diversity-dependent pattern, which differs from the lack of a relationship between extinction and diversity found both across hominins as a whole and in the Australopithecus and Paranthropus subgroup.

From a broader vertebrate perspective, the reasonably strong evidence for negative diversity-dependent speciation across the clade as a whole (mean 79% and 77% of the posterior distributions <0 for all Bayesian models and Bayesian models accounting for fossil preservation bias, respectively; Table 1 ), paired with the much more diffuse signal of negative diversity dependence in non- Homo (mean 62.8% and 60.5% of the posterior distributions <0 for all Bayesian models and Bayesian models accounting for fossil preservation bias, respectively, and a 69% chance that the patterns across the phylogeny were not false positives) echoes theoretical uncertainty about the taxonomic scale across which diversity dependence should operate 16 . Previous work in higher taxonomic groupings within birds and squamates found evidence of negative diversity-dependent speciation 14 , 29 , 31 , whereas work within terrestrial vertebrate orders, including Primates, recovered no such relationship 39 . Although our analyses were conducted at a lower scale, we recovered a corresponding pattern, with stronger evidence for diversity-dependent speciation at higher taxonomic scales. Turning to broader questions about whether ecological limits to species diversity are even to be expected 51 , the comparison between signal strength at the two scales we report here suggests that limits to diversity should exist at higher taxonomic levels. One potential explanation is that if limits to ecologically similar species diversity exist, subclades may often not reach these individually before extinction begins to outpace speciation. Through a Darwinian diversity-dependent lens, this ‘limit’ may simply reflect the point at which species are no longer able to diverge ecologically from one another 16 and so has more to do with the evolvability of the clade itself, whereas an asymptotic view holds that there is a set number of niches or limited geographic space to speciate into a priori. We cannot distinguish between these alternatives based on the models we present here, but our results are consistent with clade-wide diversity limits that governed speciation overall but were not quite reached by the non- Homo subclade before its extinction.

Notably, neither non- Homo subclade extinction nor that across the clade as a whole carried a strong signal of diversity dependence (Table 1 ). This aligns with previous work reporting an absence of diversity-dependent extinction—for example, the lack of empirical evidence for extinctions in ‘saturated’ communities following species invasions 52 . Previous work has made a strong case that hominin extinction is more closely linked to climate than hominin speciation 53 , and climate-driven extinction before a theoretical cap on diversity—whether Darwinian or asymptotic—was reached can explain these results.

Contrary to expectations, we found reasonably strong evidence for positively diversity-dependent speciation in Homo (mean 76.6% and 80.9% of the posterior distributions >0 for all Bayesian models and Bayesian models accounting for fossil preservation bias, respectively, and a 0.02% chance that the patterns across the phylogeny were false positives). This pattern is much rarer than negatively diversity-dependent speciation and non-diversity-related speciation across all forms of life, having been reported for only a few groups, including island-dwelling beetles 33 , plants and arthropods 34 , with this last case being contentious 35 , 36 . In the vertebrate context, then, our results not only expand the set of reported associations between diversity and speciation but, crucially, underscore previous findings that the relationship between speciation and diversity is complex 39 , 52 , 54 .

This complexity is no doubt at least in part the consequence of the fact that both extrinsic factors and intrinsic traits modify any feedback loop between species diversity and speciation 18 , 55 . One explanation that incorporates both is repeated dispersals. Homo is the only hominin genus to expand its range outside of Africa 56 , 57 , and recurrent expansions into new habitats that promote new adaptations, and therefore speciation, while source populations persist, will result in a positive correlation between speciation rate and diversity. This correlation may reflect no causal relationship between competition and speciation at all, but a complementary model is that high levels of competition between closely related and ecologically similar taxa in the ‘source’ location drove dispersal in the first place 58 , 59 . For example, Carbonell and colleagues 60 suggested that the earliest European hominins were competitively displaced from Africa by populations that developed the Acheulian.

A second and non-mutually exclusive explanation is that ‘diversity begets diversity’ 32 —that is, that existing species provide evolutionary pressure and opportunities for (the evolution of) new species 61 , 62 , 63 . Increased species diversity may produce interactions that can promote speciation and can extend species’ lifespans providing that the activities of the species upon which the niche of another is built persist. Species may create novel ecological opportunities for new species to exploit through ecosystem modification 64 , 65 , 66 . Ecosystem modification is particularly likely to lead to evolutionary consequences if it increases structural and resource heterogeneity 64 . Although the time-averaged nature of the fossil record makes it difficult to reconstruct the ecological effects of hominin behaviour, it is not unlikely that hominins, particularly those belonging to the genus Homo , were ecosystem engineers 67 , 68 , and that the ecological opportunities afforded by their behaviour promoted the appearance of novel hominin species. Behaviours that may have contributed particularly strongly to such dynamics are the use of fire 69 , which can cause widespread landscape modification, and the adoption of active and intensive hunting, which will have exerted new pressures on the distribution and population sizes of hominin prey 68 .

An adaptive ‘trait’ potentially critical to repeated geographic expansions—whether caused by competition or not—as well as creating ecological opportunities for new species and exploiting ecological opportunities afforded by other hominins, is technology 70 , 71 . Of course, lithic technology predates Homo 72 , but what can be said with some certainty is that neither Australopithecus and Paranthropus , nor other vertebrates, rely on stone tool technology to the same degree as Homo 73 . The suggestion that repeated and ratcheted technological innovation promoted speciation stands in stark contrast to Wolpoff’s single species hypothesis 1 .

However, it may be that Homo speciation merely appears to be positively diversity dependent because non- Homo taxa were present at the time of Homo species origination, and that it is not necessarily the presence of these taxa that resulted in Homo speciation. What is incongruous about this explanation, in the context of the evidence for negative diversity dependent speciation across the clade as a whole, is why the presence of these other species did not restrict Homo speciation as predicted. This overlap hints at competitive displacement from occupied niches, rather than the opportunistic replacement documented in, for example, carnivores 74 .

Homo is characterized, finally, by negative diversity-dependent extinction (mean 92.3% and 99.7% of the posterior distributions <0 for all Bayesian models and Bayesian models accounting for fossil preservation bias, respectively). To the best of our knowledge, this pattern has not been documented in other clades. It may be the case that negative diversity-dependent extinction is a statistical artefact of coeval extinction events unrelated to diversity—presumably precipitated by climate change 53 . Although we cannot rule this out, because we did not explicitly contrast the effects of climate and diversity in our models, there are problems with a climate-only explanation for this pattern. Given that Homo evolution occurred during a period of increased climatic deterioration and change 5 , 75 , 76 , and that estimated extinction times did not occur at exactly the same time, and both before and after episodes of major cooling (Table 1 ), it is difficult to pinpoint a single climatic event that underlies Homo extinctions. We propose two alternative explanations for this pattern. First, it may be the case that repeated innovations in adaptive strategies in Homo resulted in coeval competitive replacement of a number of species by a single innovator species. For instance, shifts in life history and dietary strategy within Homo erectus sensu lato 77 may have allowed this taxon to replace competitively early forms of Homo , and the same may have been true for the cognitive and behavioural innovations of Homo sapiens relative to Late Pleistocene hominins 78 . This echoes a recent point made by Bokma and colleagues 79 . A related explanation for late Pleistocene replacement by Homo sapiens is that most roughly coeval hominin extinctions are caused by climate, but that the extreme generalism of Homo sapiens prevents late-surviving forms from speciating 16 . These mechanisms, which may interact with climatic and environmental shifts which stimulated the adaptive novelties, would produce a negative diversity signal.

Accounting for variability in fossil preservation rates within and between lineages, and across time, resulted in longer estimated species lifespans (Fig. 1a ) than those based on published FADs and LADs, and these extended lifespans are more in line with the mammalian average of 1 million years 80 , 81 . That actual hominin fossil FADs and LADs do not fully represent species’ lifespans aligns with findings that hominin fossils are comparatively rare within mammal assemblages 82 . Further implications of these results relate to phylogeny: there are three sets of conventionally hypothesized ancestor–descendant relationships that our new origination and extinction times suggest cannot have occurred unless in the context of non-Hennigian speciation 83 , in which the ancestral species persists alongside its daughter species. Paranthropus boisei originated ~0.1 million years after its putative ancestor Paranthropus aethiopicus 84 , and they overlapped temporally for >0.5 million years. This latter pattern is also true for Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis , and for Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis 85 . In the case of Au. anamensis and Au. afarensis , our results echo recent evidence for the contemporaneity of the two species 86 . Further, the earlier origination date of Homo floresiensis aligns with that inferred across the Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 phylogeny. Overall, these new datasets underscore previous calls 82 to account for incomplete sampling in analyses of hominin macroevolution. Our results suggest that using conventional FADs and LADs underestimates species’ temporal ranges, with attendant problems for the validity of conclusions.

Evolution is clearly a pluralistic process, with the attendant expectation that climatic processes and competition both influence vertebrate macroevolution. Disentangling their relative roles is an area of ongoing research 13 , 88 , 89 , and the first step in doing so in hominins was addressing the comparative dearth of explicit research on diversity-dependent macroevolution. The evidence for negative diversity dependence in speciation across the clade overall and the strong and unexpected evidence for the part that interspecific competition may have played in both speciation and extinction in the genus Homo are difficult to reconcile with conventional models that place exclusive emphasis on the role of climate in hominin macroevolution. Ultimately, the climatic ‘Court Jester’ must set the stage upon which the ‘Red Queen’ of interspecific competition ‘dances’ 90 , and our results point to a need to further explore the relationship between climate and competition, and how this relationship drove macroevolution, in our own lineage. Finally, an important effect of the inferred longer species lifespans is notably extended periods of temporal overlap between sympatric species, such as P. boisei and early Homo in East Africa 19 as well as Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus africanus in South Africa. Extended periods of sympatry provide the context for interspecific competition at smaller scales, with effects at equivalent scales, such as microevolutionary morphological evolution driven by competition-mediated niche separation 10 , 13 , 91 . Our results, then, point to the need to further explore the possible effects of interspecific competition at all scales 16 .

In vertebrates, speciation is often negatively diversity dependent, and extinction is expected to show positive diversity dependence. Our results are consistent with diversity limits at the level of the hominin tribe that governed speciation in hominins overall, and with these not being quite reached by the Australopithecus and Paranthropus subclade before its extinction. There was no signal of diversity dependence in Australopithecus and Paranthropus subclade extinction, or that of hominins overall: this is concordant with climate playing a bigger part in hominin extinction than speciation. Homo emerged as an evolutionary outlier amongst its hominin and vertebrate relatives. There is strong evidence that Homo extinction was negatively diversity dependent. Whether this reflects a process of repeated replacements of numerous older forms by more modern species of Homo or simply a correlation with pulsed climatic events, or a more complex relationship between climate and diversity, are new questions raised by these results. Finally, speciation in Homo was found to be relatively robustly positively diversity dependent across two analytical approaches. We argue that the comparatively unusual pattern of positive diversity-dependent speciation we report is concordant with a set of underappreciated and non-mutually exclusive drivers of speciation in Homo : interspecific competition, repeated geographic expansions potentially driven by interspecific competition, and ecosystem engineering by other members of Homo opening up new niches. Whatever the exact processes driving these patterns, the results presented here suggest that Homo was characterized by comparatively unusual and unexpected macroevolutionary dynamics.

Data collection

Occurrence data and fads and lads.

Fossil occurrence data were obtained in November 2023 from the Paleobiology Database ( https://paleobiodb.org/#/ ), using a taxon search for ‘hominin’; the NOW Database 92 ; and the ROCEEH ROAD Database 93 . The taxonomy of the Paleobiology Database occurrence data was checked for spelling errors using the PyRate ‘check_names’ function 49 and manually for synonyms. Occurrence data from the three databases were merged. Duplicates were identified manually, and records with most up-to-date age estimates were retained. If occurrences did not have a specified accession number, duplicates were identified based on location (geological formation and/or member, latitude and longitude) in combination with inspection of specified source publications (if available). To account for differences in the three databases’ approach to defining occurrence localities (for example, Au. afarensis at Laetoli comprises two entries in the Paleobiology Database, both of which are composites of more than two find spots, whereas all find spots are separate entries in the NOW database), we took a hierarchical approach to recording occurrences, recording ‘Site complex’ (for example, the Woranso-Mille palaeoanthropological research area), ‘Site’ (for example, Taung), ‘Subsite’ (for example, localities or surface find spots within a ‘site’; subsite ‘type’ was also recorded), ‘Formation’ (for example, Koobi Fora) and ‘Stratigraphic unit’ (for example, Member 4). Not all occurrences had information for all variables: for example, the Mauer site is not part of a larger ‘Site’ complex. We supplemented and updated the merged database with occurrence information obtained from literature reviews of papers published after 2016 and cross-checked our database with occurrence information supplied in published overviews of research where available 84 , 94 , 95 .

Species’ published FADs and LADs, which are conventionally taken as speciation and extinction ‘times’, were taken from Wood and Boyle 96 and supplemented with dates of more recently published species in the manner described by van Holstein and Foley 97 .

We used the phylogeny with the best Akaike information criterion score from Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 . In contrast to other hominin phylogenies 98 , 99 , 100 , this phylogeny combines probabilistic models of morphological evolution and fossil preservation to recover anagenetic relationships between hominin species. It therefore uniquely recovers ancestor–descendant relationships that are (1) likely to be more realistic than those on phylogenies that do not incorporate them, and (2) broadly accepted based on morphological evidence alone (for example, between Au. anamensis and Au. afarensis 85 ).

The species diversification rate, tip DR, of Jetz et al. 101 , which calculates the tip-specific speciation rate, was calculated for every tip using R code from Upham et al. 102 :

where DR is the tip DR for species i , N i is the number of edges between species I and the root, and l is the length of edge j (with j  = 1 being the edge closest to the extant tip). For each tip, the number of extant species at 500,000 years before the tip height was obtained using the ‘getExtant’ function in the phytools package 103 .

To determine whether speciation and extinction times were correlated with species diversity, we ran birth–death models, with diversity as predictor, in a validated Bayesian framework 49 , 50 on five datasets with estimated times of species origination and extinction. The first dataset was based on the conservative FADs and LADs estimated by Wood and Boyle 96 , with additions from van Holstein and Foley 97 , and thus incorporates no variability in fossil preservation rates. The subsequent four datasets were based on our new hominin occurrence database. From these data, we estimated four new sets of times of speciation and extinction with two sets of explicit fossil preservation rate priors and two operational definitions of localities (at the finest-grained occurrence level available ( n  = 385 occurrences) and at the broadest occurrence level (that is, with all occurrences at a site complex merged into a single occurrence; n  = 267 occurrences). As there were no differences in the direction of inferred relationships between these datasets, we report results for both models of preservation from the most fine-grained occurrence level; results for the broadest occurrence level are provided Supplementary Table 1 .

In the first dataset, we modelled fossil preservation as a function of a time-variable Poisson process. Preservation rates were allowed to vary every 1 million years. In the second dataset, we allowed fossil preservation to vary over the course of a species’ lifespan by modelling it with a non-homogeneous Poisson process of preservation 49 . This allowed us to take into account that fossils are less likely to form at the start and end of a species’ lifespan, as the number of individuals belonging to a species is low. In both datasets, fossil preservation was also allowed to vary between lineages by incorporating a gamma model of rate heterogeneity 49 . We generated ten replicates of estimated times of species origination and extinction for both preservation regimes using the Reversible Jump MCMC algorithm in the python programme PyRate 49 , to incorporate dating uncertainty into the results 104 . All analyses described below were then performed on the ten replicates, and results were joined into a single posterior sample.

We generated lineage-through-time estimates for all three datasets in PyRate. We then applied a PyRate birth–death model in which Homo and non- Homo speciation and extinction rates were determined by an exponential correlation to a time-variable predictor, in this case clade-wide lineage-through-time estimates for each set of times of origination and extinction. To compare these results with the pattern across the whole clade, we ran an exponential diversity-dependent birth–death model, in which the whole clade’s own diversity was used as the predictor variable. As the sample size was inevitably relatively small, we ran each model for 2,000,000 iterations, sampling every 1,000 iterations.

Analyses based on phylogeny

These analyses were performed in R 4.01 (ref. 105 ). To explore further the relationship between speciation and diversity—and, in particular, the difference between Homo and non- Homo species—we ran phylogenetic GLS regressions to determine whether there were differences between Homo and non- Homo in the relationship between speciation rates and previous clade-wide diversity:

where DR is the tip DR and SD is the phylogeny-based species diversity at 500,000 years before the tip.

The phylogenetic correlation structure of residual error in the phylogenetic GLS was accounted for in the nlme ‘correlation’ argument 106 . The model assumed a Brownian motion model for residual error structure, following previous work on regressions including speciation rates 101 , 107 , 108 . Non-contemporaneity of tips was represented in the nlme argument ‘weights’.

To test the ability of the phylogeny-based approach described above to correctly distinguish between diversity-dependent and non-diversity-dependent speciation, we simulated 1,000 phylogenies under a constant-rate birth–death process using the ‘pbtree’ function in the phytools package 103 , preserving extinct tips, and repeated the analyses described above for equation ( 2 ) to estimate how often diversity-dependent speciation was erroneously inferred across non-ultrametric trees generated under a non-diversity-dependent process. We then generated 1,000 phylogenies simulated under a diversity-dependent regime using the ‘ddsim’ function in the DDD package 109 . These phylogenies were simulated with birth and death rates and carrying capacities randomly drawn from a normal distribution with means that produced trees with similar tip numbers to those of the Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 phylogeny in a trial run, and with a maximum tree height of 7, so as to produce similarly small phylogenies to the Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 tree. We then randomly removed up to 40% of tips and repeated the analyses to investigate the sensitivity of results to incomplete sampling.

We also tested the sensitivity of the results of phylogeny-based analyses using equation (2) to the increased probability of species discovery towards the present 82 , which could have resulted in underrepresentation of non- Homo species relative to the younger Homo species included in the analyses. To do so, we generated 4,000 phylogenies with up to +50% non- Homo species added in random locations and with random tip heights to the original Parins-Fukuchi et al. 87 phylogeny, using the ‘bind_tip’ function in the phytools package 103 . We repeated the analyses described above for equation (2) and calculated the proportion of trees across which the original results were maintained.

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

All data are available on figshare: https://figshare.com/s/46fe37e09047513e31b0 (ref. 110 ).

Code availability

All code is available on figshare: https://figshare.com/s/46fe37e09047513e31b0 (ref. 110 ).

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Saers and M. Mirazón-Lahr for insightful discussion of this manuscript. This work was supported by a Clare College (University of Cambridge) Junior Research Fellowship (2022-2025) awarded to L.v.H.

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    An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a dissertation or research paper). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about. ... This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense but should never refer to the future, ...

  10. What Exactly is an Abstract?

    1. The abstract stands alone. An abstract shouldn't be considered "part" of a paper—it should be able to stand independently and still tell the reader something significant. 2. Keep it short. A general rule of abstract length is 200-300 words, or about 1/10th of the entire paper. 3.

  11. How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

    So, one must focus on writing a useful abstract for a research paper. Your abstract will define the interest of the readers towards your research work. Following steps that students must keep in their minds for writing an abstract:-. Step 1. Complete your research work.

  12. How to Write an Abstract

    An abstract is a concise summary of the major findings in your research paper. It is usually found at the beginning of your research paper. A good abstract should be able to give the average lay reader a strong sense of the main findings within your full-text paper. Abstracts are typically one paragraph depending on how you decide to structure it.

  13. How to Write an Abstract (With Examples)

    Put your abstract straight after the title and acknowledgements pages. Use present or past tense, not future tense. Examples of an Abstract. 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.

  14. How to Write an Abstract in APA Format with Examples

    An APA abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article, research paper, dissertation, or report. It is written in accordance with the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is a widely used format in social and behavioral sciences.

  15. Role of an Abstract in Research Paper With Examples

    Abstract is a concise academic text that -. Helps the potential reader get the relevance of your research study for their own research. Communicates your key findings for those who have time constraints in reading your paper. And helps rank the article on search engines based on the keywords on academic databases.

  16. Writing an abstract

    The abstract is a vital part of any research paper. It is the shop front for your work, and the first stop for your reader. ... That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract ...

  17. How to Write An Abstract For Research Papers: Tips & Examples

    Abstracts are one of the most common research documents, and thousands of them have been written in time past. So, before writing yours, try to study a couple of samples from others. You can find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases. 3. Steer Clear of Jargon As Much As Possible.

  18. How to Write a Research Paper: Parts of the Paper

    1. The Title. The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon. Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title. 2.

  19. How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference

    The abstract of a paper is the only part of the paper that is published in conference proceedings. The abstract is the only part of the paper that a potential referee sees when he is invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract is the only part of the paper that readers see when they search through electronic databases such as PubMed.

  20. PDF What is an abstract?

    An abstract is a short summary of a research paper. Abstracts are meant to help your reader understand what the research paper is about and what some of the key takeaways from the paper will be. Abstracts are usually about a paragraph long but can be longer based on the type of document. For example, a Dissertation abstract will be

  21. Research Paper Structure

    A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1 Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices. These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in ...

  22. Research Paper

    The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. ... Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the ...

  23. Meritocracy across Countries

    Abstract. Are labor markets in higher-income countries more meritocratic, in the sense that worker-job matching is based on skills rather than idiosyncratic attributes unrelated to productivity?

  24. It's Not Easy Being Anti-Greenwashing

    Abstract. Policy-makers who focus on financial regulation have identified greenwashing — the making of false claims relating to the environment and sustainability— as a major problem requiring enforcement and regulatory responses. ... Whereas the EU rules are part of a planned EU-level project to ensure that EU financial markets as a whole ...

  25. Interpreting the Ambiguities of Section 230

    Abstract. As evidenced by the confusion expressed by multiple Justices in last Term's Gonzalez v. Google, there is little consensus as to the scope of Section 230, the law that broadly immunizes internet platforms from liability for third-party content.

  26. Phys. Rev. Research 6, 023069 (2024)

    In this paper, we introduce a generic strategy to accelerate and improve the overall performance of machine-learning algorithms, both in their classical and quantum versions, heavily rely on optimization algorithms based on gradients, such as gradient descent. The overall performance is dependent on the appearance of local minima and barren plateaus, which slow down calculations and lead to ...

  27. Diversity-dependent speciation and extinction in hominins

    In an analysis of how biotic interactions regulate hominin evolutionary dynamics, the authors show that speciation is negatively related to species diversity in Australopithecus and Paranthropus ...

  28. The Impact of Immigration on Firms and Workers: Insights from the H-1B

    We study how random variation in the availability of highly educated, foreign-born workers impacts firm performance and recruitment behavior. We combine two rich data sources: 1) administrative employer-employee matched data from the US Census Bureau; and 2) firm level information on the first large-scale H-1B visa lottery in 2007.

  29. Optimal simulation approach for tomato flakes drying in hybrid solar

    Lalan Kumar is graduated in Mechanical Engineering from PTU, Jalandhar in the year 2012. He did M.Tech in thermal engineering from RGPV Bhopal in 2018 and Ph.D from BIT Mesra in 2024. Recently he is working as Assistant Professor in Deptt. of Mech. Engg, Usha Martin University, Ranchi,India.He has published approximately eight research papers in international journals He is working in the ...