An abstract is a tightly written summary of a completed research paper or project. Abstracts help readers to focus on the most important points of a paper or project. Abstracts also function as a way to categorize your research by keywords for search engines. A well-written abstract entices your audience to continue reading or to attend your presentation.
Presenting the Problem
The first part of a well-written abstract should state the problem or issue being addressed by your research. It explains why you should care, why you should keep reading or why the research is relevant. For example, in a research paper on the rise of heroin addiction in the United States, the first sentence might read, “The social consequences of heroin addiction impact homes, neighborhoods and communities around the country.” This example states the problem: heroin addiction. It also clearly states that its impact can be felt at every level of society, making it everyone’s problem. This encourages the reader to continue to find out why it is happening, where it is happening and what can be done about the problem.
Method to the Madness
The next part of an abstract lets readers know where you got your information. It is the method you used to reach the conclusions you draw in your paper or project. For example, in the case of the heroin addiction topic, you may have interviewed a number of students in grades 8 to 12 to gather information. You could include research findings from reputable agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or mention that you met with local drug enforcement agency personnel to get firsthand knowledge of the problem in your area. Sharing the methods with your readers creates the credibility necessary to motivate them to keep reading.
The Results Please
The third part of a well-written abstract presents the reader with the results of your study or project. The results should include the data you collected, what you learned about the topic that you did not know before and any surprising or unexpected findings. For example, when summarizing the results of the heroin topic you might say, “The research conducted shows that nearly 2 percent of all high school students in 2013, in grades 8 to 12, experimented at least once with heroin. These surprising results indicate that the drug epidemic, and especially the heroin problem, is far from over.”
Since the goal of an abstract is to entice readers to continue reading or to attend your presentation, drawing a strong conclusion based on your research is the final -- and perhaps most important -- part of your abstract. A conclusion sentence compels readers to identify the parts of your research that support your findings. It also motivates them to come to their own conclusions about your subject matter. The conclusion should state the implications of the research for society as a whole or for a specific group of people. For example, “Based on the results of this study, more needs to be done in the areas of education, prevention and community awareness when it comes to fighting the war on heroin and other drugs of abuse.”
Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.