Tips for Writing Abstracts
Learning to write an abstract is an important part of the writing and information sharing process in higher education and academic research. Abstracts can be written for an intended project or work, a work or project in process or a completed project to work.
There are different uses for abstracts in higher education and they are typically created for:
- providing some form of an overview of a completed report, research, paper, etc. to an audience
- submitting research articles to journals for publication, especially online journals for publication
- applying research grant proposals
- submitting a book or chapter proposal
- providing an overview of a thesis such as a Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
- submitting a proposal for a conference paper, conference talk, poster session etc.
- critically assessing other works in a review for publication
- highlighting a project
There are four types of abstract styles (https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide) used in higher education and academic research:
- Critical: Presents a judgment or comment about a study’s validity, reliability, or completeness. (a least common type of abstract)
- Descriptive: Briefly describes a longer work or study and tells what it contains. (a most common type of abstract)
- Highlight: Attracts the reader’s attention to the project, study, etc. Written to spark the reader’s interest. This type of abstract is rarely used in academic writing. (a least common type of abstract)
- Informative: Presents all the main parts such as what, why, how, and important results. Includes the essential points. (a most common type of abstract)
The CUSRR abstract is a slightly modified version of an informative abstract; the information in CUSRR abstract (300 words) is an overview of your summer research project and there are guiding questions provided that you should address in your abstract. Use the suggestions below to help you write and edit the abstract.
An abstract for this event works best if it answers the following questions:
- What is your project? What are your project’s goals?
- Provide engaging context here. The beginning of the abstract should give the reader a clear sense of the research in an engaging but professional manner.
- Why is your project so important and exciting to you? Why should it be for us?
- Get to the point -don’t be wordy and be specific and clear in word and sentence structure.
- What are some of the interesting methods you are using to accomplish your goals?
- Careful not use wording that is overly discipline specific.
- What have you accomplished thus far and what do your efforts contribute to your field? To our community? To our institution?
- Let the light shine on the work!
Suggestions for Writing the CUSRR Abstract
- Your audience is your peers
- 300 words maximum
- Use this process to reflect on the research/discovery process
- Best written when it’s well-developed paragraph that is coherent and concise, and is able to stand alone as a unit of information
- Reminder that an abstract is not an introduction, it’s a condensed overview
- Use your faculty mentor as an advisor on grammar, style and content.
- Write in terms and use language that is accessible to students and faculty outside of your discipline – so no jargon and do not use abbreviations and acronyms without defining them first
- Give readers a short but concise overview of the whole work
- Write complete sentences
- Be specific as possible in your language and watch for undefined antecedents
- Do not use sentences with ellipticals [i.e., “…”]
- Provide logical connections between the content included in abstract
- When editing the abstract:
- Ask yourself if you have answered the “questions” above that suggested content to include in the abstract
- Have a peer read it for feedback
- Read it out loud as part of the editing process, and listen to how it flows
- After writing it ask yourself: if your abstract was the only one would you be happy with the amount of information presented there? Does it provide a complete overview of the paper/project, etc.? If the answer is “no” then the abstract could probably be edited and revised
- 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.
Click here to see examples of past CUSRR abstracts.
The following resources provide guidance and sample abstracts that are relevant to all academic disciplines: