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How to Write a Scientific Abstract

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Scientific abstracts contain the most pertinent information of your scientific paper, and when written effectively, create a clear and convenient path toward the scientific work you've done.

Scientific Abstract Definition

A scientific abstract is an overview of a scientific paper intended to give researchers and other scientists a general understanding of a particular study without making them read the entire paper. In terms of research, reading an entire paper would be an extremely inefficient use of time, especially if that researcher is looking for a specific piece of information. Abstracts are used in scientific journals and research databases to make pertinent information more accessible to researchers and scientists. Because the abstract is a representation of a scientific paper, it's important to make the abstract as precise as possible.

An abstract is a usually between 200 and 250 words. It's broken down into four sequential sections:

  • Background or Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results or Findings
  • Conclusion

Before you begin to write the abstract, you should read through your paper carefully and underline the key points and information you will need to write the abstract. Abstracts should follow a logical, chronological order, and should be little, concise representations of your paper.

Background or Introduction

The background or introduction section of the abstract should briefly outline what is already known about a particular subject and what is unknown about that subject that the study tried to discover. It specifically states what the paper presents. Generally, backgrounds or introductions are 1-2 sentences long. Most of this information should be found in the introduction of your paper. Go through your introduction again and find the information that will fit under this section.

Methods

While you are writing your abstract, it's important to keep things in chronological order, so as you review your paper for this section, make sure you keep the notes for your abstract organized. This section of the abstract is the second longest portion (The first is Results or Findings, which will be discussed in the next section of this lesson.) The methods section describes what was done and how. The information you need to be looking for in this section is information about the actual study including, but not limited to, the design, setting of the study, how samples were taken, sample size and number of groups of samples, treatment or experiment tools, duration, research tools or instruments used, and how the primary outcome was measured.

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