How to Write an Abstract for a Presentation

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Presentation abstracts are invitations to a party. If you want your audience to be excited and curious to see what your study or experiment can offer the world, this article will show you how to add some sparkle to your invite.

Get to the Point Already

The purpose of an abstract is to highlight the most important information in a scientific study that others can use to get a clear understanding of what the study was about, why the study or experiment was conducted and what the results of that study or experiment were. Abstracts for scientific papers are often used to submit scientific work to journals and other research and study venues. An abstract for a presentation is different, however. Try to think of a presentation abstract as an invitation to a party. You want to create as much excitement and curiosity for your scientific study as possible.

When writing an abstract for a presentation, the demands of an abstract require the information presented to be more succinct. A typical abstract for a scientific paper should be between 200 and 250 words, which is broken down into four sections including the introduction, methods, results and a conclusion. A presentation abstract should have fewer than 250 words and the breakdown is a bit more simplified and condensed. There are a couple reasons for this. A presentation relies on the use of visual aids, so the poster or other visual should essentially illustrate the abstract. The other reason an abstract for a presentation should be more abbreviated is because you'll be presenting information orally along with a visual, so it's not necessary for the abstract to contain all of the information a typical abstract would require. Remember that you're trying to create excitement and curiosity. The information you should focus on for a presentation abstract is as follows:

  • Context
  • Objective
  • Methods
  • Results

Context & Objective

A presentation abstract should offer the audience the context for the scientific study or experiment in as few words as possible. This portion of the abstract should be an answer to the pressing question that led to and developed your research and/or study. What were you hoping to discover? Why did you decide to pursue this study? What was the purpose? The context should give people the best understanding of your study and what you're going to present. Try to do this in one sentence.

The objective section of your presentation abstract should focus on what was discovered and what can now be added to current knowledge because of your study. If your research, experiment or study found that chewing three different brands of gum and doing jumping jacks cures cancer, then that information should be included in the objective. If there is a significant difference between what you were hoping to discover and what you actually discovered, that should also be included.

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