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Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition
Abstracts are a good way to sum up the key contents of a paper, from the research that it uses to the ideas that you want to share with the reader. Further, if you ever publish your paper, it will help readers to find and to understand what your whole paper covers so that it is easier for those readers to do quick, quality research. A good abstract is actually quick and simple, so it should not take much time to do, and it only has three basic pieces of content.
The content in an abstract typically is split into three elements: the summary of info in your paper, the summary of your research sources, and keywords.
In order to summarize your paper, you should consider naming the main topic of your paper and the problem statement. You should also address the controlling idea for your paper. The controlling idea explains exactly how you will talk about the main topic. It's also important to note that the abstract must not contain information not included in the research paper.
For example, a writer might choose the main topic of 'healthcare.' This is a broad topic, and in his or her paper, the writer should consider how to specifically discuss this topic. The writer may discuss the Affordable Care Act or insurance premiums or socialized medicine or any number of specific ideas about healthcare. This more specific way of talking about the broad main topic is the controlling idea.
You might also give some basic insight into how you will discuss the main topic. This should not take up too many words. Take about 50 to 100 words to complete this part of your abstract. Of course, a longer paper might call for a longer summary in your abstract.
Once you have summarized your paper, the next thing that you should do is to summarize the research sources that you have used to help write your paper. You do not have to name every source here. Instead, you should just name a few of the sources that you used most often and summarize how these sources specifically helped you to write your paper. For example:
'This paper is heavily based on the Mario Masters (2014) study on how video games can improve hand-eye coordination and the Zelda Prower (2012) book 'Forced to Try Again: Repetition in Video Games,' which is a major basis for the section on how video games can help people improve their patience and their study habits.'
You can see here that the piece names two different works that make up a major part of the research for the paper. Not only does this part of the abstract name the key sources, but it explains how the information in those sources was used specifically in writing the paper. This section should also be about 50 to 100 words long.
It is not mandatory to add direct citations to the sources that are listed in the abstract, but it is a good idea. The reader can use your short citation to cross-reference any works that are cited in your abstract with the longer, fuller citation for it on your reference page. If you add a citation, simply adding the year of publication for the work in parentheses next to the name of the author will do.
Finally, you should add some keywords on a single line after the abstract. These keywords are like search terms. If your reader puts these search terms into a database where your paper is stored, it would come up in his or her search results. Choose keywords that are broad, but that also fit the topic of your paper. You only need to add three or four keywords to your abstract.
This is an example of an abstract. The summary of info in your paper and your sources should go in one paragraph that is not indented. The keywords come on a line beneath the paragraph.
In order to write an abstract, you should start by centering the word 'Abstract' at the top of the page, centered.
You should then write a single paragraph in double-spacing that covers the summary of information in your paper and the summary of your research sources. This paragraph should not have its first line indented, unlike other paragraphs that you write.
Once you have completed this paragraph, go down to a line beneath the paragraph and add the keywords by writing the word 'Keywords:' with a colon after it. Make sure that you put this word in italics. After the colon, list two or three keywords. The keywords that you choose should be broad terms that describe your paper topic.
This abstract should be on its own page. Do not add any other writing after you complete the abstract paragraph and the keywords.
When writing an abstract, your goal is to summarize the information in your paper, to summarize the key sources that you pulled your info and research from, and to offer some keywords so that your paper would be easily searchable in a database. You should do this in one paragraph of about 100 to 200 total words, or more for a longer paper. Doing this will help the reader get a quick overview of what your paper is about and what you were most interested in focusing on as you wrote about your topic.
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