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Writing an APA Abstract: Format & Examples

Instructor: Michelle Blessing

Michelle is a corrections therapist at a state prison. She has also taught classes at community college. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.

An abstract is a brief summary of the topic you plan to cover in your paper. APA style has specific guidelines you must follow when completing the abstract of your paper. Read on for tips and examples.

What Is An Abstract?

An abstract of a paper provides your reader with a snapshot of what you are going to talk about or cover on a selected topic. It allows your reader to quickly determine if what you have to say about a topic is the information he or she needs. It is also useful in databases or search engines when people search for specific keywords. Good abstracts are short and concise (no more than one paragraph), and they provide a basic overview of the information to be presented in your paper.

Purpose of an APA Abstract

The American Psychological Association has detailed guidelines that you must follow when writing an APA paper. Depending upon the journal you are submitting your paper to, the abstract may have a specific word limit. Generally speaking, an abstract should be between 150 and 250 words (maximum). The abstract should give readers a glimpse of what you will discuss and any results you have found. The following list will help you understand what needs to be included in an abstract, based on the type of paper you are writing:

Empirical Study
Problem, participants, study method, basic findings, conclusion

Literature Review
Problem, participants, main results, conclusions, further studies needed

Theory Paper
Question, chosen theory, how it might impact question

Methodology Paper
Methods, application, features of study, basic statistics

Case Study
Subjects and characteristics, question, solution (if applicable), future studies

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