Writing an MLA Abstract

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

An __abstract__ is a well worded summary of a paper, place at the beginning so that others that are looking at your work as a resource will have an idea of what is within the paper without having to read it all.

Why Do You Need An Abstract?

An abstract is a requirement for academic papers to help summarize and explain the contents of the paper. This allows for a quick summary for other researchers that are looking to use your work as a source for their own personal academic research. This means that within the abstract all major points should be notated without providing too many details. This succinct synopsis can be required in all types of writing styles: APA, Chicago, or MLA.

Types of Abstracts

Descriptive - This abstract is very short, usually 100 words or less and only contains a taste of the report, but not the full analysis. In this abstract you are actually using it to entice a reader to actually delve into the report to find out the results of the research.

Informational - This abstract is longer but still usually only an average of 250 - 300 words. This abstract should contain a small piece of information on everything in the paper. This summary is meant to inform the reader specifically what the paper is about, and a full idea of the contents.

MLA Abstract Requirements

  • One paragraph or two at the most
  • Double-spaced
  • One inch margins
  • Introduction, Body, and Conclusion Format
  • Spell out acronyms
  • Follows the sequence of the paper
  • No need to cite within the abstract itself
  • No footnotes needed

MLA Abstract - Madison

Things to Remember

First thing when writing your abstract is to summarize your work, look through your paper and jot down the ideas within in order. As you create this summary, it will become lengthy but this is purely a starting point. Once you have sequentially summarized your paper then you can use that summary to create your abstract. If you are following the informational abstract requirements, which is the usual format, then you will just need to reformat your summary to fit the guidelines and length. Always think about what you would want to see when you are looking for resources, what information in your paper is most important and needs to be stated immediately.

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