One of the first things a researcher learns when starting out is the K.I.S.S. principle: “Keep it Simple, Stupid”. Unnecessary complexity, abstract notions, and ambiguity are considered bad writing practices and must be strictly avoided while writing research articles.
The same goes for Abstracts. Reviewers will think you’re a genius if you’re able to take complex subject matter and explain it in a simple, compelling way. Abstract is generally the reduced form of your research article that highlights the key points enclosed, concisely defines its content and scope, and analyses its material in a summarized form. Simply, it’s the minimized version of your research paper.
An effective abstract is the one that allows its reader to quickly and correctly grasp the core idea of the article. After reading the abstract, readers should be able to decide whether or not the presented research is of interest to them.
A perfect abstract must contain statement of purpose, research methodology, research findings, observed results and conclusions. These components do not necessarily have to be presented in the above mentioned order. How the elements are sequenced in your abstract depends on the intended audience. For-instance, if the audience is exclusively or mainly interested in quickly applying state-of-the-art information, then perhaps you would want to discuss your most important deductions and results first, followed by the statement of purpose, research approach and further conclusions and specifications.
What an Abstract Must Have
Most of the following suggestions come from the American National Standard for Writing Abstracts published by the Council of National Library and Information Associations.
- Explain the purpose of your paper. Preferably in one sentence, state the primary objectives, scope of the study including rationale for your research.
- In terms of research methodology, clearly state the techniques or approaches used in your study.
- Describe your results, the data collected, and effects observed as briefly and concisely as possible. Results could be experimental or theoretical, just remember to reflect that in your abstract. Clearly highlight your motivation and contribution. Give special priority to new and verified findings that contradict existing theories, if any.
- The conclusion part should essentially describe the implications of the results: Why are the results of your study important to your field and how do they relate to the purpose of your research?
- Write your paper first, and then write the abstract.
- Good abstract must not exceed 250 words.
- Proofread your abstract several times
- Avoid complex jargons and acronyms — readers do not encourage complicated and unfamiliar terms.
- Identify your potential audience and aim your abstract accordingly.
- Find a reader buddy, who can peer review your abstract and explain you what your research is about. Or try the 12-year old nephew test: Could he understand your topic if you explain it? He should. If s/he has issues explaining your research, your abstract possibly needs reconsideration.
A well-structured abstract plays a key role in the acceptance of a research paper, encourages the people to read it and increases its impact. Needless to say, a badly research paper with poor presentation, even with commendable knowledge, has far less probability of being accepted and published.
The article is written by Umme Habiba.