An abstract is a short summary of a longer work and provides an overview of the topic and shouldn’t have anything in it that’s not in the paper itself.
Although brief, (typically 150-300 words), an abstract should be written in a way that piques the reader’s interest in your paper.
Whereas the purpose of an introduction is to broadly introduce your topic and your key message, the purpose of an abstract is to give an overview of your entire project, in particular its findings and contribution to the field. An abstract should be a standalone summary of your paper, which readers can use to decide whether it’s relevant to them.
Usually an abstract includes the following:
- A brief introduction to the topic that you’re investigating
- Explanation of why the topic is important in your field/s
- Statement about what the gap is in the research
- Your research question/s/aim/s
- An indication of your research methods and approach
- Your key message
- A summary of your key findings
- An explanation of why your findings and key message contribute to the field/s.
In other words, an abstract includes points covering these questions.
- What is your paper about?
- Why is it important?
- How did you do it?
- What did you find?
- Why are your findings important?
In all cases, the abstract is the very last thing you write. It should be a completely independent, self-contained text, not an excerpt copied from your paper. An abstract should be fully understandable on its own to someone who hasn’t read your full paper or related sources.
If you are writing for a conference paper or an article in a publication, adhere to the writing style guide for recommended fonts which are generally: 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial.
The easiest approach to writing an abstract is to imitate the structure of the larger work—think of it as a miniature version of your paper. In most cases, this means the abstract should contain four key elements, to provide a clear structure. These elements are:
- Results/Discussion and
Other elements to be considered are future Implications (or implications for policy; or future implications for nursing and policy) and/or research.
Do not use the same sentence for the first line of the abstract and the introduction.
Do not place references in the abstract.
How do I pick my keywords for under the abstract?
Keywords are words that capture the most important aspects of your paper. What words describe the topic of your paper, words that you would enter into a search box to find your paper? The keywords line should begin indented like a paragraph. (In typeset APA journal articles, the keywords line is aligned under the abstract.)
Keywords: indented (like a regular paragraph), italic (but not bold) followed by a space and the keywords from your abstract. The keywords themselves should not be italicised. Keywords do not need to be in alphabetical order.
Ο The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one A4 sheet of paper.
Ο The abstract is included after the title page and/or acknowledgements and before the table of contents.
Ο The objective, problem statement, and/or research questions are stated.
Ο The methodology is briefly described.
Ο The most important results are summarised.
Ο The main conclusions are stated.
Ο Any recommendations and/or suggestions for further research are mentioned.
Ο The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.
Ο Implications to nursing and policy and further research.
Elsevier. 2018 Collegian. The Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship and Research. Author Information Pack. Accessed 7 April 2020.
McCombes, S. 2020. How to write an abstract. Accessed 7 April 2020.
McDonald, J. 2015. How to write and abstract: Some useful tips. What’s the purpose of an abstract? Accessed 7 April 2020.
Nordquist, R. 2019. How to Write an Abstract Definition and Tips. Accessed 7 April 2020.
American Psychological Association. (2020). APA style guide. 7th Edition. Abstract and Keywords Guide Accessed 28 October 2020.