How to write an abstract for a research paper

It’s not enough that you’ve spent hours doing research and writing research papers. Once the research paper is completed you find that you have to write something called a research paper abstract, too. An abstract is a way to summarize the article in a few short sentences and it’s easier to create than you might think! In this post, we will show you how to write an abstract for a research paper.

What is an Abstract?

The purpose of the abstract is to give the reader a quick overview of what the paper is about. You might think of it as a preview of coming attractions — a way to get the reader interested in reading the entire paper. It will be easier to write your abstract if it’s the last thing you do. Having spent so much time in writing the paper, you’re now in a good position to summarize your work.

According to Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers, “An abstract is a brief summary of the contents of your paper. Objective in tone, abstracts are often included in technical or scholarly papers. An abstract usually runs between 100-125 words. It is presented on a separate page in one paragraph. Do not indent the first line.”

How to Create Your Abstract

Because an abstract is so short, you might think that it’s going to be a challenge to decide just what the abstract should include. recommends, “You should present all the pertinent information contained in your full research paper within your abstract, including the problem you are addressing, your research, and the results of your work.”

You will want to include the main points of your paper, the theme or thesis statement that is the center of the paper, and the conclusions that you came to as a result of your research. If your paper is on a social science or scientific topic, then your abstract may include:

  • What you want to achieve with your research
  • What questions you want to answer
  • Who or what is being studied
  • What is being measured and how it is being measured
  • Results of the research

If your paper covers a humanities topic, then your abstract may include:

  • A thesis statement
  • The background of the subject or problem
  • The conclusion

In a January 10, 2011 article titled, “Writing an Abstract For Research Paper” for, the writer said, “The structure of the abstract will be similar to the structure and format of your research paper. So when gathering important points for the abstract while reading the paper, it is useful to go in order from the introduction to the body and then eventually the conclusion.”

Writing Tips

It’s a good idea to create a rough draft of the abstract without regard to length. Just follow the flow of your research paper and jot down the points covered in the order they occurred in your paper. When the rough draft is complete, then you can begin to edit the draft. Remember that you don’t have to go into detail in the abstract so, when editing, feel free to delete extra phrases. Just stick to the main points.


Make sure that the abstract includes keywords that appear in the body of your research paper. The keywords will be used in order to search for and find research papers on your topic. If your article is added to an online research database, the keywords in the abstract will help index your article.

You may find that your keywords are similar to those listed in the research that you used when writing your paper. So if you’re at a loss on keywords, just review the articles that you used as sources for your paper. Journal articles often list keywords below the article abstract. And yes, those articles can also give you examples of abstracts.

When writing your research paper, you’ll want to save some mental energy for creating your research paper abstract. A well-written abstract will help others find your paper and give them a good reason to take the time to read it.

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