How to Write an Effective Abstract for a Research Paper

The use of abstracts has become a familiar entity in today’s works of literature. In a world clouded with literature, an abstract become a selection tool for what we want to read. It is, therefore, essential to know how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.

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An abstract is a short, in-depth summary that describes the contents of a larger document. With this definition of an abstract in a research paper, we can assume an abstract to be like a preview of a larger paper. Typically, an abstract uses 150 -250 words contained in 6-7 sentences. Abstracts provide a platform where a reader can grasp the main ideas of the document without reading the whole of the work.

Abstracts are usually necessary for the following documents  

  • Theses or dissertations
  • Technical reports
  • For journals articles
  • Legal documents
  • Books
  • Conferences or symposium proceedings
  • Patent specifications
  • Reviews

Types of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts:

  1. Descriptive abstracts
  2. Informative abstracts

1. Descriptive abstracts

The descriptive or indicative abstract provides brief information on the contents of the paper without giving much detail. This type of abstract relays information in the form of a table of contents that is in a paragraph.

2. Informative abstracts

The informative abstract or a complete abstract gives more information than the descriptive abstracts. They provide a comprehensive summary of the background information, the purpose, the methodology, the results as well as the conclusions.  The informative abstract summarizes the key points of the paper.

How to Write an Effective Abstract for a Research Paper

What are the elements of an abstract?

The following are the main features of an abstract

  • An introduction or a rationale
  • The methods used in conducting the study
  • The results or outcomes of the study
  • The conclusion

What is the importance of these elements? Read on to find out.

An introduction or a rationale

The introduction of an abstract relates to the purpose of the study. A reader can grasp what the paper is all about by reading through the introductory part of the abstract.

The method used in conducting the study

A good abstract gives a brief account of the methods used in the collection of the data present in the document. However, much detail on the procedures appears in the main paper.

The outcomes of the study

An abstract also gives a brief account of the outcomes of the research study. The outcomes should relate to the purpose(s) indicated in the introductory part. The outcomes

The conclusions

The conclusion derived from the study should also appear in the abstract. The conclusion reinstates the importance of conducting the investigations.

Characteristics of an effective thesis abstract

  1. Since the abstract is a summary of the main paper, ideally, it should have 150-250 words. However, some abstracts of very long papers contain more than 250 words.
  2. The abstract should be in an active form rather than the passive form. Remember, the abstract reflects on the work that you have done.
  3. The abstract should be written in the past tense since it describes a completed work. The abstract reports work that is already complete and not ongoing
  4. Make sure that all the relevant information is present in the abstract. The relevant information includes:
  • The problem statement (explains why the research is of importance)
  • The methodology explains the methods used in completing the study
  • The results or outcomes of the study
  • The conclusion

5. Try to be as clear as possible, assuming that the audience has no previous knowledge of the topic. Consequently, avoid any undefined or unexplained abbreviations and acronyms.

6. A good abstract uses relevant abstract keywords for correct classification and proper indexing. The keywords in abstracts are always unique to the subject matter.

How to write an effective abstract for a research paper

Academic researches always need a submission of the abstract alongside the theses or the dissertations. The abstracts give a dissertation summary of the whole paper. This ways, lecturers or supervisors can determine the contents of your study before going through the paper. It is, therefore, essential to know how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.

How to Write an Effective Abstract for a Research Paper

Below are essential tips on how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.

  1. Write your paper first then the abstract later
  2. Write down the main ideas of the study in a point form
  3. Begin your abstract by a piece of brief background information that relays the purpose of the research in the introductory part of the abstract
  4. Describe the methodologies used in conduction the study.
  5. Ensure that you link the ideas that you noted down into complete and proper sentences
  6. Ensure that you maintain consistency throughout the abstract
  7. Make sure to include the outcomes as well as the conclusion of the study.
  8. Consider checking the number of words to ensure that they are within the requirements of the guidelines provided.
  9. Finally, the abstract should be free of any grammatical errors. Consequently, it is important to proofread your work before making the final copy.

With these essential tips on how to write an abstract for thesis will come in when writing

Abstracts for legal documents

In the field of law, an abstract is a brief document that highlights the important points in a single legal report or related materials. 

The Abstract of Title is the most common type of legal abstracts. This type of abstract is common in real estate transactions.

How to write an abstract APA

APA format is a formal style of the American Psychological Association (APA) used in the field of physiology and other social sciences. The format provides guidelines that specify different aspects of a document. For instance, guideline dictates the presentation, the position and numbering of the pages, the order of references, and how to include citations. Moreover, the format stipulates the use of an abstract.

An APA abstract highlights the following key points:

  • Stating the critical problems, including the objective and/or the hypothesis
  • Explaining the research methods used
  • A summary of the outcomes of the research, including the conclusion
  • The final discussion of the results of the research

Why Is an Abstract Important In APA Format?

An abstract is an important part of any professional or academic paper. The abstract provides a brief overview and therefore serves as the summary of the paper. A good abstract is important in accurately presenting the paper. The reader should be able to note the key points by reading through the abstract.

Fortunately, by following the guide on how to write an effective abstract, you can create a good abstract. A good abstract generally makes a reader interested in reading your work.

The basics of an APA format abstract

  • Using the APA format, the abstract is always on the second page, following the title page.
  • The abstract provides highly condensed information on the rest of the paper
  • According to the APA manual, the abstract is the most crucial paragraph of the document or essay
  • An excellent abstract makes your audience realize the importance of the whole documentation

According to the guidelines provided by the American Psychological Association (APA), an abstract must be:

  • Brief and detailed: each sentence included in the abstract must have a maximum impact. Remember to keep the abstract short while focusing on the key details of the paper.
  • Accurate and objective: the sole purpose of the abstract is to provide a report rather than a commentary. Therefore, the abstract should accurately echo the contents of the paper. Only the necessary information should be in the abstract.

APA guideline on the length of an abstract

 How long is an abstract? Well, according to the sixth edition of the American Psychological Association manual, an abstract should be 150-250 words long. However, the guideline gives allowances of variations according to the instructions of the instructor. The word count may vary according to the length of the paper or the complexity of the subject matter.  

Note that an unstructured abstract is written in one long paragraph, while a structured paragraph has various sections.

APA Formatting of an abstract

The American Psychological Association (APA) manual has specific guidelines on how to format any paper. The unique guide dictates the following:

  • When using the APA formatting style, include a running head on the top left side of the page
  • Place the page number (2) on the top right side of the page
  • The heading of the abstract should be the word ‘Abstract’ (centered)
  • There should be no indent of any part of the text
  • APA formatting dictates double spacing of the text
  • APA formatting uses the Times New Roman font in 12pt
  • At the end of the abstract, ensure that you include the keywords section. Indent the first line and italicize the word ‘keywords.’ The keywords themselves need no formatting.

APA abstract keywords

The American Psychological Association (APA) manual recommends the addition of keywords at the end of the abstract. Include a short listing of the keywords to aid in indexing in case the paper enters a database. The listing helps researchers in locating the paper.

The APA abstract keywords should:

  • Be accurate in representing the contents of the abstract
  • Be related to the field of the paper

APA abstract keywords example

Below is an example of the use of keywords in an abstract. The author of the book chose to include the words in the title as the keywords of the paper.  

Title of the Book Chapter: Nonparalytic Polio and Post-Polio Syndrome

Extracted From: Post-Polio Syndrome: A Guide for Polio Survivors and Their Families (pp. 21-26), Julie K. Silver, Yale University Press (2001)

Keywords: Polio, Paralysis, Symptoms, Postpoliomyelitis Syndrome, Medical diagnosis, Legs, Physicians, Strokes, Misdiagnosis

Importance of abstract in research

  • The central role of the scientific abstract is to facilitate easier selection and for indexing purposes
  • In academic kinds of literature, abstracts aid in summarizing the entire research work
  • Sometimes, you can use the abstract independently without the main paper to communicate the ideas of the research paper
  • The abstracts are essential for oral presentations of the whole research study
  • Abstracts facilitate indexing literature work provided in research databases
  • Since the full work can be purchased, the abstract can be a selling point of the main work
  • The abstract allows one to sift through the report, to determine the relevance of the study to the subject matter
  • An abstract saves the time of the reader since they can decide if the paper is worth reading before looking at the main document.

how to write an effective abstract for a research paper

What to avoid when writing an abstract

Even as you go through the guide on how to write an effective abstract for a research paper, it is equally important to know what to avoid.

  • It is always advisable not to write the abstract before writing your main paper
  • Avoid writing lengthy background information; always consider the word limit provided by the guidelines of writing the abstract
  • The abstract should not include any citations
  • Even as you note the methodologies, avoid including unnecessary details about the procedures
  • Any information not provided in the main work should not appear in the abstract.
  • Avoid the use of undefined or unexplained acronyms and abbreviations
  • The abstract relays your original work. Hence, providing general facts is not advisable

The quality assessment of abstracts

The quality of an abstract can be assessed using the following methods:

  1. By use of the reader’s readers’ ratings
  2. By use of a structured checklist
  3. Using readability measures such as Flesch Reading Ease

Examples of abstracts

Study the research abstract examples below understand how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.

Example 1


The abstract:

This research study explored the pattern of the usage of video games and the addiction of video games among male college students and examined how the addiction was related to the college grade point average (GPA), on-campus drug and alcohol violations. Participants were 488 males, first-year students at a liberal arts college. In the week before the start of classes, participants were given two surveys: one of expected college engagement, and the second of video game usage, including a measure of video game addiction. Results suggested that video game addiction is (a) negatively correlated with the college grade point average (GPA), (b) negatively correlated with college GPA, even when controlling for high school GPA, and (c) negatively correlated with drug and alcohol violations that occurred during the first year in college. Results are discussed in terms of implications for male students’ engagement and success in college, and terms of the construct validity of video game addiction.”

Let’s have a keen study on the abstract above

First, the above abstract does not clearly state why the problem presented is worth researching, even though it implies that the focus of the study is addiction.

Secondly, the abstract does not openly state the implications of the study. It is always advisable to summarize the outcomes of the study even though sometimes it is impossible to include the information in a few sentences. In this case, just a statement would be enough to summarize the results and implications. The abstract above uses a statement to provide the results and consequences of the study.

Example 2


The abstract:

Introduction: Study skills and satisfaction of students with their performance positively influences their academic achievement. The current research was carried out to investigate the correlation of study skills with academic achievement among the medical and pharmacy students in 2013.

Methods: This descriptive-analytical study was conducted on 148 students of basic medical sciences and pharmacy through convenience sampling. Data were collected by a valid and reliable questionnaire, consisting of two sections: Demographic information and questions about daily study hours, study skills in six domains, and students’ satisfaction with study skills. Collected data sets were analyzed by SPSS-16 software.

Results: In total, 10.9% of students were reported to have favorable study skills. The minimum score was found for preparation for the examination domain. Also, a significantly positive correlation was observed between students’ study skills and their Grade Point Average (GPA) of the previous term (P=0.001, r=0.269) and satisfaction with study skills (P=0.001, r=0.493).

Conclusion: The findings indicated that students’ study skills need to be improved. Given the significant relationship between study skills and GPA, as an index of academic achievement, and satisfaction, it is necessary to promote the students’ study skills. These skills are suggested to be reinforced, with more emphasis on weaker domains.”

Example 3

The journal abstract example below is an original abstract of the ‘Sagepub Journal.’


The abstract:

The cell phone is ever-present on college campuses and is frequently used in settings where learning occurs. This study assessed the relationship between cell phone use and actual college grade point average (GPA) after controlling for known predictors. As such, 536 undergraduate students from 82 self-reported majors at a large, public university were sampled. A hierarchical regression (R2 = .449) demonstrated that cell phone use was significantly (p < .001) and negatively (β = −.164) related to actual college GPA after controlling for demographic variables, self-efficacy for self-regulated learning, self-efficacy for academic achievement, and actual high school GPA, which were all significant predictors (p < .05). Thus, after controlling for other established predictors, increased cell phone use was associated with decreased academic performance. Although more research is needed to identify the underlying mechanisms, findings suggest a need to sensitize students and educators about the potential academic risks associated with high-frequency cell phone use.

Keywords: education, technology, ICT, Mobile phones, smartphones, GPA, self- efficacy

Example 4

This example is also an original abstract by the original work of ‘Sagepub Journals.’


The abstract:

Adolescents exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of dating abuse, yet no evaluated dating abuse prevention programs have been designed specifically for this high-risk population. This article describes the process of adapting Families for Safe Dates (FSD), an evidenced-based universal dating abuse prevention program, to this high-risk population, including conducting 12 focus groups and 107 interviews with the target audience. FSD includes six booklets of dating abuse prevention information, and activities for parents and adolescents to do together at home. We adapted FSD for mothers who were victims of domestic violence, but who no longer lived with the abuser, to do with their adolescents who had been exposed to the violence. Through the adaptation process, we learned that families liked the program structure and valued being offered the program and that some of our initial assumptions about this population were incorrect. We identified the practices and beliefs of mother victims and attributes of these adolescents that might increase their risk of dating abuse that we had not previously considered. In addition, we learned that some of the content of the original program generated negative family interactions for some. The findings demonstrate the utility of using a careful process to adopt evidence-based interventions (EBIs) to cultural sub-groups, particularly the importance of obtaining feedback on the program from the target audience. Others can follow this process to adapt EBIs to groups other than the ones for which the original EBI was designed.

Dating abuse prevention, program adaptation, exposure to domestic violence

The above examples are original works excerpted from journals. With these examples, you can study how researchers paraphrase their work into a summary. With these, you can figure out how to write a strong abstract.

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In conclusion, an abstract becomes more natural to write when you have a guide on how to write an effective abstract for a research paper.  The guide above will come in handy when writing an abstract. However, in case you are still experiencing difficulties in writing abstracts, you can easily contact us for help. Buying homework help from Myhomeworkwriters.com is fast and reliable.

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