One of the most easily overlooked elements of a research paper or dissertation is the abstract. The size of this snippet makes it seem deceptively easy, but as the first look most people have at a document, its importance cannot be overstated. Every writer needs to understand the role served by an abstract and how to write one before taking on any writing project that requires one.
As the very first thing a reader sees about your work, an abstract must be completely perfect. There can be no grammatical or spelling errors. The content must also be thorough and comprehensive without being exhaustive or drawn-out. It can be a very tricky balance to achieve. More than any other part of the paper, it should appear that an abstract is written by a professional academic writer.
While this one small piece may suddenly become daunting, once a writer wraps their mind around the part it plays, there is no need for despair. This post will describe the function of an abstract, what is expected of one in various project types, and some key tips for writing your own. Finally, we will recommend some solutions if you run out of time or come up against writer’s block such as joining a writing group or consulting professional research paper writers.
What an abstract is
As simple as it seems, an abstract is no such thing. It is the first and sometimes only thing that a reader will see about a particular document. This one short snippet often determines whether the rest is worth spending any time or energy looking into.
In the simplest terms, an abstract is a summary of the entire dissertation or research paper that follows. This is not to be confused with a snippet from a dust jacket or teaser piece. The goal is not to entice the reader to continue reading out of curiosity or wonder; there should be no twists or reveals after reading an abstract. As tempting as it may be to treat it like a marketing blurb, seasoned academic writers and dissertation writing professionals know better and students should learn this, too.
What an abstract should be is thorough and concise at the same time. Every element in the full paper needs to be present in some form. Specifics, such as the outcome of a particular study used as a reference, can wait until later in the paper. The types of studies used, however, quantitative versus qualitative data or a combination of both, for instance, should be discussed in the abstract. Of course the general research question and conclusion should also be mentioned, though the reasons and rationale that lead from one to the other can also wait until later.
It is always a good idea to get a second set of eyes on every part of a writing project, but this is even more true of an abstract. You need to be sure that a reader unfamiliar with your work understands the idea and what they will find upon reading further, after seeing your abstract. This second set of eyes might be a peer, a professor, or experts from a research paper writing service.
Contents of an abstract
Fortunately, the structure of an abstract is not rocket science. In short, it mirrors the structure of the paper it summarizes. After becoming familiar with an abstract, a reader should feel a sense of familiarity as they proceed through the rest of the document. Again, there should be not twists, turns, or surprises, only more details and more thorough descriptions.
In general, every abstract should contain:
Since an abstract is only written after the rest of the work is complete, these elements should be easy enough to include, in principle. However, a writer should not rush through just because it’s familiar ground. Just like every other part of writing, it should be written, revised, and re-written, preferably with the input of an outside reader whether a friend, relative, or professional research paper writer. Time management is just as important to this end part of the writing process as it was in the beginning.
Beyond the content listed above, every abstract should have some general qualities as well. Consulting a dissertation writing service or other expert can help ensure that your abstract is properly structured without being too long or cluttered. The elements you want to have include:
- A standard introduction, body, and conclusion structure
- A pattern of content that mirrors the main paper
- Carefully chosen keywords
- Logical progression from element to element
- Summary if information and value contained inside
Exactly how much should be written for each part is specific to each individual paper. The simple answer is to stick to the earlier advice of mirroring the paper itself. If 20% of the main body focuses on a particular point, then 20% of the abstract body should do the same. These proportions and exactly how to represent them are another great point to have reviewed by a university writing center or professional writing service to double-check for relevance and concision.
Ideal abstract length
Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. There is always one sure resource, though. Ask the professor. Any assignment that requires an abstract will mostly likely include a minimum and possibly maximum length. You can never go wrong following these specific instructions.
Don’t be surprised to see different expectations for different disciplines and different projects. Every subject has its own needs and expectations and different styles have different standards. This is simply a reality of academic writing. Fortunately, experts at research paper writing services are paid to be familiar with these expectations, so don’t be afraid to consult with the professionals if you are up against a wall.
In general, you can’t go wrong if you keep an abstract between one paragraph and one page. The goal is to keep it as short as possible while hitting on the key requirements. An abstract should almost never exceed one page.
Helpful abstract writing tips
All the theory in the world will only get you so far. At some point you just have to sit down at the keyboard and knock the thing out. This is usually easier said than done, but hopefully after reading the above information, you at least feel familiar with what you are trying to create.
Before you hand your work over to a writing group or a professional writing service for editing, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t start until you’ve finished your main paper
- Double-check the formatting requirements of your academic style
- Experiment with different context for your keywords
- Get a second, or third or fourth, set of eyes
Each of these items may sound simple, but giving them time an attention will improve your final product every time.
Don’t start until you’ve finished your main paper
It may be tempting to just knock out the abstract right away. After all, you have your research, you have your outline, you know the paper you are going to write. Except you really don’t. Even professional dissertation writers can’t be sure that a final draft will entirely resemble the original outline.
Throughout the process of writing, you will often discover that some arguments require more or less development than previously planned and that some resources need more or less explanation. These elements must be reflected appropriately in an abstract or it won’t be an accurate representation of the main paper. Your abstract should always come last.
Double-check the formatting requirements of your academic style
One thing that nearly every writer trips up on, whether they are a research paper writing professional, graduate student, or brand new freshman, is style-specific formatting. There are literally dozens of academic styles and even the most common have subtle, but critical differences.
This is something that you should check repeatedly throughout your process. It’s always easier to catch a problem early on than to go back and correct it throughout a finished draft. Almost any writer would do well to have a writing center or professional writing service check the formatting of their dissertation or research paper before turning it in for review.
Experiment with different context for your keywords
Not every project will require keywords, but those that do must have them used well. These will appear most often in scholarly writing intended for publication or in dissertation writing. When needed, you will most often want to choose five to seven terms, but of course defer to any specific instructions and don’t be afraid to ask.
Keywords need to be specific enough that, in combination, they are relatively unique to your paper. They also need to be known terms in your subject, not jargon created for the purposes of your dissertation or article.
The best way to be sure you have chosen good keywords is to use them in a variety of different ways that describe or pertain to your writing to be sure they truly apply. This very specific need is certainly something that a dissertation writing service can help you with, whether with choosing terms from scratch or just with confirming that your chosen terms are good ones.
Get a second, or third or fourth, set of eyes
Most projects that require an abstract tend to be very important. These are often intended for publication or serve as a mid-term or final project. As such, you can’t have too many reviewers involved. As long as there is time for another proofread, have it done. It is often beneficial to have different people do subsequent reviews, as well. It is very important to make the time for multiple read-throughs by different people if you want to ensure the best possible abstract and overall final draft.
Much like all academic writing, abstract writing comes down to a few basic principles. Know what you are shooting for, take advantage of the resources available, and take the time to do it right. Most universities have a great variety of resources available to help a student or professor optimize their writing. Most reputable writing services will also offer samples or even free help sections to keep you on the right track as well.
If you aren’t sure that free help is going to be enough, don’t be afraid to inquire about paid editing or proofreading services from trusted professional writing services. When it is your professional or academic career on the line, leave no stone unturned. An abstract may seem like a small piece of content, but hopefully we have convinced you of its importance and set you on the right path to writing the best abstract possible as a part of the best overall paper possible. And remember, if you are ever in doubt, there are American research paper writing services ready and able to assist you.