HOW TO WRITE AN ABSTRACT
November 07, 2013 By Chidi Rafael
Due to numerous emails students keep sending to me concerning difficulties they face when trying to write a good and standard abstract, I have decided to pick up my pen once again, do some research and tackle this issue once and for all.
Writing an abstract in an important phase in the research process; hence in-order to make good grades with your research project and impress your readers, one must be familiar with the techniques of writing a good, concise and standard abstract.
Before I discourse on how to write a good abstract, let’s talk a bit about an abstract. Is it a bird or an insect? Absolutely not a bird or an insect, an abstract in simple terms is a summary of a research project, thesis. Dissertation, research journal etc. abstracts are usually seen at the beginning of research paper.
In-order to write good and standard abstract, students must first know how abstracts should be structured and things to avoid when writing one. This article torches on all of these. So enjoy!
STRUCTURE OF A STANDARD ABSTRACT
Most well written abstracts by outstanding researchers all over the world are structured as follows:
- Overview of the study/Background
- Results or Findings
- Recommendations and Conclusion
Now let us discourse these sections one after the other.
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
This is usually the first part of an abstract. It depicts the central focus of the study. When writing an abstract, students should know the central idea behind their study. This section is very important as it tells readers whether to continue reading or not. In essence when giving an overview of your study, you should make it concise and interesting enough to encourage readers to read your whole work. Students must ensure readers easily get a clue of what the research objectives are as well as problems motivating the researcher to pick up interest in the study.
Methodology employed by the researcher constitutes the second part of an abstract. With a semi-paragraph or a sentence, state your research methods. This is where you briefly let readers know your data collection methods, research instruments employed, sample size and so on. To some extent depending on your institution’s research project format, you can state how the research instruments were validated and distributed (i.e. was it face-to-face distribution? or through email?).
The third section of an abstract is a brief summary of your key findings or results. Findings or important results recorded in the study must be briefly stated in the abstract.
The last section of most abstracts tells readers recommendations or suggestions made by the researcher. This section is the most important section in an abstract as it brings out the essence of research which is solving identified problems, developing better ways of doing things and adding to the body of knowledge.
- Avoid Ambiguous Words and Complex Grammar
Remember an abstract is like a tip of the iceberg. Complex and ambiguous words/sentences may discourage readers from reading the full content of your research. Using keywords at the end of an abstract may help in letting your readers know the central theme or idea of the study.
- Do not Loose Focus
When writing an abstract, just go straight to the point. Do not beat around the bush. Definition of terms, long stories that are not interesting may make your abstract too lengthy and boring…..leave all definitions and stories for your introduction.
- Avoid Lengthy Abstracts
Abstracts are meant to be brief and concise. Avoid writing numerous pages and calling it ‘Abstract’. An ideal abstract should be on a single page. However, if you wish to write more, seek the advice of your supervisor first.
- Avoid Writing Abstracts When you have not completed your Study
This particular point one is of great interest to me. I see students writing abstracts before completing their research studies, and it gets me wondering a lot. How did they get findings and recommendations before data analysis and interpretation? Or is there any such thing as pre and post abstracts? If there is any, please feel free to share your ideas by commenting below because, this one is killing me. An abstract is meant to be a summary of your entire work; hence it should be after you have conducted your study.
Below is a perfect example of an abstract:
This study was intended to evaluate the extent to which strategic planning affects organizational performance. The study was guided by the following objectives; to identify the various components and phases of strategic planning used in company ABC, to find out other factors affecting organizational performance other than strategic planning and to find out the relationship between strategic planning and organizational performance.
The study employed descriptive and explanatory design, questionnaires in addition to library research were applied in order to collect data. Primary and secondary data sources were used and data was analyzed using statistical package which was presented in frequency tables and percentage. The respondents under the study were 30 employees of ABC, DEF branch. The study majorly focused on phases and components of strategic planning and how they affect the organizational performance.
The study findings revealed that there is lack of information gathering, where strategic planning does not begin with collection of the necessary information, there is strong review of the past performance where by past performance is considered to make the strategic plans. Pearson correlation coefficient is 0.692 significant at 0.01 level (2-tailed), 0.00 indicates the significance of interaction between two variables an indication that the significant is under the range of 0.0 and 0.05.
Using the above findings, it implied that there is a strong relationship between strategic planning and organization performance. According to the study, strategic planning contributes 69.2% towards performance in banking services and this implied that other factors contribute 30.8%. Improvements should be made in the information altering systems and information should be gathered first before making the strategic plans. Company ABC should evolve all the employees in decision making so as to improve on the performance.