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How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

November 14, 2016 - Posted to Writing

Content how to write an abstract for a research paper

An abstract for research paper summarizes the major parts of the paper including the general purpose of the identified problems to be resolved, the basic design of the research, your major findings and analyses, and a short summary of your own interpretations and conclusions.

A research paper abstract is often required along with the customized research papers for college. Including key information, such as the summary results, observations, and trends, serves a purpose and that is to help readers identify what the research paper is going to be about and whether or not they would want to continue reading it.

When writing an abstract, use the active voice when possible although they may be parts that require the passive sentence construction. Nevertheless, the abstract has to be written concisely yet completely. Do not beat around the bush and always use the past tense because you are writing about a research that has already been completed. Yes, while an abstract is placed in the first section of your research paper, the abstract should be written last because it is the summary of the contents of the entire paper.

There are four types of abstracts. You will have to check with your instructor or professor which abstract he is requiring you to write but, for now, here are their definitions:

  • A critical abstract provides a judgment about the research’s validity, trustworthiness, or completeness. It is basically an evaluation of the paper as compared to other similar papers on this particular topic.  
  • A descriptive abstract is basically an outline of the research paper and is usually shorter than the regular abstract. It does not make any judgment or comment, or compare it to any other similar studies. It just simply indicates the type of information you can find in the paper.
  • A highlight abstract is written to catch the attention of the readers by using leading remarks to spark the readers’ interest. Because this type of abstract can't stand on its own without its associated article, it is seldomly used in academic writing.
  • Lastly, an informative abstract presents and explains all the main arguments and important findings of the paper, as well as the purpose, methods, and scope. This is typically the kind of abstract required in academic writing as it acts as a surrogate for the work itself.

Parts of a Research Paper

Before proceeding to write, it would be best to prepare a timeline for the research paper first. This will help you track your progress and see to it that you will be able to meet your deadline. The following are the parts of a research paper:

  1. The Introduction establishes the context and significance of the research paper being conducted including its background information, the purpose of the research in the form of a research problem, the methodological approach in examining the research problem, highlighting the potential results of the study, and the research paper outline.

A good introduction, like the abstract, convinces the reader to read the report. So make sure that you maintain an informative yet interesting start to the paper. Do not forget to clearly identify the subject area of interest, establish context by providing a brief review of related literature available on the subject, clearly state the hypothesis or the research problem, and provide the reason and significance of your study.

  1. The Literature Review surveys both primary and secondary sources relevant to the research paper and accordingly provides a description, summary, and a critical evaluation of these sources in relation to the research problem identified in the introduction.

In writing your literature review, make sure to use evidence or citations to ensure the readers of the validity and credibility of these sources. You also have to be selective and include only those that are truly relevant and material to the study. In using quotes, make sure to use it sparingly. The point of the research is to analyze these sources and not to write a summary of it. That said, both primary and secondary sources must be summarized and synthesized incorporating your interpretations and comments. In interpreting these sources, also make sure to keep your own voice although remain cautious not to paraphrase without properly citing your sources.

  1. The Methodology provides the rationale for the application of specific procedures and techniques used to digest all the information gathered from both primary and secondary sources in order to address and resolve the research problem. This part basically answers how the data was collected and how it was analyzed accordingly.

An effective methodology introduces the overall approach for investigating your research problem, indicates how this fits the overall research design, describes in specific the methods of data gathering to be used, explains how you are going to analyze the results. Some methodology also includes potential limitations.

  1. The Results is where you report your findings based on the methodology. It should be arranged logically without bias or interpretation. The results should include figures, charts, photos, maps, when appropriate. These make it visually easier for readers to understand the results. Results should also be written in past tense.

  2. The Discussion is where you interpret and describe the significance of your findings. This section is often considered to be the most important part of the research paper as it showcases the writer’s ability to think critically and develop creative solutions to problems.

  3. Lastly, a Conclusion for your research paper is the synthesis of all major points of the research paper as well as your recommendation for future research. Your conclusion should include the issues you raised in the paper, the significance of your study, identification of gaps in the literature review and how these have been addressed, and presentation of new ways to approach the study for future research.

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