Writing the Abstract

Defining the abstract

An abstract is a summary of the major ideas contained in your research essay. It is usually

required for papers written in the natural sciences (with APA documentation) or social

sciences, but not in the humanities.

Scholars and some professional writers prepare abstracts as a service to potential readers.

After reading an abstract, a researcher (student) can decide whether to read the entire

essay. To the reader of a long or complicated research essay, an abstract can serve as a

type of outline, enabling a reader to follow the arguments of a complicated essay by

highlighting the assertions, main ideas and conclusions.

Formatting the abstract

 When writing the abstract, use no more than one paragraph.

 Center the title "Abstract" (without quotation marks) one inch from the top of the page.

 Double space to the actual body of the abstract.

 Type abstract in single block style.

 The page containing the abstract must follow the title page but precede the actual body

of the paper.

 It should have a running head and a page number.

Writing the abstract

An effective abstract should include three qualities:

It should be concise (remember the point is to condense).

It should be informative.

The abstract should be comprehensive. State the main point and show

how the point is developed.

To produce a smooth abstract you need to link and condense the main ideas of the essay

(or outline) with appropriate commentary.

First, read through your essay (or the article to be abstracted) and underline or list the main

points and major supporting evidence.

Try to follow the pattern of organization used in the original essay.

Shape the abstract from the points you have underlined or the summaries you have made of

each major point in the article. Link the points with helpful transitions. Do not use direct

quotations from the essay in the abstract.

Finally, test the abstract against the essay, evaluating how well it reflects the content of the


Keep the abstract short, but do not compress it into a telegram. Avoid sentence fragments and


Reverse Outlining


Try one or both of these activities to strengthen the unity of your essay

Through reverse outlining, you can enhance the clarity, organization, and

direction of your essay.

It will also help you recognize appropriate transitional sentences within your


On a separate sheet of paper, write a sentence that summarizes each paragraph

of your essay

If you have difficulty coming up with a summary statement, consider

Revising the paragraph. Perhaps you have too many ideas present in that

paragraph. You may need to delete material or divide the paragraph into smaller



Ask yourself if the first sentence of each paragraph (topic sentence)is similar to

your summary statement If not, consider revising. Readers should be able to

read the beginning of each

Paragraph and know where they are headed


Look at the sheet with all of the summary statements. Does each statement play

a role in supporting your thesis? If not, consider revising or deleting paragraphs

in your paper so that they contribute to your argument. You may also want to

consider revising your thesis. If you have not written a cohesive thesis sentence,

can you write one from the summary statements?

While studying the sheet with the summary statements, ask yourself if your paper

is organized in the best way. For example, do you mention an idea in one

paragraph only to come back to that same idea several paragraphs later?

Perhaps the two paragraphs should be moved nearer each other.

Unity exercise

(Reverse outlining)

Write a single sentence that summarizes each paragraph in your essay:






Paragraph #2_____________














Paragraph #5______________________________________________




















Transition Exercise

Another “test” of your essay’s cohesiveness is to test the sentences that move

the reader from paragraph to paragraph. These are called transitional sentences.

1. Isolate the last sentence of a paragraph and the first sentence of the next


2. Read these last and first sentences in isolation from the rest of the essay.

Consider the following questions:

How are these two sentences related to each other?

Do these sentences complement each other? How?

If they seem unrelated, what can you do to change this?

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