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How Do I Write a Research Paper Abstract?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2014
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Writing a research paper abstract can seem somewhat daunting, but by following a few simple steps the process can be made significantly simpler. One important thing to remember is that you should write the abstract last, after you have finished your research paper. This may seem simple, but since the abstract is often listed first in the requirements for a paper, some people tend to tackle it first and get lost in the process. You should present all the pertinent information contained in your full research paper within your abstract, including the problem you are addressing, your research, and the results of your work. Your research paper abstract should also include keywords important to your final paper, and all of this usually needs to be presented in only a few hundred words.

A research paper abstract is a short document included with a research paper that gives a synopsis of the entire paper in a useful way. The intent of an abstract is to provide a potential reader with a quick overview of the work, so that someone interested in what you are writing about can decide whether he or she should read your entire paper. While this may seem somewhat unnecessary for research papers written for a class that will likely only be read by an instructor, if you plan on writing a thesis or dissertation it is a very important skill to cultivate.

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You should only write your research paper abstract after you have finished the rest of your paper, as this will allow you to collect your ideas and research more easily. One good way to think of your abstract is as a teaser for your research paper, just like a movie trailer. You want to present your information in a way that allows someone to decide whether he or she should then read your paper. This means you have to provide enough pertinent information in your research paper abstract to allow someone to make an informed decision.

Unlike a movie trailer, however, that only hints at plot points and suggests the action of a movie, your research paper abstract should indicate all of the “action” in your paper, including the ending. Indicate the research you have done, especially if it included experimental work, and the results you have found. Precision and conservation of language are important in this type of writing, and you will want to make sure every sentence is complete but brief and necessary to the abstract. Your research paper abstract should also include any keywords used in your paper, since this can allow someone searching a database of abstracts to find yours more easily.

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