Introduction to Abstract
Definition: According to the Oxford dictionary an Abstract is: “forming a general concept from consideration of particular instances’ and ‘theoretical summary” , which mean concentrate on ideas instead of events. But the meaning of abstract in Research papers, Thesis, Technical report writing is quite subjective and technical thing. An abstract in a Research Paper or Thesis is the summarized version of whole document which describes the major points, methodology and findings of the writing .
Types of Abstract: According to the definition of abstract, an abstract is of two types, “informative” and “indicative”. An informative abstract is that which follows the same structure as the whole paper is written. This type is useful for describing experimental work and documents considering single theme. The indicative abstract type on the other hand is useful, when the document is not confined to a single theme but rather consists of review papers, lengthy texts and entire monographs . Both informative and indicative types can be combined when there is no such restriction on the length, structure and style.
Content of Abstract: The contents of abstract can vary discipline wise but every abstract usually contain four main parts of information .
- It should contain the Objective or Purpose of writing.
- It should mention the Methodology used in the writing to obtain the results.
- It should describe the Results of the project (if project is not yet completed then indicate the intended results)
- It should outline the conclusions .
Abstract is usually the only part of the any paper freely available via electronic search engines and is read by many people. It is crucial, as reader who is seeking for new knowledge to grasp the information quickly form the most important results and conclusions obtained from research paper, thesis or project; therefore, it is utmost need to sum up the paper in few hundred words .
Objective / Purpose: This part answers the questions like “What is the problem or main issue? Why did you want to do this research/project in the first place?” . In other words, scope and reason of writing the research paper. Some authors write hypothesis in this section while some leave it to the conclusion section. It contains little background of existing system and problem in the existing system and your objectives in two or three lines.
Methodology: This section answers the questions like “What did you do?” . This is the actual novel part that strictly belongs to the author, its original work. In this section we mention how we solve some particular problem or how we get to the solution of some particular problem and briefly state our new proposed approach.
Results: This section answers the questions like “What did you find? . This section describes the outcome of experimental and theoretical work concisely . One important aspect to consider here is that weather the result / outcome is derived from single observation or consists of too many repeated measurements. If it consists of too many findings then we have to adopt some structural procedure so that the results can be described in this section of abstract. The priority would be like: “New and verified events, significant discoveries, findings that contradict previous theories” .
Conclusion: This section answers the questions like “What did you learn?”. It is also called Research Paper / Thesis statement or “statement of the project implications.” . It tells the reader that the paper is interesting and worth reading. It must relate to the objective of writing the paper. It also mentions the future impact of findings and its applications.
Presentation and Style of Abstract: This section covers some presentation appearance techniques of abstract, how its structural style and location should look like. There are two main factors that should be kept in mind while writing an abstract .
- Location of the Abstract
- Completeness, Length of the Abstract and Style
Location of the Abstract: The location of the abstract is varying depending on the type of paper publishers (IEEE, Springer, Elsevier, Wiley etc). Most of the time abstract is placed on or after the title page in Research Paper and Thesis. In a book the abstract is placed on the back of title page .
Completeness, Length of the Abstract and Style: First impression is the last impression, a poorly presented abstract reflect in lack of interest . With the completeness of abstract we mean that do not include any information that is not mentioned in the paper or document. Since the abstract does not contain any references so it should be stand alone and knowledgeable . It should not contain repeating sentences  and be very precise and to the point.
The length of abstract also varies depending on the publisher. A journal abstract contains at least 100-150 words. For short notes a abstract of 100 word is enough, for lengthy Reports, Thesis and documents an abstract should not exceed from 500 words .
An abstract is written for a particular area of peoples so that’s why there are some standards styles which must be follow to make the abstract more interesting and worth reading. Use 10-12 font size, smaller font size causes the poor reading and large font consider to be occupying the more space using less words, both these have a negative impact on reviewer. Use the past tense as it laid more stress on the implications. Use Active voice sentences and do not include figures, tables and citations in the abstract .
Uses of Abstract in different types of Documents: Every document should include a good abstract so that reader can get enough information he/she wants. Following are the some publications where abstract is usually used .
- Reports and Thesis
- Monograms and Books
Abstract vs. Summary: Abstract and summary are often considered to be same but they are totally different terminologies. A summary is the condensed form of findings and conclusion which comes at the end of document. It recalls in the reader mind the main findings of document after thoroughly reading the whole document. One can say that summary is somehow conclusions presented at the end of paper.
- Fiona Moss, “How to write a paper”, “chapter 6, Titles, abstracts, and authors”.
- Greg Bond, February 2009, “Writing Abstracts for Bachelor’s and Master’s Theses”, North Karelia University, Finland.
- American National Standards Institute, 1977, “American National Standard for Writing Abstracts”, IEEE Transactions on professional communication.
- Jane Coad, Patric Devitt, 2006, “Research dissemination: The art of writing an abstract for conferences”, Elsevier.