Tips on Writing an Abstract for a Scientific Paper

If you’re writing a grant proposal or research, an abstract is crucial, and professional writers from Writers House share their tips on how to do it properly. An abstract is a brief summary of a research project or experiment. Usually, it doesn’t exceed 200 words. The main purpose of this section of your paper is is to summarize your whole research, highlighting its purposes, findings, methods, and conclusions.

How to Write an Abstract

We recommend that you choose the format of your abstract depending on its purpose. When working on a class assignment or preparing a publication, you should strictly follow the given guidelines. However, if there is no certain type of format required, you may choose one of the two following types of abstracts.

Informational Abstracts

Usually, abstracts of this kind are used for lab reports or experiments.

  • Informational abstracts can be 1-2 pages long, depending on the length of a report. Just make sure your informational abstract isn’t longer than 10% of the whole paper.
  • Summarize all important information about your report, including results, purpose, method, recommendations, and conclusions. Your abstract shouldn’t contain any graphs, images, charts, or references.
  • Highlight the most important findings. No matter whether or not your experiment did go as planned, just describe the outcome.

You can follow this simple format to create a nice informational abstract (every section should be 1-2 sentences long):

Purpose or motivation: Explain why the topic of your paper is important and why your readers should care about the experiment.

Problem: Describe the problem that should be solved by your research or the hypothesis of the experiment.

Method: How exactly did you solve the problem or test the hypothesis?

Results: Describe the outcome of your experiment. Did you prove or debunk the hypothesis? Is the problem solved? Make sure to provide specific numbers.

Conclusions: Here you have to explain why your findings are important. Perhaps, this solution can be used for other problems, or increase our knowledge about the subject.

You may check the examples of informational abstracts on It’s the database of National Institutes of Health.

Descriptive Abstracts

Abstracts of this kind just provide a brief description of your report. Just like informational abstracts, such abstracts should explain what your readers will learn from the paper.

  • Descriptive abstracts are very short, usually no longer than 100 words.
  • Descriptive abstracts explain the contents of the report briefly, without going into detail.
  • Such abstracts address the method and the purpose but not the findings. When writing a descriptive abstract, you also shouldn’t include conclusions.

How to Write a Good Abstract

1. Write only in the third person. Don’t use phrases like “I found” or “we found.” Instead, you can write “the researchers found.”

2. Write your abstract after you’ve written the whole paper. Some students start their work from writing an abstract because it comes at the beginning of their paper, but it will be much easier for you to summarize the paper when it’s finished.

3. Make sure your abstract meets the requirements regarding the word limit. Quite often, a too long abstract is a reason why the whole paper gets rejected.

4. Choose the right keywords that can help to find your paper if somebody enters them into a search engine. Even if you’re not going to publish your paper, you’ll certainly benefit from such a habit in the future.

5. All the information in your abstract should be also presented in the body of your paper.

6. Proofread your abstract for any grammar or punctuation mistakes.

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