How To Write An Abstract: Tips And Examples

Whether you’re working on a high school science project or a doctoral thesis, there may come a time when you need to write an abstract. But what is an abstract? We’re not talking about an incomprehensible genre of art (see definition 5) but rather an important document that is often written alongside science experiments or formal papers. In fact, an abstract often plays the main role in determining how your content is indexed in databases and surfaces in searches of these databases. As you can see, it’s important to write an abstract that supports your work.

In this article, we will explain what an abstract is, walk you through how to write one based on the different parts of a typical abstract, and provide an example of a finished abstract.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is, in the simplest terms, a summary of a longer text or project. A person will write their paper or conduct their experiment first and then write an abstract that summarizes the main points of the paper or experiment it accompanies. The abstract is descriptive. It does not evaluate the main points or advocate for them.

In the sciences, an abstract typically summarizes the hypothesis, method, and results of an experiment or research paper that used the scientific method. In the humanities, an abstract typically summarizes the thesis, arguments, and findings of a research paper or essay.

While the exact format of an abstract varies, it is typically one to a few paragraphs in length and under 250 words. The abstract only summarizes and does not define terms or provide any additional information that wasn’t present in the original paper.

The tone and word choice of an abstract will also match that used by the original paper. The abstract will include keywords—those terms most relevant in explaining your work. Many modern abstracts are written in such a way that online aggregators (such as Google Scholar) can easily find them and correctly categorize their keywords.

No work of scholarly repute is complete without a thesis statement to bring it all together. Learn how to write a strong, compelling thesis statement!

How to write an abstract

The first step of writing an abstract is always the same: finish the initial paper or experiment. You must actually complete your research paper or science experiment first before you can write an abstract about it.

The next step is to identify your keywords. These will be the most important words and topics present in the original paper. For example, a science paper might use lymphoma or chemotherapy as keywords. For a humanities paper, keywords might be Edgar Allen Poe or Buddhism. You’ll want to ensure all of these keywords are in the text of your abstract.

Next, let’s look at the main parts of an abstract as they would typically appear. Remember, the abstract is supposed to be a brief summary, so most of these parts will not be long.


You’ll begin the abstract by saying what the purpose of the original paper was. For a scientific work, you’ll typically begin by stating what your original hypothesis was or presenting the problem you were hoping to address. In the humanities, you’ll typically begin by introducing the topic of the paper and presenting the main thesis or argument.


The main bulk of the abstract will summarize the methodology used in the original paper. For a scientific work, this would typically mean briefly summarizing each step of an experiment or the research process. In the humanities, this would mean summarizing the main points and/or briefly explaining what evidence and research was used to support the thesis.


Next, the abstract will summarize the results of the original paper. For a scientific work, you would briefly present your data or state what your findings were. In the humanities, you would disclose what your evidence revealed and explain how it supports your thesis.


You would end your abstract by mirroring the conclusion in your original paper by answering “What does this mean?” and explaining the significance of your findings. For the sciences, you would state why your findings matter or how you could apply it to the scientific fields. For humanities, you would state how your findings add to the existing body of knowledge or how your argument affects what we already know about the topic.

It is worth repeating that your original paper or experiment will have much more information than is in the abstract. As stated earlier, the point of an abstract is to briefly summarize your paper or experiment so people will generally know what to expect when they read it in its entirety. This means that your abstract must immediately get to the point and include only the most essential information.

Mastering the art of the essay is key in any student’s academic journey—and it all starts with an outline. Get tips for writing an essay outline!

Examples of an abstract

These examples of existing abstracts will help you write an abstract.

Heart Disease Mortality among Bridge and Tunnel Officers Exposed to Carbon Monoxide

Authors: Stern FB, Halperin WE, Hornung RW, Ringenburg VL, McCammon CS

Heart disease mortality among bridge and tunnel officers occupationally exposed to carbon-monoxide was examined in a retrospective study of 5,529 subjects employed between 1952 and 1981 at any one of nine New York City water crossings. Among former tunnel officers, there were 61 deaths from arteriosclerotic heart disease, a 35 percent excess risk compared with the New York City population. Examination of the risk of mortality from arteriosclerotic heart disease among tunnel officers in comparison to the less exposed bridge officers using a proportional hazards model indicated no observable association of arteriosclerotic heart disease with length of exposure; there was, however, significant interaction of exposure with age. The elevated risk of arteriosclerotic heart disease among tunnel officers declined after cessation of exposure, with much of the increased risk dissipating within as a little as 5 years. The authors conclude that exposure to carbon-monoxide may be a major factor in arteriosclerotic heart disease mortality; the parallel findings of this study and studies showing the relation of cigarette smoking to cardiovascular mortality suggest that carbon-monoxide may play an important role in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular mortality associated with cigarette smoking.

Mapping Sources of Food Safety Information for U.S. Consumers: Findings From a National Survey

Authors: Xiaoli Nan, Linda Verrill, Jarim Kim

This research examines the sources from which U.S. consumers obtain their food safety information. It seeks to determine differences in the types of information sources used by U.S. consumers of different sociodemographic background, as well as the relationships between the types of information sources used and food safety risk perceptions. Analyzing the 2010 Food Safety Survey (N = 4,568) conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we found that age, gender, education, and race predicted the use of different sources for food safety information. Additionally, use of several information sources predicted perceived susceptibility to foodborne illnesses and severity of food contamination. Implications of the findings for food safety risk communication are discussed.

Sharing your findings effectively is a pivotal part of the research process. Learn how to construct clear sentences and write with clarity.

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