Writing an Abstract
Abstracts are important. Generally,they are the first part of your writing that is read, and often, they are the only part that is read. Therefore, they must be complete, concise, accurate, and self-contained.
Tips for Writing Effective Abstracts
- Write the abstract only after you have written the paper. You can't know the main issues until you have thought them out and written them down in final form. Although it's the first thing the reader sees, the abstract is the last thing you should write.
- Use the past tense to describe completed actions, present tense to describe conclusions drawn. An abstract is not an introduction to what will follow in the document to come; it's a summary of what has happened in the past that the document reports on.
Also, do not draw attention to yourself in an abstract. Leave out first person pronouns (I, me); since it is an abstract of your document, readers will know that it was you who performed the actions described.
The following paper will explain the results of a needs assessment I conducted with 30 service providers. It will show that the main contributor to high recidivism rates was clients' lack of personal investment in the program.
- Begin the abstract with the most important point of your study, often the main finding or the purpose.
- Edit carefully to CUT OUT EXTRA WORDS. APA limits abstracts to 120 words. Note: To save space, all numbers in abstracts are presented as digits, not words, except if they occur as the first word of a sentence.
- Be sure that the abstract is understandable by itself.
- Format: Type the abstract on a separate page, in block paragraph style (no indentation), double-spaced, with the word Abstract centered at the top of the page.
A needs assessment conducted with 30 service providers suggested that the main contributor to high recidivism rates was clients' lack of personal investment in the program.
See APA manual, p. 12 ff. for additional suggestions about writing effective abstracts.
Computer tip: To check your word count, go to the TOOLS menu in Microsoft Word and click on "word count."
View SAMPLE ABSTRACT