Writers Workshop: Writer Resources
Writing Tips: Abstracts
Make The Abstract Easy to Read
- Use familiar words. If unfamiliar words are necessary, define them.
- Avoid jargon.
- Use active verbs rather than passive verbs.
- Use short sentences, but vary sentence structure so that the abstract doesn't sound choppy.
- Use complete sentences. Don't omit articles or other little words in an effort to save space.
- Unless the abstract is very short (100-125 words), divide it into several paragraphs.
- Rephrase ideas from the original document in your own words to condense the meaning into fewer words.
- Use standard abbreviations.
- Give information only once.
- Be exact and unambiguous. If the article itself is unclear, use exact quotes from the article in quotation marks.
- Use the same tone and emphasis that the original used. However, it is not necessary to follow the author's organization, wording, or even proportions. The more poorly the original article is written, the more changes you will need to make in the abstract.
- Organize the information in the way that will be most useful to the reader. Most readers find that a thesis-first abstract is most useful, that is, start with the thesis, conclusion, or findings, then go on to the supporting data or details.
- Do not comment on or evaluate the article. An abstract should not be confused with a review.
Adapted from: Day, Robert A. How to Write & Publish a Scientific Paper. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1995. 29-32.