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Structuring your Abstract

Abstracts are predictable: they usually cover the same elements, in roughly the same order. But what are those elements? We analyzed the Abstracts of 25,000 published papers to find out. See below! Follow this structure and you can be sure that your Abstract follows the norm. Still struggling? Give Writefull’s Abstract Generator a try.

First part: Background and aim

Authors most often start by giving background information; for example, by referring to a gap in the field or contradictory findings of studies so far. After this, they introduce the aim of their work in one or two sentences. You can also swap these around and first mention the aim, then give background information.

Middle part: Methods and results

Next, you briefly explain the methods you used. Keep this as concise as possible, but give enough information for the reader to understand the setup of your study or experiment. For example, mention the number of participants, the subject groups and conditions, and any instruments used.

Right after the methods, you briefly summarize the main results - if relevant, together with the statistical analysis used. For example, report that a t-test revealed significant differences between immediate and delayed post-test scores. Keep it to those results that are key to answering your research question.

Last part: Meaning and contribution

Finally, you explain what these results mean. For example, what does (the lack of) a significant difference tell us? Does it show the effectiveness, efficiency, influence, or importance of something? Authors often link this to the overall contribution of their work to the field, or to other fields. Is this the first study to suggest or confirm something, to bridge a gap, or to propose a method? The last sentence of the Abstract is often a reference to future research, such as what needs to be further explored.

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Useful phrases for your Abstract

FAQs about writing an Abstract

Abstract examples with explanations