Writing an Abstract

An abstract should be a specific summary of the paper or report. An abstract should be written in such a way that any reader who is not familiar with the topic will be able to understand and appreciate the main points of the study.

Content of an abstract

It should provide a brief summary of each of the main sections of the paper:

  • First, state the principal objectives/purposes of the experiment (introduction),
  • concisely describe the experimental and data analysis methods,
  • mention key experimental conditions that were essential to the results,
  • summarize the major results, and
  • rationalize the results with the principal conclusions.

Style of an abstract

  • Because the abstract is evaluated by both the editors and general readers, extra effort should be taken to compose an effective and concise abstract.
  • An abstract should be fewer than 250 words.
  • Please write the abstract entirely in the past tense because it refers to work done.
    • Note it was once the norm to write abstracts in present tense only. A few authors still publish in this style. Because the present tense abstract is acceptable in the publishing world, you will not lose points for writing in this style.
  • An abstract must consist of text only. Never include figures or tables.
  • Since the abstract will be published in searchable databases, footnotes or undefined abbreviations may not be used.
  • Likewise, references to the literature must not be cited. If a reference must be cited (rare), complete publication data must be given in the abstract text, e.g. White, R. H. (1982) Biochemistry 21, 4271-4275.