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An abstract is a SUMMARY of the work it relates to.


It precedes the book, chapter or article to which it refers.


Its PURPOSE is to enable another reader or researcher to obtain an overview of what has been written in order to make an informed decision about its relevance.  (If you have ever written a literature review, you will recall how invaluable it was to be able to read through the abstract that preceded a book, chapter or article rather than have to read through the whole thing.  This helped you decide whether it was worth reading that particular piece of literature in its entirety.)


An abstract should make sense in its own right.




This will depend on the length of the original piece of work it relates to, but 150-250 words should be sufficient to provide a useful summary.




What is this piece of work about?  Why is it relevant / interesting / important?

(If what you have researched / written about follows on or is dependent on another piece of work [by another researcher, for instance], make sure that this is mentioned.)


What is the scope of the work?  (Is it general or specific, national or local, etc.?)


If the work referred to is a piece of research, what methodology was used (and why?)

If the work is a literature review, it may be relevant to mention the main literature sources.


If the work is a piece of research - what are the main findings?

If the work is a literature review - what are the main  themes?


What new contribution is made by this piece of research?

What is the main argument or finding?


What recommendations does it make about future action or enquiry?





The abstract should be written LAST of all.


Make sure that it contains the KEY WORDS used in the main work.


An abstract would not normally be written in the first person ("I")


An abstract will most likely be written in the past or present tense.

It is appropriate to use the present tense to describe the context of the work; to state the findings and conclusions (although the past tense might also be appropriate.)

Events that happened during the research process are best described in the past tense.


The abstract should not contain anything new or different that is not contained in the main body of writing.




Click here for Wikipedia definition


Click here for web article "How to write an abstract"