Writing an Abstract

Here are some tips on writing an abstract

What should the abstract include?

Think of your abstract as a condensed version of your whole project. By reading it, the reader should understand the nature of your research question. Like abstracts that researchers prepare for scholarly conferences, the abstract you submit for the Undergraduate Research Conference will most likely reflect work still in progress at the time you write it. Although the content will vary according to field and specific project, all abstracts, whether in the sciences or the humanities, convey the following information:

  • The purpose of the project identifying the area of study to which it belongs.
  • The research problem that motivates the project.
  • The methods used to address this research problem, documents or evidence analyzed.
  • The preliminary results of the investigation (what the research methods demonstrate?)
  • The significance of the research project. Why are the results useful? What is new to our understanding as the result of your inquiry?

Whatever kind of research you are doing, your abstract should provide the reader with answers to the following questions: What are you asking? Why is it important? How will you study it? What will you use to demonstrate your conclusions? What are those conclusions? What do they mean?

Stylistic considerations

The abstract should be one paragraph and should not exceed the word limit. Edit it closely to be sure it meets the Four C’s of abstract writing:

  • Complete — it covers the major parts of the project.
  • Concise — it contains no excess wordiness or unnecessary information. (Over-writing is all too easy, so reserve time for cutting your abstract down to the essential information.)
  • Clear — it is readable, and well organized.
  • Cohesive — it flows smoothly between the parts.

Sample Abstract

Title: Oregon’s Wheelmen: Oregon Bicycle Culture and Advocacy During the Golden Age of the Wheel (1885-1900)
Author: Kurushima, David (UO Humanities Major, Student Undergraduate Library Research Award Recipient)
Abstract: Bicycle culture and bicycle advocacy, as a social and environmental movement, are considerably dynamic forces in Oregon today; yet, to the astonishment of many Oregonians, the history of bicycling and bicycle culture in the state dates back to well over a 120 years. In the 1890’s, before the proliferation of the automobile and the subsequent development of related environmental, economic and social concerns, the bicycle enjoyed a brief golden age in Oregon as it did across the U.S. Although the bicycle’s Belle Epoch was most evident in the heavily urbanized cities and towns of thenorth eastern United States, the bicycle frenzy that swept the country in the late 19th century did not by any means pass unobserved by Oregonians. By the mid 1890’s a nascent yet considerably extensive bicycle culture had taken root in the state. Unsurprisingly, many of the characteristics and trends that had come to define this early bicycle culture in other parts of the U.S. were consciously and, in many cases, inevitably replicated in Oregon. As they had in more urbanized states, such as Massachusetts and New York, newly formed cycling clubs andwheelmen associations—overwhelming composed of well-to-do white males—became the driving forces behind Oregon’s early bicycle movement. Although these groups were fairly exclusive organizations, they came to define a cohesive bicycle culture and became the nearly forgotten symbols of a brief yet intriguing period in the state’s history.Word Count: 236

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s