How to Write a Humanities Abstract
An abstract summarizes the contents of a given academic paper - article, dissertation, book, and so forth. It is a necessary part of every academic work and for that reason it deserves careful consideration. Do not think your abstract is a piece of cake; on the contrary, to write a short piece of text is harder than to write a long one.
Humanities differ from Natural sciences
In Humanities an abstract contains the main research question, the main thesis, and two or three arguments; it may also include methodology and other details, according to the importance of this piece of information. In Natural sciences an abstract is usually focused on carrying out an experiment and its theoretical interpretation, so it may contain statistical or technical data as well.
Writing a Humanities abstract: 5 main principles
The main principles of writing a Humanities abstract are the following: conciseness, proper terminology, relevancy, and adequate reflection of the paper’s structure.
1. Be concise
The length of your abstract should be between 100 and 500 words, depending on the occasion. For participation in conferences you will need around 300 words. If you are eager to write it all in a breath, you risk losing the main idea of the paper, and also miss some important points. Thus, pay attention to this part of your academic paper well in advance.
2. Employ terminology
This will help you to attract professional audience. Most academic readers check only abstracts, and not full articles. To be familiar with the most recent theories also means to know how to use definite concepts. Thus, avoid using mundane language.
3. Be relevant
This means that you cannot incorporate additional information which is not present in your paper. Explain in brief the goal of your research, its methods and main assumptions. Be relevant to the paper, and also to its main thesis. Besides, don’t go too far in the process of explanation.
4. Follow the structure
If your work has three chapters, well, you should mention it. Order your main points in the same manner as they are ordered in your academic paper. This principle has its methodological (the abstract is easy to be completed) and logical (you are consistent and coherent) advantages.
5. Understand your own text
The most important thing while writing a Humanities abstract is to make it clear to yourself what you want to say and to express in the paper. Thus, the first outline of the paper can be used also as an abstract - you have to modify it.
What you should not do
There are several widespread mistakes regarding the process of writing an abstract:
1. Incorporating insignificant information
This increases the length of your abstract, but is not essentially important.
2. Exceeding the word limit
You won’t have any problem exceeding it by 5 or 10 words, but some people make their abstract much longer than required. A conference committee or a journal committee will ask you to re-write it again.
It is recommended to use quotes only in the body of the text.
4. Adding information which is not available in the body text
Remember, your abstract only summarizes the information included in the text.
Keep all this in mind, and you will be able to write your first Humanities abstract. Never think it would be easy. At any rate, a good abstract will “advertise” your paper in a way you haven’t expected before.
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