How to Write a Research Abstract
An abstract is considered to be an essential element of any research paper. Also, it is a key requirement for submitting data in conferences or meetings. The heavy importance attached to it in the research field lends it an air of formidability. Novice are novice, even seasoned researchers struggle to write a research abstract properly. Thus, it is important to learn how to write a research abstract.
1. Definition and Scope of Abstract
An abstract can be defined as a clear succinct summary of one’s research and it aims to communicate the essential elements of the research project. One can say that it is the window to one’s research.
Scope of a research project involves mentioning of following points: title, background, objective /aim, methods or tools employed to study the problem, results obtained and conclusions. Generally, an abstract is limited to 200-300 words, though, it can differ from one journal to another. Whatever be the case, never exceed the word limit specified by the journal or research style manual.
The title is a vital part of the abstract because many students decide whether to read the abstract and research paper based on it. Ideally, the abstract's title should be about 10-12 words long and easy to read. In addition, it should reflect and concisely describe the research. Following the title, authors’ names and their institutional affiliations should be listed. Here is an example –
Title – Treatment of EGFR positive lung cancer patients with targeted agents demonstrated good results.
Author and Affiliation - Smith J., International Institute of Cancer Research, U.S.
Though there is no rule about a sequence of elements in writing an abstract, writing background of the research is generally accepted as a good practice. Background helps in orienting a reader to the reason for the present research being conducted. However, do not splurge in explaining the background. An author should confine the background to one or two sentences maximum in the abstract. For example –
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in males. Genomic profiling shows approximately 10-20% of lung cancer in Western countries to harbour mutation in EGFR, a growth receptor.
Once the background is explained, the author must provide rationale / objective / hypothesis for doing present research. You should carefully mention it in a concise form - one or two sentences. A longer objective might lead the readers to lose their focus. Here is an example of the objective –
Aim of this study was to understand efficacy of targeted agents against EGFR in lung cancer patients.
An abstract should clearly mention key methods utilized in completing a particular research. It is imperative to provide important details so that the reader can understand an approach used to solve a particular problem. Again, the method should be described in one or two sentences, which include: setting, study design, study population, data collection methods and time period. The analytical techniques and statistical tests can also be described in this section. For example –
Two hundred newly diagnosed lung cancer patients were treated with two drugs for three months and data was collected every one month to understand efficacy of the drug.
Generally, results section is the longest section in the research abstract. It contains key data which were obtained while doing an experiment. One should take care to mention only the most important data point considering the space constraint. If the abstract is about clinical research then primary outcomes of the research should always be included in the results. In case there is possibility to mention more, one can put the results into categories or subcategories. An example of a results section is given below –
Out of two hundred patients treated, seventy percent of them demonstrated longer disease control of drug B than drug A.
The abstract should conclude with the final sentence that should address whether the purpose of the study was met or whether the data support prior hypothesis. Conclusions should be reasonable and supportable by the study results; unsubstantiated opinions or information beyond the scope of the study should not be included. Here is an example –
Drug B demonstrated superior efficacy than drug A in clinical conditions. However, further research needs to be done to understand other parameters.
Above mentioned sections are key required in writign a research abstract. If followed sequentially, an author can complete an abstract writing in an easier fashion. Point to note here is that keeping tab on word count is very important. Additionally, before submitting a research abstract, make sure that language is understandable by even non-technical readers, and that it is free of spelling and grammatical mistakes.
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