13/08/2018 – Post by Compass Mentor Alice Kim
Writing an abstract is an important skill in academic writing. It is probably one of the most common pieces of writing that researchers do – for journal submissions and conference proceedings. Once you master the art of writing an abstract, you have acquired a skill that can be used in a myriad of ways.
I like to think of the abstract as the “blurb” of your research. It’s usually the first thing people read so it should give them enough information to understand your research journey.
Coming from a science background, I was taught the “formula” but this can be applied to all disciplines. An abstract usually has five components:
- Introduction: Starting your abstract with a bit of background information helps sets the stage for your research. Introduce the key concepts or terms that are critical to your research to help the reader contextualise your research.
- Aim/hypothesis: Briefly state your aim (what you want to find out) or hypothesis (what you think you will find out) of your research.
- Methodology: How did you conduct your research (ie. literature search, experiments)? How did you analyse your data (ie. statistical tests, thematic analysis)?
- Results: What did you find out? Or if you do not have results yet, what are your preliminary results and/or what do you expect to find?
- Conclusion/significance: What do your results mean? What do they mean in the context of the field?
Altogether, this should give the reader the information to get a general understanding of your research. Some tips that I discovered through writing abstracts include:
- Use bullet points to plan your abstract. I extract the main points from each section and compile a list. By doing this, you can see all the critical points of your research, making it easier to link all the main points together.
- Keep it concise. An abstract is usually between 250-300 words, so it should be concise. Concise means brief but informative – you should be able to convey all the information you need using the minimum number of words. Writing concisely is a skill – the more you write, the better you will become.
- Avoid jargon. Your abstract could be read by anyone. In the case of ICUR, your audience is inter-disciplinary. To ensure that your audience understands your research, avoid using discipline-specific terms. If you need to use them, make sure to define them.
- Do the “mum test” – get someone from outside of your discipline to read your abstract. If they can understand it, that’s a good sign your abstract is fit for an interdisciplinary audience.
I hope these tips were helpful and happy abstract writing everyone!