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Writing a powerful abstract

How to write an abstract for a scientific article

 How to write an APA abstract

What is an Abstract?

Abstracts are short summaries of texts, which can range from around 100 to 250 words. They are found before the beginning of the main work. Your abstract should not include text that is copied from the longer work, and it should be understandable without needing to read the rest of the work. In other words, the abstract needs to be written separately.

Abstracts follow different patterns of organization depending on the area of research. Different research disciplines focus on certain sections of abstracts more than others, so look for examples in the journal articles you have researched to use as guides or samples. 

Note: Unless your instructor requests an abstract, they are not usually needed for undergraduate assignments.

How an abstract is different to an introduction


An abstract is the overall idea of the entire paper.

It can include the following features:

  • Background
  • Conclusions
  • Methods
  • Purpose and focus
  • Recommendations (implications)
  • Results (findings)

Abstracts concisely summarise the whole text including the conclusions.

(University of Adelaide, 2014)



An introduction introduces the paper.

It can include the following features:

  • Background
  • Outline of key issues
  • Proposition (thesis or purpose statement)
  • Purpose
  • Scope

It introduces the paper and previews the main points.

(University of Adelaide, 2014)


American National Standards Institute. (1977). American national standard for writing abstracts. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, PC-20(4), 252–254.

American Psychological Association. (2020). 7th Edition Abstract and Keywords Guide,

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

Ferriera, J.C. & Patino, C.M. (2018). Twelve tips to write an abstract for a conference: Advice for young and experienced investigators. Jornal Brasileiro de Pneumologia, 44(4), 260.

Hadidi, A. (2018, December 11). Supporting student writers in engineering. Southwestern Ontario Writing Centre Symposium [Symposium], Writing Department, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Hyland, K. (2004). Genre and second language writing. University of Michigan Press.

University of Adelaide. (2014). Writing an abstract: Writing centre learning guide,

University of Melbourne. (n.d.). Writing an abstract: Understanding and developing abstracts,