What Is Abstract

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What is an abstract?
An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline; an abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.

Why are abstracts so important?

The practice of using key words in an abstract is vital because of today's electronic information retrieval systems. Titles and abstracts are filed electronically, and key words are put in electronic storage. When people search for information, they enter key words related to the subject, and the computer prints out the titles of articles, papers, and reports containing those key words. Thus, an abstract must contain key words about what is essential in an article, paper, or report so that someone else can retrieve information from it.

Qualities of a Good Abstract

An effective abstract has the following qualities:

• uses one or more well developed paragraphs: these are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone.

• uses an introduction/body/conclusion structure which presents the article, paper, or report's purpose, results, conclusions, and recommendations in that order.

• follows strictly the chronology of the article, paper, or report.

• provides logical connections (or transitions) between the information included.

• adds no new information, but simply summarizes the report.

• is understandable to a wide audience.

• oftentimes uses passive verbs to downplay the author and emphasize the information. Check with your teacher if you're unsure whether or not to use passive voice.

Steps for Writing Effective Abstracts

To write an effective abstract, follow these steps:

• Reread the article, paper, or report with the goal of abstracting in mind.

o Look specifically for these main parts of the article, paper, or report: purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendation.

o Use the headings, outline heads, and table of contents as a guide to writing your abstract.

o If you're writing an abstract about another person's article, paper, or report, the introduction and the summary are good places to begin. These areas generally cover what the article emphasizes.

• After you've finished rereading the article, paper, or report, write a rough draft without looking back at what you're abstracting.

o Don't merely copy key sentences from the article, paper, or report: you'll put in too much or too little information.

o Don't rely on the way material was phrased in the article, paper, or report: summarize information in a new way.

• Revise your rough draft to

o correct weaknesses in organization.

o improve transitions from point to point.

o drop unnecessary information.

o add important information you left out.

o eliminate wordiness.

o fix errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

• Print your final copy and read it again to catch any glitches that you find.

Compare/Contrast Papers

Goal: To explore the similarities and differences between two texts.

|To begin | |Think about the arguments and evidence presented in each text. Try to identify each author's thesis statement. | |...
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