The abstract, although it comes first logistically, always should be written last. It needs to be written last because it is the essence of your report, drawing information from all of the other sections of the report. It explains why the experiment was performed and what conclusions were drawn from the results obtained. A general guideline for an abstract has five sections or areas of focus: why the experiment was conducted; the problem being addressed; what methods were used to solve the problem; the major results obtained; and the overall conclusions from the experiment as a whole. Do not be misled, however, from this list into thinking that the abstract is a long section. In fact, it should be significantly shorter than all of the others. All of this information should be summarized in a clear but succinct manner if the abstract is going to be successful. An estimated average length for all of this information is only a single paragraph. Although this may seem as though it is a short length to contain all of the required information, it is necessary because it forces you to be accurate and yet compact, two essential qualities. The best way to attempt to go about writing an abstract is to divide it into the sections mentioned above. The first two sections are very similar and can be grouped together, but do not have to be. If you decide to address them separately, make sure that you do not repeat anything. Often a section can be mentioned in only one sentence. Remember, brevity is the key to a successful abstract. Each section is addressed below to help clarify what needs to be included and what can be omitted. The most important thing to remember when writing the abstract is to be brief and state only what is pertinent. No extraneous information should be included. A successful abstract is compact, accurate and self-contained. It also must be clear enough so someone who is unfamiliar with your experiment could understand why you did what you did, and what the experiment indicated in the end. An additional note is that abstracts typically are written in the passive voice, but it is acceptable to use personal pronouns such as I or we. General questions to be addressed in the abstract section
1. Why it was done and what is the problem being addressed? These two sections can be grouped together into one brief statement summarizing why the experiment was performed in the first place? What was the question trying to be answered? Science is an exploration for truth. It is all about curiosity and answering questions to find out why and how things work. The scientific method is a clear example of this; first state a problem or question and then try to determine the answer. This section is the statement of the original problem. It is the reason behind why an experiment is being done. This should not include many details, rather it should be a simple statement. It can even be stated in one or two sentences at the most. 2. What did you do?
This part of the abstract states what was done to try to answer the question proposed. It should in no way be very detailed. It contains a brief outline of what was done, highlighting only crucial steps. It is the materials and methods section of your abstract, but it is only one or two sentences in length. It is a description of how you decided to approach the problem. 3. What did you find out?
In other words, what did all of your hard work and preparation tell you about the question you set out to answer. This contains only the crucial results obtained. The crucial results are those that are necessary to answer your original question posed. Without these results, the experiment would have been useless. The results should be stated briefly and should not be explained; they should only be mentioned. It is very similar to the results section of your paper, but it highlights only pertinent results used to draw conclusions. An average length for this section is two or three sentences...
Links: Pechenik, Jan A. A short guide to writing about Biology. pp. 54-102, Tufts University: Harper CollinsCollege Publishers. 1993. Viewed on line 9/27/12: http://writing2.richmond.edu/training/project/biology/abslit.html:
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