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Preparing Academic Presentations

What is an Abstract?

A brief comprehensive description (frequently <100 words for conferences) of a piece of writing that highlights major points and findings and summarizes your interpretations and conclusions.

An abstract is NOT a simple summary or critique.

Parts of an Abstract

  1. Motivation/problem statement: Why do we care about the problem? What practical, scientific, theoretical or artistic gap is your research filling?
  2. Methods/procedure/approach: What did you actually do to get your results? (e.g. analyzed 3 novels, completed a series of 5 oil paintings, interviewed 17 students)
  3. Results/findings/product: As a result of completing the above procedure, what did you learn/invent/create?
  4. Conclusion/implications: What are the larger implications of your findings, especially for the problem/gap identified in step 1?

Function of an Abstract

  • Attention grabbing. The abstract is often the first contact a reader has with your document.
  • An elevator pitch to convince others why they should read your work.
  • Should tell readers whether they want to look at your article in more detail.
  • Enables readers to quickly evaluate the relevance of an article to their own work.
  • Enables readers interested in the document to find it in indexes and databases.

Tips for Writing an Abstract

  • Write the abstract after finishing the paper.
  • Be accurate. Only include information in the original document.
  • Be concise, get right to the point and use precise language. Include only 4 or 5 of the most important concepts, findings or implications.
  • Do not refer to the author (e.g., “Dr. Seuss argues”).
  • Do not refer to what type of document you are abstracting (e.g., “This book describes”).
  • Use active verbs whenever possible.
  • Use complete sentences.
  • Avoid jargon or colloquialisms.
  • Use familiar terminology whenever you can (and always explain terms that may be unfamiliar to the average reader).

Resources consulted: Abstract. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Abstracts. Introduction to Scholarly Communication. Purdue University Libraries. The Abstract. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper. University of Southern California Libraries. How to Write a Research Abstract. The Office of Undergraduate Studies. University of Kentucky. Writing Abstracts. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University.


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