Directions for Abstracts | St. Lawrence University FYS Research Exchange

Directions for Abstracts

What is an Abstract? An abstract is an original, concise description of a larger work.

It Is Not…an excerpted passage—a review—or an evaluation.

Why write an abstract?
Reading an abstract essentially gives the audience enough information to decide whether or not it is worth their time to further explore the larger work. Writing an abstract therefore forces the author to determine the best way to communicate the main ideas of the larger work to an audience.

Key Words are an important concept in abstract writing. Think of key words as the author’s side of search terms. If you are looking for an article on the use of peer tutors in college writing centers, you would type terms such as “peer tutor,” “writing centers,” and “colleges” into the subject box of your search engine. If you are the author of an article on the use of peer tutors in college writing centers and you want others to be able to find your article, you would want to include these terms in the text. Make sure the key words from your larger work also appear in your abstract.

Two Types of Abstracts:

1) Descriptive: gives essence of the larger work, including purpose, methods, and scope, but NOT results, conclusions, or recommendations; are very short (under 100 words); introduce subject to readers, who must then turn to larger work for more information.
2) Informational: communicates contents of larger work, including purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations; highlights essential points in a brief manner (from one paragraph to a page or two— less than 10% of original text); allows readers to decide if they want to examine larger text.

Qualities of a good abstract: (Bolded items below are required for the FYS Research Exchange)

  • Meaningful Title
  • Uses one or more well-developed paragraphs (unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone). (No more than 175 words).
  • Uses an introduction-body-conclusion structure to discuss larger work
  • Follows chronology of the larger work (if applicable)
  • Provides logical connections between material
  • Adds no new information
  • Is intelligible to a wide audience

Workshop: Start by reviewing the larger work, and then try to answer the following questions:

1) Descriptive or Informative?

2) Working Title:

3) Key Words:

4) If possible, try to identify these main parts of the larger work:

5) Try drafting your abstract based on the information above. Remember that this is an original document. Do not copy sentences from the original and do not go over 175 words.

6) Edit for weaknesses in organization and coherence. Drop superfluous information. Add any important information that may have been left out. Eliminate wordiness (each word should count). Proofread carefully to correct errors in grammar and mechanics.