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Types of Abstracts

Abstracts vary depending on the type of study or project being described.  A few examples include:

  • Empirical study -- describes (1) the problem under investigation (2) the participants, identifying characteristics such as age, sex, ethnic group (3) essential features of the study method (4) basic findings (5) conclusions and implications or applications.
  • Literature review or meta-analysis  -- describes (1) the problem under investigation (2) study eligibility criteria (3) types of participants (4) main results, including the most important effect sizes, and any important moderators of these effect sizes (5) conclusions, including limitations (6) implications for theory, policy, and practice.
  • Theory-oriented paper -- describes (1) how the theory or model works and the principles on which it is based and (2) what phenomena the theory or model accounts for and linkages to empirical results.
  • Methodological paper -- describes (1) the general class of methods being discussed (2) the essential features of the proposed method (3) the range of application of the proposed method (4) in the case of statistical procedures, some of its essential features such as robustness or power efficiency.
  • Case study -- describes (1) the subject and relevant characteristics of the individual, group, community, or organization presented (2) the nature of or solution to a problem illustrated by the case example (3) questions raised for additional research or theory.

All About Abstracts

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article. It allows readers to survey the contents of an article quickly. A well-written abstract is the single most important paragraph in a document. Most people decide whether to read the entire article on the basis of the abstract. 

According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., p. 25-27), a good abstract should be:

  • ACCURATE -- reflects the purpose and content of the article.
  • COHERENT -- written in clear, concise language. Use the active rather than the passive voice (e.g., investigated instead of investigation of).
  • CONCISE -- be brief but make each sentence extremely informative, especially the first sentence. Begin the abstract with the most important points. An abstract should be dense with information.


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Daria O. Carle
Science & Engineering Librarian
Consortium Library, Room 301D