Writing an Abstract for an Under Graduate Thesis
Universitas Kristen Indonesia Jakarta
What Is an Abstract?
An abstract is a summary or a greatly condensed version of a longer piece of writing that highlights the major points covered, and concisely describes the content and scope of the writing. In a research report (thesis and dissertation), it is a concise and clear summary of the research’ objective, methods, results, and conclusions plus recommendations’. It is generally written in 200–350 words—a dissertation’s could be written in 350 words, and a thesis’ abstract, in 200-250 words.
An abstract could also be viewed as a self-contained, short, and powerful ‘mini paper’ that describes a larger work (thesis, dissertation or other forms of research report). It could be understood (in the sense that it could be read independently on its own) without reference to the work it represents. It is placed as the first part of a research report, and is therefore the first thing to be read by the readers and forms the first impression of the work. By so doing, an abstract enables readers to decide whether or not the work is of interest for them so that it is worth reading the full text or not.
An abstract could be written for various reasons. However, the two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts enable readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, since many online databases use abstracts to index larger works, the use of keywords and phrases placed at the end of abstracts will allow for easy searching.
What does an abstract include?
As it is previously indicated, an abstract generally include four elements: (1) the research’ objective (what was set out to do and why); (2) methodology (how it was done, including the participants and materials); (3) results (what findings were obtained); and (4) conclusions and recommendations.
The readers of an abstract are assumed an expert in the discipline. Therefore, you do not need to provide any definition of terminology or background explanations in your abstract. Citations are also normally excluded from an abstract.
How to write an abstract
Since all main and the most essential contents of a paper are covered in the abstract, it should be written last. It is always written soon after the author finishes the other sections, while the rest of the manuscript is fresh in the author’s mind.
To write an effective abstract, follow these steps: (1) write it after you have finished the thesis; (2) identify the aims, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations of your thesis in key words; (3) use your headings and table of contents as a guide to writing your abstract; (4) when you have finished, proofread and edit it to correct errors (use spell-check software is recommended) and to meet your institutional guidelines; and (5) show the abstract to someone who has not read your thesis and ask him / her if the abstract makes good sense.
It is also necessary to check whether the abstract is effective or not. To do it, check whether it has met the following qualities. First, it avoids the use of first person (“I”, “we”). Instead, use passive sentences. Second, it normally uses the past tenses to describe what was done and found and the present tenses to describe results and conclusions that are still applicable. Third, it includes only common abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols. If an unfamiliar one must be used, provide explanation to them in the first time it is used. Fourth, it is written in an essay form of three well developed paragraphs (though some abstract are also written in two paragraphs). Fifth, the three paragraphs are successively used as the introduction, the body and conclusion of the abstract. Sixth, it strictly follows the chronology of the thesis. The first paragraph (introduction) presents the research purpose. The second (body) presents methodology. The third presents the results, conclusion and suggestion. However, each paragraph should not be given headings (e.g. Objectives, Methods, Results and Conclusions). Seventh, it uses digits for all numbers, except those that begin a sentence. Finally, it adds no new information, but simply summarizes the report.
Since keywords are used by journals, search engines, and indexing and abstracting services to classify papers to select keywords, you should choose keywords that best describe the content of your thesis. Three to five keywords are generally adequate for a thesis. Keywords can be taken from the abstract and/or title. Individual words and/or phrases may be used. Common abbreviations of terms (e.g. ELT, CALL, and EFL) could also be included. Use keywords that will be easily recognized by others in your discipline. To help you determine whether your keywords are appropriate for the topic of your thesis, before you submit your article, try to type your keywords into a search engine and check if the results that show up match the subject of your paper.
To get the full paper, together with three examples, click here.