An abstract is a synopsis that’s in a nutshell. In the abstract on a scientific paper, the reader learns what the pages are about. An abstract should be so interestingly formulated that the reader is also motivated to read the entire text.
What should be considered in the abstract?
To formulate an abstract correctly, the author first has to be aware of who the readers are. They should feel addressed. However, excessive motivation is to be avoided, especially if it is a master’s thesis or a bachelor’s thesis. The scientific language is factual and sober. In addition the reader learns, which methodology the author used. But he also learns what the central question is and what the goal of all the work has.
Do not neglect preparation
A good start is to read and compare papers with a similar focus on how other graduates have dealt with the challenge of the abstract. One or the other example can almost always be transferred well and makes preparation easier. However, the author must also observe the requirements of the university and the examination regulations.
How long may an abstract be?
Usually an abstract should not be longer than 150 to 250 words. The specifications can be different in severity. That is to clarify in advance. An abstract for an article in a magazine may even be limited in the number of words. Decisive, however, is the content here as well. The author must make sure that the given number of words does not restrict the content. It is therefore important to be brief and to distinguish between avoidable information and important statements. In addition, the intelligibility must not suffer. Usually, the limited word input tends to make the abstract more understandable.
Abstract is too long, how to cut right?
If an abstract has become too long, the lure is great to maintain the length, especially if the author has the impression that the text has basically succeeded. Here it helps to realize that he is just not correct. He is too long. For the subsequent shortening it is recommended to separate the abstract again according to sections.
Are the sections reasonably related? Straight lines of text, which have brought the author much fun or important findings, tempt to a detailed presentation in the abstract. There is often potential for cuts here. In the next step, unnecessary filler words are deleted. The final operation involves the task of reuniting the sections into a fluid and conclusive text.
- Build up the abstract correctly
- For an abstract, the author should take sufficient time. Important are the following points:
- What is the central question?
- What was the reason for the question?
- Which empirical basis is the basis for the work?
- What results did the author conclude?
- What new knowledge results from the work?
It is advisable to first build an abstract in bullet points and to organize it properly. Then the individual questions and statements are defined. For the outline of the abstract it is advisable to consult the structure of the whole work. The abstract thus becomes a small summary of the work without going into detail. The reader knows, however, what content it expects and what purpose the author has.
Tips for writing the abstract
The abstract may be formulated in an exciting way. Since it contains the conclusion, it is one of the last steps in the work and is part of the completion. A typical mistake is to include some parts of the abstract in the abstract. This is not allowed and leads to point deduction. Also quotes from other parts of the work should not be found in the abstract.
This means, individual contents may and should be taken over. However, the wording must be new and adapted to the specifications of the abstract. This is labor intensive, but is part of the scientific work. Even in later publications, the author will hardly be able to quote himself, but has to put his findings into words again and again.
Abstract is not a foreword and a summary
An abstract is an independent format for the introduction to a scientific contribution. So it not only entertains and forwards the reader to the text. In contrast to an entertaining article, the abstract anticipates the result. Nor does it simply summarize what the following pages are about. Accordingly, citations rather do not belong in the abstract. Literal citations are allowed. The question is whether they make sense. Should open questions arise from the master thesis or bachelor thesis, this must not be discussed in the abstract. An abstract may contain keywords.
Let the abstract be read aloud
The examiner and later other readers will first read the abstract. Any author of a scholarly work should want his insights to be meaningful enough to be considered later. This shows that the Master’s thesis must be formulated precisely from the first word. The abstract provides the necessary information as to whether the reader will find the answers to open questions on the other pages. After completion, it is therefore advisable to critically read the abstract, as well as the entire work.
Open questions and unhandled topics
If individual questions could not be answered, these questions do not belong in the abstract. Of course, this also applies to content that is not covered in the master’s thesis. This is another reason why the abstract may not be written until the actual work has been completed. It is advisable to note down all the key messages from the abstract and to check whether they have been completely dealt with in the master’s thesis with the required emphasis. If further important questions and answers arise, these passages must also be mentioned in the abstract.