Why is a good abstract important?

  • People often judge from an abstract of a paper to decide whether or not they want to invest their time in it.
  • Online databases typically contain only abstracts.
  • Editors or reviewers use abstracts as the first parts to evaluate your work.

Hence, a concise and effective abstract well-describing your work increases search-ability and readership, and most important of all, expedite editorial evaluation.

My steps for writing an abstract

  1. Write the paper first, and then use the abstract as a self-contained summary.
  2. As I start to work on the abstract, I go over the paper and outline the following:

    Elements I collect before for an abstract

    • Motivation of my work (Optional)
      • Why do my readers need to care about the problem?
        • strengthen the importance of my work
      • If 1) the motivation could not be easily written

        or 2) the problem is widely recognized as important, I’ll give a brief introduction to the problem/research area instead, or just skip this part.

        • Ex: mention the difficulty of the research area
    • Problem statement
      • What is the problem I am trying to solve?
      • Clearly define the scope of my work, ex: a general approach, a framework for historical research
    • Approach
      • What is my method? How did I solve the problem?
    • Results
      • What’s the result of my approach?
        • This is usually the evaluation part of the designed model.
        • ex: better performance.
      • focus on key results and findings
    • Conclusion
      • What are the implications of the results/findings? Why does it matter? What’s the impact?
      • What is the message I want my readers to take home (remember about my work)?
  3. Other considerations
    • Include keywords or phrases to help readers search for my paper
    • Don’t include citations or references, unless you know your audience will be experts in this research area. Keep it straightforward for a general audience
  4. After finishing the first draft of the abstract. I check if all the key ideas of the paper are included.