Writing an Abstract

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a summary of your paper and/or research project. It should be single-spaced, one paragraph, and approximately 250-300 words. It is NOT an introduction to your paper; rather, it should highlight your major points, explain why your work is important, describe how you researched your problem, and offer your conclusions.

How do I prepare an abstract?

An abstract should be clear and concise, without any grammatical mistakes or typographical errors. You may wish to have it reviewed by the Writing Center, who are  happy to work with you on your abstract and are available via appointments, as well as a writing instructor, tutor, or other writing specialist. 

For the purposes of the symposium, the wording of an abstract should be understandable to a well-read, interdisciplinary audience. Specialized terms should be either defined or avoided.

A successful abstract addresses the following points:

  • Problem: What is the central problem or question you investigated?
  • Purpose: Why is your study important? How it is different from other similar investigations? Why we should care about your project?
  • Methods: What are the important methods you used to perform your research?
  • Results: What are the major results of the research project? (You do not have to detail all of the results, highlight only the major ones.)
  • Interpretation: How do your results relate back to your central problem?
  • Implications: Why are your results important? What can we learn from them?

It should not include any charts, tables, figures, footnotes, references or other supporting information.

Finally, please note that your abstract must have the approval of your research mentor or advisor.

    Samples of Abstracts

    Browse through past volumes of WUSHTA and WUURD available via WashU Open Scholarship to view samples of abstracts in all disciplines, or take a look at the samples below:

    Sample abstract: Social Sciences

    Sample abstract: Natural Sciences

    Sample abstract: Humanities