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Tutoring Service: Writing an Abstract

Overview of the Avondale University Tutoring Service.



Purpose of an Abstract

An abstract provides a clear overview of the purpose and key contents of a paper, as well as any relevant findings and conclusions. According to Lester and Lester (2005) an abstract is a “quick but thorough summary of the contents of your paper” (p. 324). In a publishing setting, your abstract may be the only part of your paper read, so it is important to write a concise synopsis of what your paper covers, as it helps the reader to decide whether or not it is useful to them.

Abstract Snapshot vs Detail


  • explain the problem/topic;
  • state the hypothesis;
  • discuss the key aspects with brief references to literature;
  • define terminology;
  • describe methodology;
  • and summarise findings.

It's in the Details

There are a number of things to consider when developing your abstract. Your abstract should:

  • explain the specific problem/question/topic;
  • state the thesis statement/hypothesis;
  • discuss the key aspects/make brief references to the literature you have reviewed;
  • define important terminology;
  • describe methodology (for research projects only);
  • and summarise findings and their implications/applications.

Remember, you abstract should be a clearly articulated and self-contained paragraph that provides a concise summary for your reader.

Abstract vs Introduction

Knowing the difference between an abstract and introduction can sometimes be confusing—an abstract is a concise summary that could be used to index a paper in a database, and an introduction is an overview of a paper that provides a context and offers a thesis statement. 


  • Written in the active voice instead of the passive.
  • Present tense used to discuss results and conclusions.
  • Past tense used to discuss measured outcomes.


  • Move from the general to the specific—statement about topic ➡ key areas  thesis statement.
  • Written for a wide readership—don't assume your reader is a specialist.
  • Written objectively.

Format of an APA Abstract

Not all papers require an abstract—check with your assignment rubric to confirm whether or not you need to write one. However, often an APA paper does require as abstract and the following guidelines refer specifically to an APA abstract:

  • Place abstract on second page of paper (after cover sheet/title page).
  • Label page with the word Abstract centred and in bold typeface.
  • Use 2.54cm (1 inch) margin on all sides.
  • Ensure text is written directly underneath heading in a single paragraph that is double-spaced but not indented.
  • Abstract should be 150-250 words in length.

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This resource page has been developed to help you write an abstract, however, your lecturer may have specific ideas of what should and shouldn't be included in your assignment. Always ask your lecturer if unsure.

Lester, J. & Lester, J Jr. (2014). Writing research papers: a complete guide (15th ed.). Pearson Higher Ed USA. 

APA Style (2020). Abstract and Keywords.