How to write the abstract and the summary of a study?

By Avishek Majumder on April 16, 2019
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Abstract and summary is the short version summarizing and describing the contents of a paper. They comprise of the same context but are different in a few ways. They provide the first impression of a paper and act as a preface to answer the reader’s questions;

  • What has been done in the paper?
  • How has it been done?
  • What is the research about?
  • Why has it been done?
  • What were the findings?

Things to consider

Points to remember while writing abstract and summary
Points to remember while writing abstract and summary

Abstract or summary is an important part is written at the beginning of a paper. However, they are always written after the completion of a project. Another aspect is that abstracts and summaries never include citations or references. They must be simple and easy to understand and should answer the questions mentioned in the above section. An abstract and summary must cover the complete research in a maximum of 1000 words. However, abstracts are usually limited to 500 words, summaries of 1000 words are usually termed as ‘Executive summaries’. If the paper is a scientific article, then write an abstract of a maximum of 300 words and a minimum of 150 words. The following points should be kept in mind while writing the abstract or the summary of a study:

  • the background or introduction
  • the rationale of the paper
  • aim of the research
  • literature reviews (only in case of summary and executive summary)
  • conceptual framework (in case of summary and executive summary)
  • methods used
  • findings of the research
  • conclusions and limitations

Things not to include

  • Lengthy background or contextual information.
  • Redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information.
  • Acronyms or abbreviations.
  • References to other literature.
  • Using incomplete sentences and symbols.
  • Jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader.
  • Citations to other works.
  • Any sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references.
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Difference between abstract and summary

Type of paperJournals, Essays, and Masters’ ThesisThesis and Dissertations for Ph.D. and Masters’
No. of words and length (pages)150 to 300 words;
A quarter of a page to one-page abstract
300 to 1000 words;
One page to four-page summary or executive summary
ContentsAim of the study, problem statement, methods, findings and limitations of the researchAim and objectives, background, literature review, problem statement, methods, findings, conclusions and limitations
Use of keywordsAbstracts in scientific papers usually comprise of keywordsNo keywords needed
TypeCritical and descriptiveDescriptive and informative

Steps to follow

  1. First, complete the whole research and the writing of the paper.
  2. Extract the information.
  3. Plan the type of abstract or summary; informative, descriptive or critical. Informative is usually lengthy and briefly describes all the chapters of a thesis or dissertation. Descriptive comprises of only goals and findings of the study, and critical presents only findings of research papers.
  4. Provide information on aim, problem statement, methods, findings, and conclusions of the main paper.
  5. Repeat the process and check if any important information is missing.
  6. Cross-check with the questions mentioned in the earlier section of the article.


Aim of the study

(AIM) The main aim of the current paper was to find the different aspects of abstract and a summary.

(PROBLEM STATEMENT) It was, however, found that there are certain differences between an abstract and a summary. Moreover, summaries are extended parts of abstracts. Therefore, it is important to assess the different aspects and the difference between an abstract and a summary.

(BACKGROUND) It is the short version summarizing and describing the contents of a journal or a dissertation or thesis. Abstract and summary comprise of the same context but are different in a few ways. They provide the first impression of a research paper.

(METHODS) The current paper compares different samples of abstracts and summaries from different journal papers and theses. A sample of 5 different journals and 5 different theses was explored to find the difference between them.

(FINDINGS) There is a significant difference between abstract and summary on the basis of the type of research paper, no. of words and length, contents and type of abstract/summary.

(CONCLUSION AND LIMITATIONS) The current study found the presence of a significant difference. However, the study has certain limitations that need to be addressed in the future for better understanding the difference between abstract and summary. The limitations have been presented at the end of the paper.

Avishek Majumder