Writing an Abstract for a Professional Meeting

An abstract serves as a brief summary (usually no more than 200 words) of the author’s research objective and key findings and it must be tailored to communicate with the anticipated audience. Consider, for instance, whether you will be speaking to the public, an educated layperson, or another expert in your field of study. The language you will use in your abstract will depend upon who will be listening. Advice on how to write an abstract or proposal varies widely among disciplines and authors. When examined closely, however, there are six (6) common threads that appear in most good examples:

  1. Introduction. Unlike the comparable section in a long paper or article, the introduction in an abstract need only briefly identify the topic or general area of study. Introductory statements in abstracts can be as short as one sentence.
  2. Problem statement. What problem or question does your research address? Unlike the “inverted pyramid” approach you might follow in a longer paper, the research objective in an abstract should be stated up front and can be as short as one concise sentence.
  3. Relevance/Significance. Why does this research matter? Why do we care about the problem and the results? Why has no one else adequately answered the research question?
  4. Approach (or methodology). Explain how you addressed the problem or explored the question. Did your research use quantitative data collection and analysis, theoretical inquiry, or qualitative exploration?
  5. Results. Briefly explain summarize the study’s main findings and/or what can be done with these results once the data is collected or the project is completed.
  6. Key impact: In a single sentence, what is the key impact of your research? Answer the “so what” question. What is the significance of your findings? Why should other people care? Did you discover something that has not yet been discussed or reviewed?

Click here for sample abstracts.

 

Last Updated: July 17, 2014

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