How to write an abstract

I’ve had a few overseas scholars bringing abstracts to me recently which is the reason for today’s posting. (If you don’t know what an abstract is then you don’t need to write one and you can go and have a cup of tea! Basically it’s a summary of an article written for an academic journal and it’s very important because readers read the abstract first and then if it looks interesting, relevant, and well-written then they will read the article.)

Here’s an example of an abstract from a journal I read called The English Language Teaching Journal:

Current in-service education and training programmes (INSET) are often found to be unsatisfactory due to the fact that they do not provide the teachers with opportunities to be actively involved in their development and to reflect on their teaching experiences. This study presents an INSET programme in which Turkish EFL teachers were provided with relevant theoretical knowledge along with guidance for research, reflection and collaboration. Results of the study showed that although teachers faced difficulties in conducting and reporting their research, the programme had a positive impact on their professional development. Thus, a research-oriented programme of this kind may help to resolve the problems and difficulties associated with INSET programmes in general.” (Atay, 2008)

(Atay, D. Teacher Research for professional development, ELT Journal 2008 62(2): 139-147)

In this abstract the writer does a number of things:
1. She states the problem.
2. She says what kind of research she did.
3. She says what she found out by briefly summarising the results.
4. She says what conclusions she made, what the implications of this research are.

This is the language that the author uses to perform these functions:
1. Stating a problem:
…is/are often found to be unsatisfactory due to the fact that..
2. Saying what type of research was done:
This study presents..
3. A brief summary of the results:
…Results of the study showed that..
…had a (positive) impact on ..
4. Drawing conclusions and implications:
…Thus, ……… may help to..

Don’t just take my word for it. You should read around the subject, and here’s a good link for you to do that. Read to the bottom of the page because there are some good links and more examples for you to see. The page here is from Berkeley University.