The Abstract as a Genre: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I Professional Abstracts: Good
Blue = situation via knowledge of Victorian period
Green = method
Red = thesis
Purple = larger consequence(s) for knowledge in the field
Vrettos, Athena. "Displaced Memories in Victorian Fiction and
Psychology."Victorian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of
Social, Political, and Cultural Studies 49.2 (2007): 199-207. Print.
In late-Victorian literature and psychology, memories were frequently
thought to transgress mental boundaries, drifting from one mind to
another or assuming a spectral existence. Objects with powerful - and
often traumatic - associations acted as an especially potent conduit
by which memories could pass between people who were distant in time
and space. Examining literary, psychological, and parapsychological
writings by Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Henry Lewes,
Samuel Butler, and F. W. H. Myers, this essay argues that these works
provide a distinctive set of narratives about the potential
displacement and uncertain ownership of memory. By offering a range of
speculations about how emotions, memories, and experiences adhere to
the material world, such narratives dramatize the permeability
increasingly attributed to memory, consciousness, and individual
identity at the end of the Victorian period.
Remarks: Very clearly meets the main rhetorical requirements of an abstract: proposes a thesis, situates it in some ongoing scholarly issues, makes its method clear, and answers the ‘so what?’ concern with a conclusion about consequences.
Blue = situation via state of knowledge in the field
Red = Statement of problem
Green = method
Purple = thesis
Knapp, James A. “’Ocular Proof’: Archival Revelations and Aesthetic Response.”
Poetics Today 24.4 (2003): 695-727. Print.
A new materialism in literary and cultural criticism has regrounded much scholarly debate in the archive as a corrective to ahistorical theorizing. Often, in granting archival discoveries the evidentiary status of fact, historical criticism fails to attend to the difficulties surrounding the mediation of historical understanding by material things. In order to get at the thorny issues surrounding the material as an authorizing category in cultural analysis, I focus on Shakespeare's well-known literary meditation on visual proof (and visual perception) in Othello. Reemphasizing the problems that nag materialist epistemologies, I examine the role of material (ocular) proof in Othello, in the form of the much discussed handkerchief. Drawing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty's ontology of perception,I argue that Othello provides a parable about the disaster of confusing the objecthood of things with the stories we tell about them. I conclude that as cultural history moves into its next phase - beyond the return to the archive - it must respond to the phenomenological challenge and avoid the temptation to stop with either thing or theory, always working to occupy the space between.
Remarks: very clear structure via rhetorical stages, plus thesis shows how smart, sophisticated ideas don’t require long fancy words
II. Dissertation Abstract: Good
Blue = situation via knowledge of Victorian period
Green = method
Red = thesis
Purple = larger consequence(s) for knowledge in the field
Rogers, Andrew Ronald Mansell. “The Veteran Who Is, the Boy Who Is No More: The Casualty of Identity in War Fiction.” Diss.The University of Alabama, 2007.ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2007. 3270505.
The statement that any profound experience permanently changes anyone who undergoes it is hardly worthy of study, yet this statement is the subject of this dissertation. The experience of combat does more than simply change a person, which implies that the person is still intact but has experiences that alter the psyche in certain ways: war changes the fundamental person, it destroys who they were. This understanding is crucial to critically interpret many literary texts about characters who have returned home from extended stays in combat.
Beginning with Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home", this dissertation will examine two stories by Hemingway, "Soldier's Home" and "A Way You'll Never Be", and how Hemingway wrote of Harold Krebs and Nick Adams as characters who have survived combat, but have paradoxically lost themselves completely in the process of surviving. The next work to be examined will be Henry Green's Back and Charley Summers' inability to exist psychically back home after his return from a German prisoner of war camp in World War II. The Great Gatsby will follow with a reexamination of Gatsby's combat experiences and the role they play in the novel, and the final chapter will deal with J.D. Salinger's war experience and subsequent nervous breakdown and how they inform The Catcher in the Rye.
Understanding the effects of war is crucial to any Humanities discipline, and the purpose of this dissertation is to examine these effects in literary texts.
Remarks: Strong clarity, voice and consequence. Would benefit by adding situation.
Blue = situation via knowledge of Victorian period
Green = method
Red = thesis
Purple = larger consequence(s) for knowledge in the field
Bousquet, Ludovic Jean. "Michel Houellebecq: The Meaning of the Fright."
Diss. U of California, Santa Barbara, 2007.DAI-A 68.12 (2008): item
AAT 3295329. Print.
Michel Houellebecq's work depicts an absolute failure. This artistic and
philosophic weakness minors our own mediocrity, our pusillanimity, our
lack of spiritual ambition. This failure is better understood through
the study of disenchantment : that is the feeling of living in a
mechanistic immanent universe that overwhelms his characters otherwise
hungry for transcendence. To this disenchantment of the world, answers
Houellebecq's ‘désenchantisme’.This dissertation analyzes the peculiar
ideology that is désenchantisme, an accepted failure used as a
strategy for survival in the novels. But if désenchantisme underlines
all the ills of the contemporary societies (materialism, consumerism,
spiritual slackness, hedonism, surrender to crude pleasures and
addictives behaviors), it's never complacent. Through close textual
analysis from Gauchet to Weber, Sartre and Sennett, I demonstrate that
on the contrary, self-hatred is paradoxically a positive sign: there is
indeed a moral judgment behind it, a need for justice. The self hating
houellebecquian hero despises himself for not being what he knows he
should be. He is an idealist in spite of all, guided by an unshakable
image of self transcendence.
Remarks: a grabber first sentence, like a hook in a song. Strong vocabulary in second sentence.The the subsequent idea of using failure as a strategy for survival intrigues. The fact that the key term is French means that will necessarily exclude some readers, hence a dicey choice beyond the university. Again, consequence could be explicit.
III Abstracts with Problems
---.“‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the emerging generation:
A Study of The Message and Medium. J. R. R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson.”
Diss. Drew U, 2009. DAIA 70.6 (2009): item AAT3364843. Print.
Throughout the ages, the communication of Christian truth has been the
domain of preachers and poets, musicians and theologians, authors and
dramatists, each seeking means by which to engage others in the truth that
has captivated and transformed their lives. From direct proposition to
allegorical representation, such effective communicators as Dwight L. Moody
and C. S. Lewis have confronted their culture with Christian truth in
response to Jesus' command to "go and make disciples". J. R. R.
Tolkien employed myth as his vehicle of expression, creating
The Lord of the Rings (LOTR ) with no overt religious symbol or act, yet
weaving his Roman Catholic Christian worldview into the very fabric of his
characters and their journeys. Tolkien described his work as a
"fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously at first, but
consciously in the revision, with religious element absorbed into the
story." He discovered that myth allows the reader opportunity to explore
the realities of life within the safety of an imagined world and its
Tolkien's fantasy of Middle Earth and her people has captured the heart
and mind of generations since its publication in 1954, offering glimpses
into the truth that defined Tolkien's life and worldview. This 20th- century
work found new expression and an even broader audience in Peter Jackson's 21
st century cinematic interpretation LOTR. Together, Tolkien's myth and
Jackson's cinematic portrayal of that myth have successfully captured the
attention of the emerging generation. A study of both narrative and
cinematic mediums along with the clarity of the message conveyed will allow
an opportunity to consider the larger question of what medium and what
message impacts the emerging post-modern generation. This dissertation will
explore the effectiveness of Tolkien's myth and Jackson's cinematic
interpretation of that myth in communicating truth, seeking insights into
effective means of the communication of Christian truth in a post-Christian
Remarks: the two paragraphs offer two different introductions to the same topic. The key idea of the first paragraph is abandoned until the end of the second, making a weak transition and leaving no room to argue for and develop the better idea at the end about Christian tactics in a post-Christian world.
Khost, Peter H. “Pioneering the Profession: Crises in English Studies and the
Nontenured PhD.”Diss. City U of New York, 2010. Print.
This dissertation addresses contemporary nontenured PhDs in English, who face a number of disciplinary crises: (1) tenure is steadily declining, (2) it's increasingly difficult to publish, (3) the general relevancy of the field has become dubious, and (4) the number of English majors is shrinking. This confluence of crises makes competition for fewer jobs fiercer and begs the question of what the backlog of nontenured English PhDs will produce as scholarship, and how and why they will do this. The growing number of individuals in this position is just as qualified as their tenured colleagues are to do legitimate scholarship, but if tenure is not likely or not possible for them, then their motivation and means to do scholarship may likely be quite different. So, then, might their methods be different.
Remarks: detailed statement of problem but weak and tentative about any solution
Pender, Matea. “Addressing the Needs of Racially/Culturally Diverse Student
Populations in Higher Education: an Analysis of Educational Practices for
Disadvantaged Youth.”Diss. U of Maryland, 2010. Print.
The recent growth in the racial and cultural heterogeneity of college students in the United States has increased the demand for higher educational policies that will accommodate the needs of an increasingly diverse collective student body (Kao & Thompson, 2003). Traditionally, underrepresented minority students (i.e., African American, Hispanic and American Indian) persist in colleges at a lower rate compared to non-Hispanic, white and Asian students.
There is evidence that minority students fail to persist because of limited or unsuccessful attempts by postsecondary institutions to help improve academic and social integration of these students in colleges (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997; Maton, Hrabowski & Schmitt, 2004; Summers & Hrabowski, 2006). In addition, many students receive inadequate family and financial support because their parents lack college education. Finally, Hispanics who are currently the largest minority group in the U.S., are more likely to be immigrants. Hispanic immigrants are one of the most vulnerable racial/ethnic groups with the lowest levels of academic success (Passel, 2005).
In my dissertation, I analyze three educational strategies adopted by higher education institutions with the goal of improving educational outcomes for the most vulnerable groups such as first-generation, minority and immigrant students. In the first essay, I explore the importance of financial aid for students whose parents have low levels of education. I find that the availability of federally funded need-based aid lowers attrition rates of first-generation college students.
Second, I explore the significance of undergraduate research opportunities for minority students in science fields. My results indicate that summer research opportunities obtained at academic and government sites increase participation of underrepresented minority students in science Ph.D. programs.
Finally, in my third essay, I address the impact of changes in tuition prices on the educational outcomes of college students who are not U.S. citizens at two universities in Texas and find some evidence that the reduction in tuition costs improves college affordability for these students.
Remarks: good example of how to include citation in an abstract, just name and date. Ideas here seem pretty obvious but the writing is very clear at the sentence level.
---. “Tenure and Its Denial: Facing the Winter Years and Beyond.”
College Literature 33.2 (2006): 70-83. Print.
The details that one recalls at the time of dramatic and, indeed, traumatic events in one's life remain indelibly marked and may create difficulties in pursuing the regular course of work and private pursuits. The author reflects on the events the denial of tenure, how he faced this crisis, and how his preparation in research and teaching provided him a basis upon which to overcome the 'winter years' of this difficult period and move on with his career.
Ouch. Lots of psychodrama, angst, bile, but no real thesis.
---. “Theories and Expectations: On Conceiving Composition and
Rhetoric as a Discipline.”College English 41.1 (1979): 47-56. Print.
Composition studies are investigated. Composition & rhetoric are not one
discipline, but comprised of many related disciplines & activities. Studies
on composition should be done in a wide spectrum by rhetoricians, linguists,
psychologists, & literary critics. Typical new composition specialists try
to assimilate too much information, & thus are unable to control the vast
material. Composition theory & pedagogy are distinctly different, & require
different approaches. Teachers & curriculum designers ought to be provided
with proper training, emphasizing the pedagogical side of composition study,
yet balance & communication should be established between instructors &
Claims much too general. Looks like the “you’ve got to read the whole article to get any real content” approach to abstracts, not a recommended one.
---. “Whitman as Social Theorist: Worker in Poetics and Politics.” Walt Whitman Review 16 (1970): 41-45. Print.
Poetry (an artistic and idealistic demeanor not ignorant of feeling and its place in the world of knowing) and power (a demeanor of legitimated aggression) are apparently strangers. But in the person and poetry of Whitmanthere is to be found poetics and politics in a creative tension such that they stand as handmaidens illuminating each other. Whitmanthe man is politician enough to be a government bureaucrat; he is poet enough to cry for justice and love and brotherliness in a human condition dominated by power-managers. Whitmanis defiant in his lyric celebration of the individual as a highest social value. With the social behaviorist school in social theory and with a voice like Camus which affirms the individual as more important than any political abstraction, Whitmanidentifies the lone personality as of infinite value. Not one to ignore wider issues, Whitmancelebrates the role of diversity and the common man unsupervised as a crucial element in change. The American character for Whitmanis that which frees the individual for his own self-realization. Both ideologically conservative and liberal, Whitmancalls for social harmony and individuality: he knows there can be no society at all without legitimated power; he knows, too, the awful risks of power. It is the source of much profound in Whitmanthat his temperament was both tragic and liberal, both poetic and political. For in the end Whitmanknows that turbulences are native to the human condition and that to live is to choose directions within them.
Poor sentence structure. Huge long subjects, delayed verb, and then the verb is weak. Bad information flow, with old information preceding new.
How to Write an Abstract
Four Parts:Getting Your Abstract StartedWriting Your AbstractFormatting Your AbstractSample AbstractsCommunity Q&A
If you need to write an abstract for an academic or scientific paper, don't panic! Your abstract is simply a short, stand-alone summary of the work or paper that others can use as an overview. An abstract describes what you do in your essay, whether it’s a scientific experiment or a literary analysis paper. It should help your reader understand the paper and help people searching for this paper decide whether it suits their purposes prior to reading. To write an abstract, finish your paper first, then type a summary that identifies the purpose, problem, methods, results, and conclusion of your work. After you get the details down, all that's left is to format it correctly. Since an abstract is only a summary of the work you've already done, it's easy to accomplish!
Part 1Getting Your Abstract Started
1Write your paper first. Even though an abstract goes at the beginning of the work, it acts as a summary of your entire paper. Rather than introducing your topic, it will be an overview of everything you write about in your paper. Save writing your abstract for last, after you have already finished your paper.
- A thesis and an abstract are entirely different things. The thesis of a paper introduces the main idea or question, while the abstract works to review the entirety of the paper, including the methods and results.
- Even if you think that you know what your paper is going to be about, always save the abstract for last. You will be able to give a much more accurate summary if you do just that - summarize what you've already written.
2Review and understand any requirements for writing your abstract. The paper you’re writing probably has specific guidelines and requirements, whether it’s for publication in a journal, submission in a class, or part of a work project. Before you start writing, refer to the rubric or guidelines you were presented with to identify important issues to keep in mind.
- Is there a maximum or minimum length?
- Are there style requirements?
- Are you writing for an instructor or a publication?
3Consider your audience. Abstracts are written to help readers find your work. For example, in scientific journals, abstracts allow readers to quickly decide whether the research discussed is relevant to their own interests. Abstracts also help your readers get at your main argument quickly. Keep the needs of your readers in mind as you write the abstract.
- Will other academics in your field read this abstract?
- Should it be accessible to a lay reader or somebody from another field?
4Determine the type of abstract you must write. Although all abstracts accomplish essentially the same goal, there are two primary styles of abstract: descriptive and informative. You may have been assigned a specific style, but if you weren’t, you will have to determine which is right for you. Typically, informative abstracts are used for much longer and technical research while descriptive abstracts are best for shorter papers.
- Descriptive abstracts explain the purpose, goal, and methods of your research but leave out the results section. These are typically only 100-200 words.
- Informative abstracts are like a condensed version of your paper, giving an overview of everything in your research including the results. These are much longer than descriptive abstracts, and can be anywhere from a single paragraph to a whole page long.
- The basic information included in both styles of abstract is the same, with the main difference being that the results are only included in an informative abstract, and an informative abstract is much longer than a descriptive one.
- A critical abstract is not often used, but it may be required in some courses. A critical abstract accomplishes the same goals as the other types of abstract, but will also relate the study or work being discussed to the writer’s own research. It may critique the research design or methods.
Part 2Writing Your Abstract
1Identify your purpose. You're writing about a correlation between lack of lunches in schools and poor grades. So what? Why does this matter? The reader wants to know why your research is important, and what the purpose of it is. Start off your descriptive abstract by considering the following questions:
- Why did you decide to do this study or project?
- How did you conduct your research?
- What did you find?
- Why is this research and your findings important?
- Why should someone read your entire essay?
2Explain the problem at hand. Abstracts state the “problem” behind your work. Think of this as the specific issue that your research or project addresses. You can sometimes combine the problem with your motivation, but it is best to be clear and separate the two.
- What problem is your research trying to better understand or solve?
- What is the scope of your study - a general problem, or something specific?
- What is your main claim or argument?
3Explain your methods. Motivation - check. Problem - check. Methods? Now is the part where you give an overview of how you accomplished your study. If you did your own work, include a description of it here. If you reviewed the work of others, it can be briefly explained.
- Discuss your own research including the variables and your approach.
- Describe the evidence you have to support your claim
- Give an overview of your most important sources.
4Describe your results (informative abstract only). This is where you begin to differentiate your abstract between a descriptive and an informative abstract. In an informative abstract, you will be asked to provide the results of your study. What is it that you found?
- What answer did you reach from your research or study?
- Was your hypothesis or argument supported?
- What are the general findings?
5Give your conclusion. This should finish up your summary and give closure to your abstract. In it, address the meaning of your findings as well as the importance of your overall paper. This format of having a conclusion can be used in both descriptive and informative abstracts, but you will only address the following questions in an informative abstract.
- What are the implications of your work?
- Are your results general or very specific?
Part 3Formatting Your Abstract
1Keep it in order. There are specific questions your abstract must provide answers for, but the answers must be kept in order as well. Ideally, it should mimic the overall format of your essay, with a general ‘introduction, ‘body,’ and ‘conclusion.’
- Many journals have specific style guides for abstracts. If you’ve been given a set of rules or guidelines, follow them to the letter.
2Provide helpful information. Unlike a topic paragraph, which may be intentionally vague, an abstract should provide a helpful explanation of your paper and your research. Word your abstract so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about, and isn’t left hanging with ambiguous references or phrases.
- Avoid using direct acronyms or abbreviations in the abstract, as these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader. That uses up precious writing room, and should generally be avoided.
- If your topic is about something well-known enough, you can reference the names of people or places that your paper focuses on.
- Don’t include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract. These take up too much room and usually aren’t what your readers want from an abstract anyway.
Write it from scratch. Your abstract is a summary, yes, but it should be written completely separate from your paper. Don't copy and paste direct quotes from yourself, and avoid simply paraphrasing your own sentences from elsewhere in your writing. Write your abstract using completely new vocabulary and phrases to keep it interesting and redundancy-free.
4Use key phrases and words. If your abstract is to be published in a journal, you want people to be able to find it easily. In order to do so, readers will search for certain queries on online databases in hopes that papers, like yours, will show up. Try to use 5-10 important words or phrases key to your research in your abstract.
- For example, if you’re writing a paper on the cultural differences in perceptions of schizophrenia, be sure to use words like “schizophrenia,” “cross-cultural,” “culture-bound,” “mental illness,” and “societal acceptance.” These might be search terms people use when looking for a paper on your subject.
Use real information. You want to draw people in with your abstract; it is the hook that will encourage them to continue reading your paper. However, do not reference ideas or studies that you don’t include in your paper in order to do this. Citing material that you don’t use in your work will mislead readers and ultimately lower your viewership.
6Avoid being too specific. An abstract is a summary, and as such should not refer to specific points of your research other than possibly names or locations. You should not need to explain or define any terms in your abstract, a reference is all that is needed. Avoid being too explicit in your summary and stick to a very broad overview of your work.
- Make sure to avoid jargon. This specialized vocabulary may not be understood by general readers in your area and can cause confusion.
Be sure to do basic revisions. The abstract is a piece of writing that, like any other, should be revised before being completed. Check it over for grammatical and spelling errors and make sure it is formatted properly.
8Get feedback from someone. Having someone else read your abstract is a great way for you to know whether you’ve summarized your research well. Try to find someone who doesn’t know everything about your project. Ask him or her to read your abstract and then tell you what s/he understood from it. This will let you know whether you’ve adequately communicated your key points in a clear manner.
- Consulting with your professor, a colleague in your field, or a tutor or writing center consultant can be very helpful. If you have these resources available to you, use them!
- Asking for assistance can also let you know about any conventions in your field. For example, it is very common to use the passive voice (“experiments were performed”) in the sciences. However, in the humanities active voice is usually preferred.
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Yes, I read the article
What is the difference between an abstract and an introduction?
An abstract explains the aim of the paper in very brief, (the methods, results, etc.). In the introduction, you write the background of your topic, explain the purpose of the paper more broadly, and explain the hypothesis, and the research question(s).
Can an abstract be a paper written or a soft copy?
An abstract can either be written, soft copy or any other form with words, it's the content that matters.
Which tense should be used to write an abstract?
In all the description of what you did, a simple past tense is best; since you're describing what you did, neither present nor future would be appropriate.
Should I cite references in my abstract?
How do I calculate the number of words in my abstract?
Your word processing software probably includes a word count feature, consult the documentation. If you're doing it by hand, approximate the number of words per line (very roughly). Then count the number of lines, and multiply it by the number of words per line. It gives a fairly accurate estimate.
Should an abstract be put in the beginning or at the end?
Usually, abstracts are provided at the beginning of the thesis or article. This will help readers to understand the work, and will attract interested readers.
Am I supposed to add the author's name on the informative abstract?
First write down the important points about the author, such as name, date of birth, in which field he/she is involved - then add extra points.
What is the importance of an abstract?
Why must one create an abstract?
An abstract is one of the best tools to help researchers determine if a paper would be useful for them to read or not.
Ask a Question
- Abstracts are typically a paragraph or two and should be no more than 10% of the length of the full essay. Look at other abstracts in similar publications for an idea of how yours should go.
- Consider carefully how technical the paper or the abstract should be. It is often reasonable to assume that your readers have some understanding of your field and the specific language it entails, but anything you can do to make the abstract more easily readable is a good thing.