For our purposes here, the term “abstracts” will mean the short, concise written piece that often accompanies a report or paper. Abstracts are micro-length summaries of technical work. Often, they are used for database searching and retrieval. They provide a quick window into the longer written work.
Conventions for abstracts
There are conventions, and you can expect to see variations and interpretations on these conventions for different journals and publications.
- 250+ words, on average
- usually one paragraph
- formal tone and technical language
- no cites
- no questions
- no quotes
- no graphics
Patterns of the writing
Abstracts, like most technical writing, follow the known-to-new pattern. Begin with a statement of what the issue is or what problem you are attempting to address (statement of the known). Outline very briefly the process for your work and research (experiment, methods, process), and end with findings, conclusions, and recommendations (where appropriate).
For academic work, it is common to see a required abstract on its own page. That page should have the word “Abstract” as part of its title. See Figure 1, just below.
In journals, abstracts are a mechanism that aid the reader in identifying if the longer piece is applicable. Figure 2, below, shows how an abstract might appear on a page for a journal or conference publication .
Figure 3, below, shows a clip of a differently-styled journal article, where the abstract is in bold . Take note, too, of the indexing terms, which will make the article more searchable in technical databases.
- O.J. Elstroem, J. Soerdalen, J. Turo, “Wind energy for telecom hybrid sites: Challenges and experiences from a pilot site,” Telecommunications Energy Conference ‘Smart Power and Efficiency’ (INTELEC), Proceedings of 2013 35th International, pp. 1-6, 2013.
- M. Brooks, J.S. Carroll, and J.W. Beard, “Dueling stakeholders and dual-hatted systems engineers: Engineering challenges, capabilities, and skills in government infrastructure technology projects,” IEEE Transactions on EngineeringManagement, vol. 58, no. 3, pp. 589 – 601, 2011. DOI: 10.1109/TEM.2010.2058858