7.4 Abstract

An abstract is often the most crucial page of a research report because a potential reader is likely to skim over it first to determine if the article is relevant or merits further examination. An abstract is a very brief overview of the research. It notes the main research interest or central hypothesis under investigation, describes the participants (or sample), outlines the design, highlights the main findings, and notes implications for future research.

A research abstract should answer the following questions:

  • What is the main research interest?
  • Who are the participants or what comprised the sample?
  • What is the research design?
  • What are the main findings?
  • What conclusions are reached?

Although the abstract is located at the beginning of your report (after the title page, on a separate page, with the word “Abstract” centered in bold text at the top of the page), you should write this last since it is an overview of what the study was about and what the results showed (i.e., past tense). Do not guess at what you will find in advance before completing the actual study. When you are ready to compose the abstract, it is a good practice to list everything you want to include in it and then rework it until it is very precise and concise (i.e., less than 250 words).


You can also include a couple of keywords one line below the abstract that describe the literature or identify the main area of research. These should be indented 0.5 in., each separated with a comma, and preceded by Keywords: written in italics (e.g., Keywords: affirmative action, hiring practices). Keywords help track your published study electronically and via various library systems. Thus, anyone searching databases for affirmative action strategies, for instance, will be able to find the article.

Abstract Checklist

❏ On a separate page

❏ Begins with the heading “Abstract,” centered in bold text at the top of the page

❏ Single-paragraph (not indented)

❏ Double-spaced

❏ Short (e.g., less than 250 words)

❏ Numbered as page two


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Navigating an Undergraduate Degree in the Social Sciences Copyright © 2019 by Diane Symbaluk, Robyn Hall, and Geneve Champoux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.