You may be asked to write an abstract for a piece of work that you do. Although it is usually brief (typically 150-300 words), an abstract provides an important overview which helps your reader to understand your work.
Whereas the purpose of an introduction is to broadly introduce your topic and your key message, the purpose of an abstract is to give an overview of your entire project, in particular its findings and contribution to the field. An abstract should be a standalone summary of your paper.
Typically, an abstract includes the following.
- A brief introduction to the topic that you're investigating.
- Explanation of why the topic is important in your field/s.
- Statement about the problem or research gap that you are addressing.
- Your research question/s or aim/s.
- An indication of your research methods and approach.
- Your key message.
- A summary of your key findings.
- An explanation of why your findings and key message contribute to the field/s.
In other words, an abstract includes points covering these questions.
- What is your paper about?
- Why is it important?
- How did you do it?
- What did you find?
- Why are your findings important?
To see the specific conventions in your field/s, have a look at the structure of a variety of abstracts from relevant journal articles. Do they include the same kinds of information as listed above? What structure do they follow? You can model your own abstract on these conventions.