Q: I want to write an introductory abstract before writing a manuscript. How do I go about it?

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How do I write an abstract at the proposal level before doing the research?

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Answer:

There are 2 different aspects to your question.

  1. Writing an abstract before writing the manuscript: This is unclear to me since the abstract is an essential part of any manuscript. Even if you need to send a pre-submission inquiry to a journal asking whether or not your manuscript fits the journal’s scope, you will need to send the abstract of your manuscript.
  2. Writing an abstract for a research proposal: The purpose of a research proposal is to prove to a research committee or a funding agency that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. The essential components of a research proposal include: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Objectives, Variables, Hypothesis, Methods, Conclusion.

An abstract should be stand-alone and should capture the essence/crux of the entire study. At one glance, the reader should be able to comprehend your research and know the key points by reading the abstract – it should be a summary of your work. An abstract is usually around 150-350 words for journal articles depending on the word count limitations of the journal. The word count of an abstract for a research proposal varies depending on the guidelines of the funding agency/sponsor or the research committee – it is best to keep it concise and write about 300 words. The abstract for a journal article or for a research proposal consists of the following elements:

Background: A simple opening sentence or two placing the work in context. Write the information on which the current work is based.

Aims/objectives: One or two sentences giving the purpose of the work. Include the research question here.

Method(s): One or two sentences explaining what was (or will) be done. Descriptions of the method may include the design, procedures, the sample and any specific instruments/equipment that were (or will be) used.

Results: One or two sentences indicating the main findings (or what you hope to accomplish with the project).

Conclusion: One or two sentences giving the most important consequence of the work : What do the results mean? What is the overall significance of the study? What value does the current research work add to literature? How will the study result be useful?

The main questions that an abstract should answer are as follows:

  • Why did you conduct this study? (Or why are you undertaking the project/study?)
  • What did you do, and how? (What will you do? How?)
  • What did you find? (What do you expect to find?)
  • What do the findings mean?

The following points should be kept in mind while writing an abstract:

  • Look specifically for these main parts of the article or proposal: purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations.
  • Don't include too much or too little information.
  • Edit and revise your abstract for correctness of grammar, flow of language (transitioning from one sub-heading to another) and check for completeness and accuracy of the work done/proposed work.
     

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