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How To Write An Abstract

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The abstract is the second page of a lab report or APA-format paper and should immediately follow the title page. Think of an abstract as a condensed summary of your entire paper.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Variable

Here's How:

  1. First, write your paper. While the abstract will be at the beginning of your paper, it should be the last section that you write. Once you have completed the final draft of your psychology paper, use it as a guide for writing your abstract.
  2. Begin your abstract on a new page and place your running head and the page number 2 in the top right hand corner. You should also center the word Abstract at the top of the page.
  3. Keep it short. According to the APA style manual, an abstract should be between 150 to 250 words. Exact word counts can vary from journal to journal. If you are writing your paper for a psychology course, your professor may have specific word requirements so be sure to ask. The abstract should also be written as only one paragraph with no indentation. In order to succinctly describe your entire paper, you will need to determine which elements are the most important.
  4. Structure the abstract in the same order as your paper. Begin with a brief summary of the Introduction, and then continue on with a summary of the Method, Results and Discussion sections of your paper.
  5. Look at other abstracts in professional journals for examples of how to summarize your paper. Notice the main points that the authors chose to mention in the abstract. Use these examples as a guide when choosing the main ideas in your own paper.
  6. Write a rough draft of your abstract. While you should aim for brevity, be careful not to make your summary too short. Try to write one to two sentences summarizing each section of your paper. Once you have a rough draft, you can edit for length and clarity.
  7. Ask a friend to read over the abstract. Sometimes having someone look at your abstract with fresh eyes can provide perspective and help you spot possible typos and other errors.

Tips:

  1. Look in academic psychology journals for examples of abstracts.
  2. Keep on hand a copy of a style guide published by the American Psychological Association, such as the Concise Rules Of APA Style, for reference.
  3. If possible, take your paper to your school's writing lab for assistance.

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