How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper: A Comprehensive Guide

April 25, 2023

Students start trying to figure out how to write an abstract for a research paper as soon as they receive college assignments. Some feel worried, others are curious or intrigued, and they all browse the Internet in the hope of finding a quick answer. In most cases, a professor asks students to stick to APA research paper outline as it’s the most common academic style and it often requires an abstract. But what is it?

An abstract is a summary of a text, a brief reflection of its core and findings that gives readers an idea of what they are going to read. Abstracts enhance essays and help writers find the right audience. We do not promise instant answers, but we guarantee thoroughness. See the guide below, and you’ll gain a complete understanding of how to write an effective abstract for a research paper, down to every sentence in it.

Purpose of an Abstract: Why We Need It

Abstracts are common in almost every sphere because they make the process of searching for specific reading material simpler. Have you ever had to look for an article on a certain topic? For instance, you’re preparing for your history lesson, and you want to see research on the types of bombings in London during WW2. You use the keywords and start looking for appropriate options. The system will focus on abstracts of millions of works to provide you with suitable material. Without abstracts, which barely take 1 page, the search engine would have to go through billions of billions of pages — this would take hours if not days. Abstracts shorten this process by a lot and help generate relevant matches in a matter of seconds.

Reading an abstract in research paper also gives readers a chance to make an informed choice. Perhaps you have found hundreds of articles about the London bombings, but some of them focus on people’s personal accounts and their emotions; others explore a large number of different cities attacked by Germany, with London being just one example. When an abstract is present, you don’t have to read or even skim through the endless volumes of text. You read a couple of sentences, realize what the work is about, and then decide whether to keep reading or discard it. Finally, abstracts can serve as reminders of what your essay is about — this is another strong advantage. If you wrote your research a month ago, and now it is time to re-submit it, you might barely remember what it was about and what you concluded. Taking a quick look at your abstract will answer all these questions.

Audience Who Benefits from Abstracts Most

When it comes to research paper abstract, various groups of readers could benefit from it most. Obviously, when students get custom research papers for sale or write their assignments by themselves, their audience is their professor and sometimes their classmates. But this is only the start of a much longer list. Usually, students’ works go into a database, and if they are good, they might be offered as a template for other people. All of them are going to rely on an abstract to see if your work is what they need.

Those who use libraries or host platforms with large databases are in urgent need of good abstracts, too. Research paper with abstract helps these people find or include them in a database with no extra effort and in a record amount of time. Writing this section takes about ten minutes, but it can save someone hours of fruitless search.

Standard Length of an Abstract: Two Options

For crafting a really effective abstract, students should understand how much work they should do. Even if they pay for research paper because they decided they’d rather get professional help, they still need to decide what abstract they require. There are two possible types of it: informative and descriptive. The former is a common abstract in research paper. It discloses the main points, methods, arguments, findings, and implications. Typical size ranges from 150 to 250 words. Try meeting these parameters because they are ideal. Anything less or more might bring your grade down as professors expect to see a normally-sized abstract that shares an abridged version of the paper without going into too many details.

The descriptive abstract is shorter. Its goal lies in creating a brief annotation that focuses only on the major content points. Its length is 100 words, maybe less. You can check the descriptive research abstract template to understand what it should look like because sometimes students go overboard. If you write 200 words, it’s no longer an abstract, it’s a full-fledged paragraph. Stay concise — this is one of the main rules.

Sections that Make Up an Abstract

Now you should see what a well-written abstract consists of. Any research paper writer worth their salt must include five mini-sections into it. If you think that’s a lot, do not worry. Most of these so-called sections have just one sentence in them. Remember what to do once, and you won’t have to wonder ever again!

  • Introduction (how to start a research paper). This section needs one or two sentences that present the topic. Mention the subject this research is focused on and some background to give your audience an idea of what’s to come. Look at this introduction — we prepared a research paper abstract example: “Dementia is a disorder that many elderly people experience. It can twist one’s mind into forgetting people, instincts, and boundaries, and it often causes inappropriate behavior.”

This introduction identifies the main subject and introduces some specific symptoms, making it clear that further research is going to focus on them.

  • Third Sentence. As you reach the third sentence, demonstrate your writing goal in it. What made you want to research this specific topic? Why is it important? Note that it could take you several lines instead of one; also, what we call the “third” sentence can actually be the second one. These sections are not set in stone, they only provide you with general direction. Continuing our dementia exploration, we could write something like this: “Despite the fact that dementia is a severe problem that affects a huge number of the older population, there is no single effective cure for it yet, which means that the danger remains.”

In this long sentence in our abstract sample for research paper, we covered several big issues at once by mentioning how severe the problem is and why it is essential to explore it further.

  • Methodology. Now it is time to explain how you are going to conduct your research. Abstracts tend to accompany educational papers where writers perform their own experiments — it’s rare for professors to assign one for a simple literature analysis, for example. If you are doing secondary research, introduce some sources and explain what they did. If research is primary and you collected information personally, share how you did it. Catch another example: “To see what medicine is considered the most effective, 50 relatives of people suffering from dementia were questioned. They all received online surveys and produced their answers before sending them back.”

This abstract section of a research paper details how we performed our experiment by illustrating which sample group we chose and how we collected answers from them.

  • Results. Next, come results. Writers should show what they achieved after performing their study. The vital aspect here is not to write too much. Remember, a sentence or two will be enough. You might be excited to share all the findings with readers right this moment, but it should wait. Leave it for the actual results section in the body of your paper. When working on an abstract, try following this example: “Research revealed that 35% used Donepezil, 40% applied Exelon, and the remaining 25% preferred other types of medicine.”

We listed the findings without offering any explanation for them. This part comes later, in the body, and those interested in results will find this sentence sufficient for reading further.

  • Conclusion. At this point of writing a research abstract, offer implications of your findings and mention solutions if your paper has any. Usually, this section requires from two to three sentences. Your abstract ends here, so make certain this part looks extra good. It should be powerful or intriguing: “Evidently, the existing types of medicine are not sufficient for addressing the symptoms of dementia in a satisfying manner. New solutions are needed, and this paper suggests a method that could help achieve a breakthrough. This can change the current state of medicine and help millions of elderly worldwide.”

Most readers with an interest in dementia are going to want to read an essay that claims to suggest a possible solution to the problem of dementia. Even those who aren’t immediately interested might wish to see what findings could help so many people. Note that your conclusion must be justified, though. If you did not arrive at any relevant findings, do not make big claims — impressing readers at the start is nothing when you’re planning to mislead or disappoint them eventually.

Ideal Style for Writing an Abstract for a Research Paper

There are plenty of academic styles students encounter during the years of their studies. Some of them are simpler, and others are more difficult, but they tend to drive students crazy equally. Each has endless rules about the usage of margins, italics, titles, etc. You’d be surprised to learn how often this causes people to contact writing firms and ask them, “Could you write my research paper for me and format it properly?” First, let’s figure out which subjects require what styles.

Academic Style Subjects It Is Common In







English & Literature




Physical & Natural Sciences




Each research abstract format is unique. We mentioned the top three — you’ll likely encounter them most frequently. This is why we decided to give brief descriptions of their technical nuances.


  • Composition. In MLA, the title of your work comes first; the abstract should follow it. There is no need to include a title page because MLA doesn’t have it. Avoid creating indents for your abstract; dedicate a paragraph or two to it. Never quote someone directly — this is suitable for the paper itself only.
  • Formatting. Formatting itself is simple. Use Times New Roman, font 12, with double spacing, throughout the paper. It likely won’t need sections, so nothing should be in bold. Use italics when referring to titles of lengthy works like books & quotation marks for articles and other shorter works. One-inch margins should be present from all sides as it increases readability. For citing something, use this format: (Author’s last name page number).
  • Length. How to write a research paper abstract in MLA? Follow the same rules regarding size that we outlined above. Stay within the 150-250 words limit.
  • Keywords. Place keywords below an abstract. Don’t capitalize them, simply list them one by one through a comma. Avoid including more than 5 words.


  • Composition. Papers formatted in APA require a title page. Students should list their and their professor’s name, subject, or course number and place all of that under the title of their paper. The abstract takes the second page, and like it was with MLA, it doesn’t need any indents.
  • Formatting. In terms of formatting, APA abstract in research papers follows the rules very similar to MLA. You need Times New Roman 12, with one-inch margins plus double spacing applied throughout. Use italics for longer works and quotation marks for anything shorter, such as names of TV episodes or stories from the anthology.
  • Length. Typical 150 words would suffice.
  • Keywords. The word ‘keywords’ should be in italics, and the words themselves must be separated by commas.


  • Composition. Like APA essays, those in Chicago format should have a title page. A difference is that you might also need a copyright page, but this is something a professor should ask for. The abstract follows them. Dedicate a separate page to it, and don’t make it indented.
  • Formatting. How to make an abstract for a research paper in Chicago style? Once again, use Times New Roman, font 12. Include double-spacing, plus add one-inch margins from all sides. Like with other styles, italics go into titles of long works, while
  • Length. About 150 words are enough for a Chicago abstract.
  • Keywords. List them after a comma and avoid including more than five.

Usage of Tenses with Different Abstracts

Some abstracts require present tense; others need a past one. How to tell them apart? We’ll provide examples of abstracts in research papers on social sciences, humanities, and general sciences. These three spheres represent most subjects, meaning that you’ll likely find exactly what you’re searching for. Have a look.

Social sciences include subjects like psychology, sociology, geography, criminology, and others. Since they deal with unchanging events and concepts, writers should use the present tense. This is a potential example of a random topic:

DNA is a valuable tool in solving murders. However, it does not always point at a killer, and multiple people face suspicion or even charges despite not committing a crime and being several states away from the scene. Failure to adequately assess the available DNA can ruin people’s lives and lead to huge financial losses for the country as it has to compensate for its baseless accusations in case they are proven to be false. Research of 30 cases where DNA plays an important role is performed. They stretch from 1996 to 2020, and they include situations where DNA helps identify the right suspect as well as when it is used wrongly. In 20 cases, a full DNA profile is present, and it leads to a killer. In the remaining 10 cases, only touch DNA is found, and in 8 of them, it has no direct relation to a crime. These findings demonstrate that DNA is still not explored sufficiently, and the paper presents a possible solution.


Third sentence




Humanities need a mixed approach. Whether you are writing an essay on visual arts, looking for history research paper topics online, or exploring philosophy, use past tenses for occasions that happened in the past and present tenses to describe what your paper is doing. This is a sample abstract for research paper on humanities.

Understanding art denotes a degree of prestige, but multiple people cannot differentiate between real works and copies. Even experts make mistakes sometimes. This results in a significant loss of money for buyers and the destruction of the reputation of those who are supposed to see through fake paintings. This research interviews 40 people interested in art. Half of them are buyers, and another half are art experts. Results show that 18 buyers had an experience of making wrong purchases. Similarly, 6 experts made the wrong judgment when presented with a fake picture. This proves that no one is safe from being deceived, and new quality criteria must be introduced to facilitate the process of true art determination.


Third sentence




The third abstract example for research paper is for sciences — natural, formal, applied ones, it doesn’t matter. Once again, use a mixed approach by putting content into present and past tenses depending on context.

It is believed that small elephants cannot use their trunk until they grow older. Time has to pass before they feel confident enough to control it. However, a research gap exists since some studies deny this fact, meaning that there is no clear answer on a vital part of elephants’ biology. This study focuses on 15 detailed experiments featuring the behavior of small elephants. It explores their findings and compares them point by point. Results demonstrate that in 12 observed instances, small elephants failed to move their trunk in a controlled manner. The remaining 3 showed an opposite picture. The close analysis allows establishing that in the majority of cases, baby elephants need to be at least a month old to develop control over their trunk, but sometimes exceptions happen.


Third sentence




See How Informative & Descriptive Research Abstract Examples Look Like

We described what informative and descriptive abstracts are above. As a quick refresher, an informative one is a typical abstract that summarizes the entire paper. This is a possible example:

Self-harm is a common phenomenon where a person hurts themselves on purpose. In some cases, it might have a link with suicide. Understanding the interrelation between them is vital as it can help catch the signs earlier and prevent someone’s death. This research study explores how often people who engage in self-harm consider ending their lives. It examines 52 occasions of self-harm and interviews people who hurt themselves, asking them relevant questions. From the results, it becomes clear that 31 people who engaged in self-harm considered committing suicide at least once. 10 made an attempt to do it, and the remaining ones never thought about it. This illustrates that self-harm is not always connected to suicide, but the link is strong enough to be helpful in identifying the signs of someone contemplating suicide sooner.

This example of an abstract for a research paper follows all guidelines we provided above. But now, let’s tackle a descriptive abstract. It’s shorter, and it mentions only the most relevant key points.

Multiple people like reading, while others prefer watching TV shows. Research proves that the latter form a bigger group — in fact, reading has been losing popularity for at least a decade. This study investigates the reasons for this shift and offers recommendations for hindering it.

We hope it completes your understanding and that you will no longer wonder how to write abstract for research paper. Keep these examples in mind whenever you feel unsure regarding which steps to follow. Now, time to explore some tips that could help you write an even better essay.

You Wrote Your Draft: Now What?

What should writers do once they finish writing the first version of their abstract? If you think it looks perfect, that’s great. Leave everything as it is. But if you still doubt your knowledge of how to write a good abstract for research paper, follow these steps:

  • Revise flawed aspects. If you think that the third sentence doesn’t sound convincing, the methods failed to express what you did, or the conclusion is weak, edit it without fear. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind and working to improve what you wrote.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask friends or relatives to read your abstracts in research papers. You could also consult a classmate. People with an outside perspective often have the best kind of advice.
  • Consider hiring an editor. Some students struggle with English. It might not be their first language, or they might simply have problems with grammar, and this is when they’ll need research paper editing services from experts. Place requests and receive assistance within the same day if your deadline is running out!

What Is Abstract in a Research Paper: Final Tips

At this stage, you know everything you need to create a truly great abstract. But we have some final tips to share with you. While they are not obligatory, they could make your writing simpler and quicker.

  • Write an abstract after you’re done with the paper. Abstracts should be created last. Think about it: it must summarize everything, from premise to findings, and findings obviously come at the end. If someone crafts an abstract first, they’ll likely have to redo it later completely.
  • Keep content logical. You know the order in which you have to write everything. Follow it. Don’t confuse methods with the third sentence or introduction with a conclusion. Stay logical.
  • Write an abstract from scratch. Some students feel too lazy to learn how to write a research abstract, so they simply borrow content from the body of their essays. This is plagiarism. Create everything from scratch or seek help if needed.
  • Avoid an abundance of details. Abstracts should not be too detailed. Tease readers, don’t give them all the info at once. Leave it for your paper.