What is an abstract?

An abstract is a one-paragraph summary of your paper’s overall focus. The purpose of an abstract is to provide readers with the main points of your paper; in other words, the abstract serves as a “snapshot” of the paper’s focus.

An abstract is not required for APA Style Student Papers or MLA Style papers, but it may be requested by an instructor in some instances.

What are the steps involved in writing an abstract?

  1. Summarize the core of the paper’s topic
  2. Edit and proofread
  3. Format

How do I summarize the core of the paper’s topic to build a cohesive abstract?

  • Write the abstract as the last step of the writing process.
  • Review the paper and isolate the main points of the essay.
  • Boil down those main points by summarizing the “who, what, where, and when” of your paper.
  • Do not quote.
  • Include your thesis or main argument and the overall conclusions of your paper.

What strategies can I use to edit and proofread?

  • Cut excess sentences that do not provide important information from your paper.
  • Use Grammarly to identify mechanical and grammatical errors.
  • Read your writing aloud and “listen” to how it “sounds” to your reader.
  • For additional help, see the Proofreading and Editing Strategies.

What are the formatting guidelines?

  • The font size and style should be consistent with the rest of the document.
  • The length of the abstract should be a minimum of 150 words to 250 words maximum and written as a single paragraph.
  • The abstract is on a page of its own, inserted after the title page but before the body of your paper.
  • The abstract is double-spaced.
  • The word “Abstract” is centered and in bold font.
  • The first line of the abstract should not be indented.

Please note that formatting requirements are different for dissertations. You'll find dissertation or applied doctoral project formatting guidelines within the Research Resource Center (RRC) in your student portal. 


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