An abstract is a short summary that comes at the beginning of an academic paper, dissertation, or report. It summarises the whole paper, including the purpose of the research, methods, findings and conclusions. It is usually only a paragraph or two in length. It helps your readers decide whether the text is relevant to their needs and whether they want to spend time reading it. It is short, but it is worth taking time to make sure it captures the main points of your work.

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Look at other abstracts to see how they are structured and written. You can find examples in journal articles from your subject, or from this guide: 

Write it last

Write your abstract last. It provides an overview of your whole text, so you can only write it after you have written everything else.


A quick way to structure your abstract is to take the main point from each section of your text e.g. introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion, then redraft it into a paragraph. Find out more from the guide with prompt questions to help you structure your abstract:


Keep it short! An abstract is normally only 200-300 words. Don’t describe the detail of what you did in your research, instead focus on the key finding(s).

Business reports

If you’re writing a business report, your abstract may be called an ‘executive summary’. Find out more from our executive summary page: