How to Write An Abstract

Tips for writing a clear and concise abstract

Think of your abstract like a movie trailer. It should leave the reader eager to learn more but knowledgeable enough to grasp the scope of your work. Although abstracts and artist statements need to contain key information on your project, your title and abstract should be understandable to a lay audience.

 

Title

The title of your abstract/statement/poster should include some language that the lay person can understand.   When someone reads your title they should have SOME idea of the nature of your work and your discipline.

 

Body

Ask a peer unfamiliar with your research to read your abstract. If they’re confused by it, others will be too.

Keep it Short and Sweet!

  • Interesting eye-catching title
  • Introduction: 1-3 sentences
  • What you did: 1 sentence
  • Why you did it: 1 sentence
  • How you did it: 1 sentence
  • Results or when they are expected: 2 sentences
  • Conclusion: 1-3 sentences

Ideas to address:

  • The big picture your project helps tackle
  • The problem motivating your work on this particular project
  • General methods you used
  • Results and/or conclusions
  • The next steps for the project

Things to Avoid:

  • A long and confusing title
  • Jargon or complicated industry terms
  • Long description of methods/procedures
  • Exaggerating your results
  • Exceeding the allowable word limit
  • Forgetting to tell people why to care
  • References that keep the abstract from being a “stand alone” document
  • Being boring, confusing, or unintelligible!

Tips for Specific Kinds of Abstracts/Statements

Artist Statement

The artist statement should be an introduction to the art and include information on media and methods in creating the piece(s).  It should include a description of the inspiration for the work, what the work signifies to the artist, the artistic influences, and any unique methods used to create the work.  Students are encouraged to explain the connections of the work with their inspiration or theme.  The artist statement (up to 300 words) should be written in plain language to invite viewers to learn more about the artist’s work and make their own interpretations.  The statement should be specific to the piece(s) that will be on display, and not a general statement about the student’s artistic philosophy and approach.  An effective artist statement should provide the viewer with information to better understand and experience viewing the work on display.

 

Research/Applied Design Abstract

The project abstract (up to 300 words) should describe the nature of the project or piece (ex:  architectural images used for a charrette, fashion plates, small scale model of a theater set) and its intended purpose.  Students should describe the project or problem that was addressed and limitations and challenges that impact the design process.  Students may wish to include research conducted to provide context for the project and inform the design process. A description of the clients/end users may be included.  Information on inspirations, motivations, and influences may also be included as appropriate to the discipline and project.

Key Considerations
  • The purpose of the project identifying the area of study to which it belongs
  • The research problem that motivates the project
  • The methods used to address this research problem, documents or evidence analyzed
  • The conclusions reached or preliminary results
  • The significance of the research project (significance of results)

 

Takeaway

  • What is the problem/big picture that your project helps to address?
  • What is the appropriate background to put your project into context? What do we know? What don’t we know? (informed rationale)
  • What is YOUR project? What are you seeking to answer?
  • How do you DO your research? What kind of data do you collect?  How do you collect it?
  • What is the experimental design? Number of subjects or tests run? (quantify if you can!)
  • Provide some data (not raw, but analyzed)
  • What have you found? What are your results? How do you KNOW this – how did you analyze this?
  • What does this mean?
  • What are the next steps? What don’t we know still?
  • How does this relate (again) to the bigger picture. Who should care and why?  (what is your audience?)

Find Out More:

www.urca.msu.edu/abstract-samples

www.urca.msu.edu/video

www.editage.com/insights/a-10-step-guide-to-make-your-research-paper-abstract-more-effective

http://www.artbusiness.com/artstate.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Write-an-Artist-Statement