Research Paper Abstract: 10 Simple Steps to Make a Big Difference

Writing Abstract for Research Paper

Introduction

When I started my research journey as PhD research scholar I had an innovative idea for implementation. My research supervisor felt very happy and asked me to submit an abstract of the work for an international conference.

Being unaware of paper writing I struggled a lot to understand the gist of abstract writing and took a lot of time to prepare my own. It was after several iterations my supervisor approved my abstract.

Based on my first experience I decided to prepare a template for the research paper abstract with 10 simple steps so that I can write it in less than an hour.

An abstract is a summary of a research paper explaining the problem investigated; the methods applied; the main results; and conclusions.

Abstracts are a good way to summarize the key contents of a paper. It is a single paragraph containing a minimum of 200 words up to 300 words.  It offers a preview that highlights key points and helps the reader to decide whether to read the entire paper or skip to the next paper.

Many of the conference proceedings only publish abstracts for indexing. Many journal editorial boards screen manuscripts only based on the abstract.

For the referees and a few readers who wish to read the complete paper, the abstract sets the tone for the rest of the paper. If it fails to attract the attention of the reviewer then there’s a good chance your paper will be rejected before reading the complete content.

The author therefore must ensure that the abstract is a proper representative of the entire paper. Moreover, even after your paper is published, it will be the first and possibly only thing readers will access through electronic searches. Thus, for the vast majority of readers, the paper does not exist beyond its abstract.

The primary sections of many publications in the social sciences, sciences of nature, and sciences of engineering are Background(Introduction), Methods, Results, and Discussion(IMRaD).

An IMRaD paper or presentation abstract usually has one or two paragraphs.  This type of abstract writing  typically invests

First 25% of the text for the goal and significance of the research (Background)

Next 25% of the  text is devoted to the Methodology followed

Next  35% of the text on what is discovered (Results)

The last 15% of the text is devoted to the research’s conclusions

 

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IMRaD Research Paper Abstract Content Distribution

Some researchers add  Objectives between Background and Methods and Limitations at the end of the abstract.

i) Background

The purpose of the background is to provide the reviewer or reader with a background to the research and hence to smoothly lead into a description of the methods employed in the investigation.  A word of caution: A lengthy background section may lead to less space for the methods and results section, leading to a poor representation of the paper.

This section is the smallest part of the abstract. It should briefly outline what is already known and what is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to carry out. Background can be prepared in just 2–3 sentences with each sentence describing a different aspect of the information referred to above; sometimes, even a single sentence is sufficient.

ii) Methods

This section should contain enough details to make the reader understand what was done in the research and how it was done.  The methods section throws light on the algorithms,  processes and data sets used for the study.  You can visit my other blog post related to the “writing method section”  for a detailed understanding.

 iii) Results

The results section is the critical part of the abstract. This is because readers who scan an abstract usually want to take a decision about their future course of research based on your findings.

The results section should therefore be the longest part of the abstract and should contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.

While writing a summary of obtained results care should be taken regarding comparative analysis statements.

For example, it is wrong to write  “Leaf Disease detection rates differed significantly between C-Means Fuzzy based clustering and K-Means Clustering“.  From this, no conclusion can be drawn by the reader.  It can be written as  “Leaf Disease detection rate was higher in C-Means Fuzzy based clustering than in  K-Means Clustering

Some authors even write “ Our results are excellent as compared to the method employed by John[]“.  No author’s work should be degraded. It can be stated as “Our results are comparable to the results obtained through the Backpropagation network implemented in the earlier work“.

Details regarding “how to write the results section for a research paper”  is presented in one of my posts.

 iv) Conclusion

This section should contain the most important message the researcher wants to convey to the reader about the work carried out in a few clearly worded sentences.

Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcome measure; however, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary but not essential, for the authors to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. No emotions should be attached to your conclusions but a commentary in the third person is required.

Being the final portion, the conclusion serves as the researcher’s final say on the subject of the research. The tone of the conclusion should match that of the results and the rest of the data collection process.  The conclusion should be able to wrap up the entire work from the formulation of research objectives up to the satisfaction of such objectives.

The research paper also has a summary of the entire paper along with the author’s opinion as a conclusion section. 

10 Simple Steps  for writing an Abstract

Now how to go about fitting the critical points from the entire paper— why the research was carried out, what were the objectives, how these were addressed with different methodologies, what the main findings were and what were the unexpected outcomes into a paragraph of just 200-300 words. It’s not an easy task, but here’s a 10-step guide that should make it easier:

  1. Start writing the abstract only after completing the paper write-up.
  2. Explain the domain, subdomain and the historical development in the subdomain in 20-40 words.
  3. List the major challenges identified ( from the research gap of the survey section) in 20-40 words.
  4. Explain the objectives you have set for the research in 20-40 words.
  5.  Describe the Methodology you have used to solve the problem in  30-50 words.
  6.  Explain how the results are presented( in the form of graphs, charts or tables etc)in 20-30 words.
  7. Share your opinion on the results obtained and unexpected observations made while listing the results in 10-20 words.
  8. Make sure that the  abstract does not contain
    • New information that is not present in the paper.
    • Undefined abbreviations or group names.
    • A discussion of previous literature or reference citations.
  9. There must be consistency between the information presented in the abstract and the paper.
  10. Check whether the abstract meets the guidelines of the target journal (word limit, type of abstract, recommended subheadings, etc).

 

Example of  an Abstract for a Research Paper

The topic of extracting useful leaf disease features using image processing methods has been investigated by the image processing community for decades.

Image processing research for leaf spot disease identification has matured significantly throughout the years, and many advances in image processing techniques continue to be made, allowing new techniques to be applied to new and more demanding pathological problems.

In this paper, a method for the detection and classification of leaf spot diseases affecting the Pomegranate crop is developed using  Deep learning Neural networks.

Throughout, we have presented tables and charts to compare the performance of the proposed method with state-of-the-art techniques.

Experimental results show that the Deep Neural Networks handle uncertainty effectively and they can be trained with limited data sets.

The paper has also made suggestions for future research directions.

Example of  an Abstract for a Survey Paper

Extraction of meaningful leaf disease features by applying image processing techniques is a problem that has been studied by the image processing community for decades.

Image processing research for leaf disease identification has matured significantly throughout the years, and many advances in image processing techniques continue to be made, allowing new techniques to be applied to new and more demanding pathological problems.

In this paper, we have reviewed recent advances in the data extraction of diseased leaf images, focusing primarily on three important Soft computing techniques namely: Neural networks, Fuzzy logic and  Genetic algorithms.

Throughout, we have presented tables that summarize and draw distinctions among key ideas and approaches. Where available, we have provided comparative analyses and made suggestions for analyses yet to be done.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Can I submit my research paper abstract to two different conferences?

Ans: It should be acceptable to present a paper orally more than once; The issue arises if the conference organisers want you to submit an abstract or perhaps a full paper for publication; in that case, you are required to transfer your copyrights to the conference organizers.

2. When should you write the abstract of a research paper?
 
Ans: Even though your abstract will be the first section of your paper, it’s best to wait to write it until after you’ve prepared your entire work so that you are aware of what you’re summarising.
 
3. What are the differences between normal abstracts & extended abstracts? 
 
Ans: A standard abstract and a full paper are combined to create an extended abstract, which is both longer than a usual abstract and shorter than a full paper.

4. Can the conference abstracts published in indexed journals be published as research papers in other journals?

Ans: A conference abstract can be expanded into a complete manuscript and submitted to a journal without any problems. Even if the abstract and the complete work are published in two distinct journals, this will not be regarded as a duplicate publication.

5. What is the maximum length for an abstract in the IEEE format for a research paper?
 
Ans: The abstract must be between 150–250 words.
Vijay Rajpurohit
Author: Vijay Rajpurohit