Answered By: Elyse Wolf
Last Updated: Feb 06, 2018     Views: 5

Imagine someone trying to decide if they want to read your paper while choosing from a long list of sources on the same topic.  You want to describe what your paper is about and your key points, in a short, concise manner.  A good abstract should include your research question or the problem you address in your paper, something about the sources and methodology you used, and the results or conclusions you have drawn from your research.  Describe each of these things in a sentence or two.

Ask yourself, “How can I give the reader a quick but informative idea of what my paper is about?”

The answer is simple!  Include these four things:

  1. The problem or question you address in your research (your topic)
  2. Why your topic is important in your field or discipline (its broader context)
  3. How you went about your research (your methodology)
  4. Your research findings and how they are useful (your conclusions)

Here’s an example abstract:

Recent elections in the United States have drawn increased attention to “fake news” and the spread of false and misleading information, contributing to voter confusion and impacting the credibility of the election process.  Because anyone can put anything up on the Internet and allege its truthfulness and accuracy, a well-informed electorate needs to be information literate.  This paper investigates and describes a process for distinguishing credible sources of news and information from sources that are not.  A sample of 18-22-year-old college students (n=220) were shown examples of websites both authoritative and dubious in nature and were asked to evaluate them.  Following this pre-test, criteria used in the CRAAPO test developed by the Southern New Hampshire University Library were discussed in a hands-on computer classroom environment, and example websites were dissected, assessed, and reviewed using these criteria.  Following this experience, students were again shown websites (different than those seen before) and asked to evaluate them for credibility.  Students were also interviewed about the reasoning behind their choices.  Time and again an awareness of CRAAPO criteria and where to look for them on websites demonstrated an increased level of information literacy among student participants.

In the above example the following areas discuss the topic:

..."attention to “fake news” and the spread of false and misleading information, contributing to voter confusion and impacting the credibility of the election process...."

The following areas discuss the context:

"...allege its truthfulness and accuracy, a well-informed electorate needs to be information literate..."

The following areas discuss the methodology:

"... A sample of 18-22-year-old college students (n=220) were shown examples..."

"...were asked to evaluate them..."

"...were discussed in a hands-on computer classroom environment..."

"...Students were also interviewed..."

The following area discusses the conclusion:

"...demonstrated an increased level of information literacy among student participants..."

For further help with writing an abstract or for other writing questions, contact the Wolak Learning Center at 603.645.9690 (UC/On-Campus Students) or the Online Writing Center at 866.721.1662 (Online/COCE Students).

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