What is an abstract?

Instruction: These are guidelines for abstract writing which usually pose another big problem for young researchers who are writing their first articles. This is an adaptation of several texts placed in the Internet without copyright limitations. You are sure to realize that the quantity of scholarly articles published daily in your field is so huge that the only way to limit your search is to feed key words into a search system. An abstract is the right format to help you not to get list in the infinity of information. On reading and understanding the following text your purpose will be to acquire the standard guidelines along which an abstract is written. This will be your goal as an academic writer. Moreover your goal as an examinee will be to get ready to present the ideas through the vocabulary that you acquire in this section at your English candidate exam.

Part 1. Definition

An abstract is a condensed version of a longer piece of writing that highlights the major points covered, concisely describes the content and scope of the writing, and reviews the writing’s contents in abbreviated form.

Abstracts are short statements that briefly summarize an article or scholarly document. Abstracts are like the blurbs on the back covers of novels. They entice someone to read further. With an abstract, you have to prove why reading your work is worthwhile.

What types of abstracts are generally used?

Two types of abstracts are generally used:

Descriptive Abstracts

tell readers what information the report, article, or paper contains.

include the purpose, methods, and scope of the report, article, or paper.

do not provide results, conclusions, or recommendations.

are always very short, usually under 100 words.

introduce the subject to readers, who must then read the report, article, or paper to find out the author’s results, conclusions, or recommendations.

Informative Abstracts

communicate specific information from the report, article, or paper.

include the purpose, methods, and scope of the report, article, or paper.

provide the report, article, or paper’s results, conclusions, and recommendations.

are short -from a paragraph to a page or two, depending upon the length of the original work being abstracted. Usually informative abstracts are 10% or less of the length of the original piece.

allow readers to decide whether they want to read the report, article, or paper.

All abstracts include:

A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.

The most important information first.

The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.

Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.

Clear, concise, and powerful language.

Why are abstracts so important?

The practice of using key words in an abstract is vital because of today’s electronic information retrieval systems. Titles and abstracts are filed electronically, and key words

are put in electronic storage. When people search for information, they enter key words related to the subject, and the computer prints out the titles of articles, papers, and reports containing those key words. Thus, an abstract must contain key words about what is essential in an article, paper, or report so that someone else can retrieve information from it.

Things You’ll Need: Computer, Word Processor

Answer the following questions:

Do you agree with the definition given above? Or would you like to add or take out anything?

What are the generally used types of abstracts?

How can you characterize the type of abstract you generally use?

Why are abstracts so important?

What do abstracts include?

Prepare a 2 minute story about the guidelines of writing a good abstract.

Part 2. Qualities of a Good Abstract

An effective abstract has the following qualities:

uses one or more well-developed paragraphs: these are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone.

uses an introduction/body/conclusion structure which presents the article, paper, or report’s purpose, results, conclusions, and recommendations in that order.

follows strictly the chronology of the article, paper, or report.

provides logical connections (or transitions) between the information included.

adds no new information, but simply summarizes the report. is understandable to a wide audience.

oftentimes uses passive verbs to downplay the author and emphasize the information. Check with your teacher if you’re unsure whether or not to use the Passive Voice.

Parts of an Abstract

Despite the fact that an abstract is quite brief, it must do almost as much work as the multi-page paper that follows it. In a computer architecture paper,this means that it should in most cases include the following sections. Each section is typically a single sentence, although there is room for creativity. In particular, the parts may be merged or spread among a set of sentences. Use the following as a checklist for your next abstract:


Why do we care about the problem and the results? If the problem isn’t obviously «interesting» it might be better to put motivation first; but if your work is incremental progress on a problem that is widely recognized as important, then it is probably better to put the problem statement first to indicate which piece of the larger problem you are breaking off to work on. This section should include the importance of your work, the difficulty of the area, and the impact it might have if successful.

Problem statement:

What problem are you trying to solve? What is the scope of your work (a generalized approach, or for a specific situation)? Be careful not to use too much jargon. In some cases it is appropriate to put the problem statement before the motivation, but usually this only works if most readers already understand why the problem is important.


How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? Did you use simulation, analytic models, prototype construction, or analysis of field data for an actual product? What was the extent of your work (did you look at one application program or a hundred programs in twenty different programming languages?) What important variables did you control, ignore, or measure?


What’s the answer? Specifically, most good computer architecture papers conclude that something is so many percent faster, cheaper, smaller, or otherwise better than something else. Put the result there, in numbers. Avoid vague, handwaving results such as «very», «small», or «significant.» If you must be vague, you are only given license to do so when you can talk about orders-ofmagnitude improvement. There is a tension here in that you should not provide numbers that can be easily misinterpreted, but on the other hand you don’t have room for all the caveats.


What are the implications of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant «win», be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case?

Answer the following questions:

Do you agree that the qualities listed above are absolutely necessary?

Do you always pursue these qualities in your abstracts??

What are parts of an abstract?

Did you know all these things about abstracts before?

If you did, who told you first? Or did you acquire this knowledge by probe and error experience?

Vocabulary and idiom notes for discussing abstracts

Condensed = concise = abbreviated To highlight = to describe = to review

Scholarly document — relating to science and/or academe, scientific, academic

Blurbs on the back cover of a novel

To be worthwhile Citation of the source Retrieval system

Well-developed paragraphs Oftentimes = often

To downplay the author

Room for creativity

To break off = to separate, to single out To make progress on the problem Extent of one’s work

Hand-waving results = vague, indefinite

To be given license to do = to be allowed to do

Orders-of-magnitude improvement.

Room for caveats = room for caution, warning


Errors with incomplete phrases Incomplete participial phrases

Participial phrases generally occur after nouns. They are actually reduced (shortened) relative clauses. Present participles (which always end in -ing) are used to reduce adjective clauses that contain active verbs.


The Crimea, which joined Ukraine in 1954, became a Ukrainian oblast, (adjective clause with active verb) The Crimea, joining Ukraine in 1954, became a Ukrainian oblast, (participial phrase with a present participle).

Most past participles end in -ed, but there are also many irregular forms.

Past participles are used to reduce adjective clauses with passive verbs.


Tavrida National University, which was founded in 1918, is the oldest university in the Crimea, (adjective clause with a passive verb).

Tavrida National University, founded in 1918, is the oldest university in the Crimea, (participial phrase with a past participle)

Participial phrases can also come before the subject of a sentence.


Joining Ukraine in 1954, The Crimea became a Ukrainian oblast.

Founded in 1918, Tavrida National University is the oldest university in the Crimea,

Usually, the participle itself is missing from this type of structure item, but any part of a participial phrase as well as parts of a main clause may be missing.


Natural resources provide the raw materials to produce finished goods

(A) needed, (B) are needed, (C) which need, (D) needing

Option (B) is a passive verb; the sentence cannot contain two main verbs

(are needed and provide) in the same clause. Choice (C) creates an adjective clause, but the verb in the clause is active and a passive verb is needed. (However, a relative clause with a passive verb {which are needed) would be a correct answer. Choice (D) is a present participle and has an active meaning; a past participle is needed.

Incomplete appositives

An appositive is a noun phrase that explains or rephrases another noun phrase. It usually comes after the noun that it rephrases. It may also come before the subject of a sentence.


Yuri Nikulin, a famous actor and clown, operated his own Circus Show, (appositive following a noun).

A famous actor and clown, Yuri Nikulin operated his own Circus Show, (appositive before the subject).

Appositives are actually reduced adjective clauses that contain the verb to be.

However, unlike adjective clauses, they do not contain a marker or a verb.


Oak, which is one of the most durable hard woods, is often used to make furniture, (adjective clause).

Oak, one of the most durable hard woods, is often used to make furniture, (appositive).

Appositives are usually separated from the rest of the sentence by commas, but short appositives (usually names) are not.


Economist Paul Samuelson won a Nobel Prize in 1970.

In a test sentence, all or part of an appositive phrase may be missing. In addition, the noun that the appositive refers to or other parts of the main clause may be missing.


The Trolleybus Road, of the first such roads in Europe, connected Simferopol airport to Yalta. (A) which one, (B) it was one, (C) one, (D) was one

Choice (A) is incorrect; there is no verb in the relative clause. Choice (B) has no connecting word to join the clause to the rest of the sentence. Choice (D) is incorrect because a verb cannot be used in an appositive phrase. Note: which was one would also be a correct answer for this problem.

Incomplete/missing prepositional phrase

A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition (in, at, with, for, until, and so on) followed by a noun or a pronoun, which is called the prepositional object. Prepositional phrases often describe time and location, among others.


In autumn maple leaves turn red.

Gaitshill is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Boston. After that, there won’t be any more problems.

The house was built by John’s grandfather.

Prepositional phrases come at the beginning of sentences, but they may appear in other parts as well.

Remember, the preposition cannot correctly be the subject of a sentence, as in these examples:

In autumn is my favorite season.

Without a pencil is no way to come to a test.

Prepositional phrases with the same meaning as adverb clauses

There are also certain prepositions that have essentially the same meaning as adverb-clause markers but are used before noun phrases or pronouns, not with clauses.


He chose that university because of its fine reputation. (because/since it has fine reputation).

The accident was due to mechanical failure. (because/since there was mechanical falure).

Visibility is poor today on account of air pollution. (because/since there is air pollution).

He enjoys motorcycle riding in spite of the danger. (although/even though it is dangerous).

Despite its loss, the team is still in first place. (although/even though it has lost).

Her father lived in England during the war. (when/while there was the war).

In a sentence where the correct answer is an adverb-clause marker, one of these words often appears as a distractor


No one knows what color dinosaurs were no sample of their skin has survived.

because of

because that

it is because


Choice (A) is incorrect; because of can only be used before nouns or pronouns. In choice (B), that is unnecessary. In (C), the phrase it is used unnecessarily.

rises to the surface of the Earth, a volcano is formed.

Liquid magma

Whenever liquid magma

Liquid magma, which

That liquid magma

Choice (A) creates two clauses, but there is no connecting word to join them. Choice (C) creates a sentence with a main clause and an adjective clause, but the main clause has two subjects (liquid magma and a volcano). Choice (D) creates a noun clause. In a correct sentence, when a noun clause opens a sentence, the clause itself is the subject of the verb in the main clause, but this sentence already has a subject [volcano].

invisible to the unaided eye, ultraviolet light can be detected in a number of ways.

Although is


Even though it


The best answer completes a reduced adverb clause. In choice (A), the adverb clause lacks a subject and is not a correct reduction because it contains a verb. In choice (B), despite cannot be used with an adjective (only with a noun phrase or a pronoun). Choice (C) does not supply a verb for the adverb clause and is not a correct reduction because it contains a subject.

Because alabaster can be easily carved.

is soft


of its softness

of soft

Choice (A) lacks a subject in the adverb clause. Choice (B), a noun, could only be used with because of. In (D), because of is followed by an adjective; to be correct, it must be followed by a noun phrase or a pronoun.


Identify and correct errors involving incomplete phrases

_1_ in the name of the high ideal of linguistic equality, a timeconsuming, and expensive translation machinery is maintained 2_ to translate the illusion of equality into illusions of multilingualism.


Despite powerful translators’ lobbies fight

Fghting powerful translators’ lobbies

Powerful translators’ lobbies are fighting

Powerful translators’ lobbies fighting 2

that is doing its best

it is doing its best

even thoughit is doing its best

doing its best

The translations are taken as tokens for equality:

what are produced in the world’s largest translation bureau

produced in the world’s largest translation bureau

producing in the world’s largest translation bureau

while produced in the world’s largest translation bureau

No one can tell than ability to read the more reliable English and French originals.

that the process of translation counts more

though the process of translation counts more

why the process of translation counts more

why counts more the process of translation

1 in the EU is a relative one: some languages are 2 1

The supposed linguistic equality

Although the supposed linguistic equality

Because the supposed linguistic equality

Linguistic equality as supposed 2

clearly more equal than others

clearly more equal before others

more clearly equal as others

more clearly than others equal

Minority languages do not count at all.

to use inside the member states

inside the member states

are used inside the member states

there are inside the member states

these articles do not contain any valuable information.

Though easily accessible for an Internet user

Although it is easily accessible for an Internet user

Despite easily accessible for an Internet user

Even though it easily accessible for an Internet user

.No one knows what race the Incas were _no one of these people has survived.

because of

because that

it is because


John Glenn, , became a national hero immediately after his flight.

he was the first American astronaut

who was the first American astronaut

the first American astronaut

being the first American astronaut