Writing the title and abstract can be the easiest and most frustrating part of writing a research paper. There are two major things to keep in mind when writing your title and abstract:
- Be clear and concise. You want everyone to know exactly what your paper is about simply by reading the title.
- Write the title, abstract (and introduction) last. This may seem a little strange to a lot of people but it makes the most sense to write them once you understand what you studied, what your results were, and what you want your audience to take away from reading it.
Writing Your Title
The title should describe what you are studying and to what effect. For example, my thesis was called: The Hero Soldier: Portrayals of Soldiers in War Films (You can access it here if you are interested) This title hits all the main points:
What: soldiers as heroes
Where: war ﬁlms
Concept: the way they are portrayed
This covers the basics and only the basics, don’t include your research methods, your results, or your pet’s name (seriously). Hit the main points that people will:
- Be searching for (Google, Library Databases, etc.)
- Catch their attention
- Tell the audience exactly what the study is about
That’s all. I didn’t call my thesis: A Qualitative In-depth Analysis of the Conception of the the Hero as Portrayed by Soldiers in War Films. I could have, because that’s what it is about, but it impedes comprehension. It needs to be to the point and convey exactly what that person will read.
Writing a Good Abstract
Outside the title the abstract is the only place where someone can get a quick overview of your study, think of the title as the abstract-lite, without the conclusions or big words. Basically your abstract should only be a paragraph long (that’s 3-4 sentences MAX!). Don’t ramble on for 15 sentences. There are only a few basic things you need to cover in your abstract:
- What you are studying + why it’s important
- How you are studying it (method)
- What you learned/found/argue and its signiﬁcance
That’s it! The point of an abstract is to summarize your entire paper in a paragraph so someone looking at it can get a brief idea what it is about and determine if they want to keep reading the entire paper. If you can’t write a brief and succinct abstract then you clearly don’t know what your own paper is about.
Writing a Good Introduction
The introduction should cover the same topics as your abstract but in a bit more detail.
You also need to include:
- Thesis statement
- Overview of the study methods
- Theoretical framework (if you have one)
- The reasons why the study has value to the research area you’re contributing to
- If you’ve ﬁnished your research be sure to give us a good idea about your ﬁndings
Many times, when beginning any writing project it is suggested that you start with a “hook” to get your reader interested in your topic, this is not necessary in a research paper. It can however, add to your paper. It’s acceptable but not required. After covering everything mentioned above, provide a one paragraph roadmap of your paper. This gives us an idea of how you will attack the rest of the document we are about to read. For example:
“In the following pages I will ﬁrst discuss the relevant literature and previously
conducted studies that relate to my study about goldﬁsh and their love for beer. Second, I then outline the method by which the research was conducted, followed last by a discussion of the results as well as future implications of the goldﬁsh/beer relationship.” You’ll notice that I use “I” in that statement. It is perfectly acceptable to use “I” from time to time in a paper as long as you don’t overuse it.
Protip: Don’t write your introduction ﬁrst. As it is a preview of the study it’s usually best to write your introduction and abstract last.
This is an excerpt from my eBook: How to Write a Research Paper, Proposal, or Thesis (grab it today, it’s free and I don’t ask for your email address to get it!)