10 Abstract Writing Tips You Need to Know

Before every poster, there comes an abstract. 

Knowing how to write a good abstract is an important skill for a researcher to have. Like all writing, getting good at it just takes a bit of practice. 

Use these tips to make sure your next abstract is your best one yet, and increase its chances of getting accepted at a scientific conference. Being able to present your work to peers is both an important contribution to scientific research and a great reward for all your efforts!

  1. Start before you need to
  2. Writing a great abstract can take days, so get a head start. Write an outline with section headings and some quick bullet points to give yourself a roadmap and keep your paper organized.

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Recall why you’re writing your abstract (for a college course, to submit to a conference, etc.) and identify your likely readers, so you can use the appropriate tone, format and vocabulary. It’s important to consider their degree of familiarity with your topic. Even if your reader doesn’t know the specific details of your research, they should be able to easily follow its trajectory and main idea. 

  1. Write a compelling hook
  2. Succinctly communicating the research question will set the stage for your work and pique readers’ interest. If you don’t give readers an interesting reason to keep reading after your first sentence or two, chances are, they won’t. 

  1. Seek outside help 
  2. Your supervisor can guide you in terms of formatting and including all necessary information. It’s better to ask for their help early on in the process, as you’ll have time for multiple rounds of edits and it’s more considerate of their time.  

  1. Limit abbreviations
  2. Try not to make your reader do extra work by using acronyms that are highly specific or that they will have to look up. A general rule of thumb is to use 3 at a maximum, and pick ones that are pretty commonly used. Remember, clarity is key!

  1. Impact > Detail
  2. Don't get bogged down in the nitty gritty details of your research. Instead, highlight the most important results you obtained in the clearest language possible. 

  1. Explain the significance
  2. How does your research contribute to the larger field? Briefly state the broader implications of your findings, along with any potential ideas for further research. 

  1. Read it out loud
  2. Reading your abstract aloud is an easy trick you can use to catch any missing words, awkward phrasings, or sentences that are too long. 

  1. Pay attention to word count
  2. Most abstracts have strict word limits, so be ruthless in your editing. The fewer words you use, the more cogent your abstract will be. 

    While using convoluted sentences can be tempting to make your research seem more sophisticated, your research will have a much greater impact if it is well-communicated–that is, easily understood by your readers. 

  1. Proofread it, twice
  2. After proofreading your abstract, share it with a peer to get their opinion and comments. Then, when you’re sure about the content right before submit, put it into Grammarly to catch any lingering syntax errors.

Good luck writing!