The abstract will be the last thing you write before submitting an article to an academic journal. But that doesn’t mean you should leave it until the last minute. After all, the abstract is the first thing your reviewers will read and what people will see when searching for articles in a database.
As such, you need your abstract to be perfect. But if you follow our advice on how to write an academic journal abstract, you’ll be in good hands.
1. Check the Style Guide
If you haven’t done so already, make sure to check the style guide/author instructions of the journal to which you’re submitting your article. This document should be available on the publisher’s website.
When you have it, look for instructions about preparing an abstract. This should include the style of abstract required and how long it should be (usually between 150 and 350 words).
2. Structuring an Abstract
The exact content of your abstract will depend on what you are writing about. However, most academic journal abstracts follow a similar basic structure:
- Background information on the subject of your paper
- Research objectives
- Your methods (but don’t go into detail about routine procedures)
- Key findings (this should be the longest section of your abstract)
- Conclusions plus any theoretical/practical implications of your work
The trick is to provide enough information for a reader to understand what your paper is about from the abstract alone. Remember that you’re writing for an expert audience, too. As such, you can focus on the most important details of your research without providing in-depth explanations.
3. Write Clearly and Concisely
While any good academic writing should be easy to read, being clear and concise is more important in the abstract than anywhere else due to the word limit. To ensure this is the case in your journal abstract:
- Use the active voice where possible
- Watch out for redundant expressions and other forms of wordiness
- Save citations and references for the main paper
- Never include information in the abstract that is not also in the paper itself
And as with the rest of your paper, the abstract should be formal and objective in tone. Generally, you should also avoid undefined acronyms, as your reader may not know what they mean. However, many journals do have a list of approved acronyms that can be used without definition.
Summary: How to Write an Academic Journal Abstract
If you need to write an academic journal abstract, keep the following in mind:
- Check the style guide/author instructions for the journal. This document should provide advice on abstract length and style.
- Your abstract should make sense by itself. It must therefore contain all of the key details from your paper, including brief background information, methods, key findings and your conclusions.
- Use a clear and concise writing style. The abstract should also be formal and objective in tone, similar to any academic document.
And don’t forget to have your article and abstract proofread before you submit them! That way you can be sure they are error free.