how to write an abstract for a literature review

how to write an abstract for a literature review

How to write an abstract for a literature review

1. Introduction

An abstract is a short summary of your dissertation. It is a general guide to what your dissertation is about – what you intend the reader to take away from it. It should include the general scope of your study, the basic reasons for your research, the methods you used to conduct your research, and the results you obtained. The final part of your abstract should focus on the conclusions you have reached – what you expect the reader to gain from your work. Often times your abstract can, in effect, be an abbreviated version of your entire dissertation. In a dissertation research paper, an abstract is often longer and more detailed than a thesis. Coming at the start of a paper, it is the part of your paper which is most likely to be accessed by those who do not want to read your paper in full. Versions of the abstract are usually described as ‘descriptive’. An informative abstract generally used for research papers, or the descriptive abstract, which is more suitable for dissertation type writing (describing what the dissertation contains). This type of abstract is usually very short (50-100 words). An abstract for a research paper will be quite different from one for a dissertation as it is more likely to be about the methodology.

The overall goals of this chapter are to firstly establish the importance of the dissertation literature review. Then we will provide you with four key ways in which you can generate content to help your readers make decisions. The first part of this chapter will define what an abstract is, whether it be a research paper or a dissertation. It will also set the tone for the paper and its intended readership. Finally, we will clarify the differences between an abstract for a research paper and an abstract for a dissertation and what each one should include.

2. Purpose of the Abstract

The primary aim of an abstract is to essentially summarise the research project. This summary is intended to share the topic, argument, and conclusions of a research study, similar to the text on the back cover of a book. Abstracts are displayed in article indexes and are free to a wide audience often times; therefore, it is crucial that they are clear and concise but also defined and well written. These four qualities, i.e. clear, concise, defined, and well written, all imply very different considerations of writing. For example, a paper can be well written but not concise, or clear but not defined. The abstract must represent the entirety of the project, but also it must be kept brief and avoid irrelevant detail. Typically, an abstract is only 150-300 words. Thus, it is important to keep it short. Another purpose of the abstract is to help the reader decide whether the entire report is worth reading. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it.

3. Key Components of an Abstract

The scope of the review: This is generally tied into the previous point. If you have a problem and a body of knowledge about how to solve it that is using a specific method then it is quite precise to that your area of review is narrow. However, if the problem at hand is one of a complex and general nature, the body of knowledge small with many gaps and the solution a complex one – then the review may be broad in nature. Indicate how and to what extent your review is tied into the previous points.

The structure of the review: A general guideline of how to write the literature review with an opening statement a) stating the relevance of the review to the problem c) a section that assesses what is known in the area of the problem d) a section assessing how the problem is coming about or what is the nature of the problem e) assessment of what can be done to solve the problem f) a stating of how far the assessment can provide a solution to the problem and the review closing with a summary or conclusions that takes each section into account.

The literature to be reviewed: This will assess what has already been written in your area of problem and what has been written in related areas. You must provide an assessment that shows a) an understanding of the problem b) the knowledge that what can lead to a solution has not been undertaken c) an identification of general trends, theories and findings detailed in the area of concern d) evidence suggesting that your area of problem has relevance e) identification of gaps in the knowledge d) how your area of problem is related to the general or specific body of knowledge in related areas.

Statement of the problem: A clear concise statement of the problem to be addressed in the literature review. This should not be of a grand scope – for example, you may be looking at a general social problem, but you should pinpoint what you are specifically going to address in the time period provided in doing your review.

4. Writing Tips for an Effective Abstract

The abstract is the only part of the paper that is published in conference proceedings. The abstract is the only part of the paper that a potential referee sees when he is invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract is the only part of the paper that readers see when they search through electronic databases such as PubMed. Often, the abstract is free from the paper, so it can be the only part of the paper that readers see when they are trying to decide whether to obtain and read the full paper. For this reason, an abstract should be informative, accurate, and representative of the paper. An abstract is usually only one paragraph (200-300 words). However, often it includes a summary of the findings or conclusions of the work. Due to space limitations, it is preferable that the abstract is kept as short as possible while still clearly conveying the main content and conclusions. Years ago, in order to make an abstract an author would have to cut the paper down to the level of the abstract, retype the abstract, and then refer to the abstract. Now, key sentences are extracted directly from the paper. These sentences are arranged in a block paragraph. This text aligns pretty closely with the “articles” section of the final format. Now we have an abstract, and a good one at that.

5. Conclusion

Currently, the easiest way to be found is from the standardized test. The high quantity of references for this review has shown that the requirements for an abstract are often poorly taught and even more poorly carried out. Mere effort is not good enough: the best possible grade, which can more often than not be achieved, is needed. Numerous examples of ways the requirements are often misinterpreted and a lack of answers in the writer’s conclusion strongly suggest this. The importance lying behind an abstract is reflected by the procedure it takes to write one. Usually, it is a long-winded process, and of course, it is rather annoying for the writer to know that he is more often than not only writing the abstract so that he has something to explain to the incompetent. An improvement in teaching can be sought if the abstract becomes more important than its current status. Otherwise, a habit of writing an abstract only for the selfish reasons of having one to explain, or in expectation of one day becoming a competent reader will never cease. In actual fact, the writer should write the abstract first, the final draft being a summary of what was written. This directly shows that the writer has to truly understand what he is about to describe, and more significantly, the reader will understand the paper after reading the abstract. The simplified nature of the paper as it is deconstructed into the essential points is a useful skill of a competent writer. Comprehension of the paper’s contents is often hard to judge, and skill is normally overshadowed by knowledge. An abstract in which the contents do not reflect the original is evidence of a lack of solely this very skill, and can be a useful learning experience for the writer and in some cases the teacher. This is, of course, providing the error is noticed and not dismissed by an uncaring reader.

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