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What Goes in an Abstract for APA?


The abstract can be the most important aspect of a paper, because it can determine whether your article is published or read. It functions as a hook, and the American Psychological Association is specific about what it should contain. Make sure you follow the most current APA Style guide if your professor has asked you to follow this style. At the time of publication, this is the sixth edition.

Placement of the Abstract

After the title page and starting on a new page, center the word “Abstract” on the first line. On the next line, flush on the left margin, begin writing the abstract; do not indent. Double space between lines. In addition, you can place a list of key words right after the abstract. Indent, write “Keywords” in italics followed by a colon. Then type the keywords without italics.

Summary of Analysis

According to the APA sixth edition, an abstract is a short summary of an essay or article. Only the most essential information should go into this summary. For example, a literary analysis of Jonathan Swift’s "Modest Proposal" would mention essential aspects of the analysis and not mention specific aspects of Swift’s work itself. The abstract must make sense in isolation from the article.

Language Use

An APA abstract should be between 150 and 250 words. Any more and the abstract will be cut or edited if you seek to publish it in an APA publication. Because of the word limits, avoid noun phrases, using verbs instead where possible, and do not repeat the title. Tailor the language of the abstract to the intended audience, using concrete and specific vocabulary.

Style Issues

The preferred style when writing an APA abstract is third person, but this requirement has been removed in the sixth edition and first person can be used. When mentioning authors in the abstract, use only the last name. Normally in APA you write out numbers one to 10, but since space in an abstract is at a premium, all numbers are written as figures.

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