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How to Write an Abstract for a Proposal


A proposal paper sets out your reasoning for the study, justifies the research and explains your intended methods. Dissertations and other graduate-level research often require proposals, or you may create one to apply for grant money. An abstract summarizes the information in the proposal. An effective abstract can make the difference between a positive or negative response to the proposal.

Write About the Introduction and Problem

A strong abstract touches on all the sections in the proposal, including the introduction, where you should give some information about the issue and why you chose it. While you do not want to go into detail about the problem, you need to state what issue your project will address, such as the high dropout rate for sophomores at a college. If you find you cannot focus your abstract on a single problem, your research may be too broad.

Summarize the Background and Focus

A proposal identifies a reason for the project, so the abstract also needs to establish how this project fulfills a need. You may indicate how your plan differs from previous research or fills a void in past research while summarizing information included in the literature review portion of your paper. Include a brief explanation of the project's objectives, the research or other material you will rely on in the paper and in your proposed thesis.

Explain the Methods and Conclusions

The abstract should include some general information about the procedures for your project. Explain if you will use qualitative, quantitative or mixed measures and why. What type of sample and procedures will you use to obtain your data? Add a sentence at the end of the abstract to indicate the conclusion you expect to draw from the project and the implications of the results, which will create a sense of closure for the document. Remember, the abstract is a summary of material in the paper, so only include information in the abstract that will also appear in the actual paper.

Follow Proper Formatting

First person point of view -- "I" and "my" -- are usually acceptable in APA proposals, but you should double check your field's style guide. After finishing a draft, revise your abstract to create concise language, keeping the abstract to a maximum of 250 words. Find examples of acceptable abstracts from your field and institution to use as models. If you write the abstract before finishing the proposal, review it once you have completed the paper to make sure the abstract summarizes the ideas you have presented. Insert a page break after the title page and place the abstract there, including the running head and page number in the header.

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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