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How to Write a Good Abstract in Scientific Report


An abstract is a synopsis of the most important information presented in a report. A good abstract helps the reader to decide whether to read all or parts of a report. The abstract in a scientific report is a brief account of the purpose of the work being reported, methods achieved, results obtained and conclusions reached. The summary and conclusions section of the report provides the source material for the abstract. The abstract should be suitable for publication separate from the entire report.

Read the entire report. Focus on the significant scientific findings and conclusions discussed in the report. A well-composed abstract is a concise summary of the report.

Write a strong topic sentence by putting the news at the forefront. State the reason for and the objective of the scientific research being done. Provoke the reader’s interest.

Spell out the type and methods of research. Inform the reader whether the scientific study is a preliminary or comprehensive assessment, a historical compilation, a progress report, or original research that is of local, regional, or national interest. Reiterate any methods used as a result of the research, if applicable.

State the findings and results. Touch on all principal findings that appear in the body of the report. Be informative rather than figurative. State what the report tells and not what the report is about. Report the results or findings in order of decreasing importance. Emphasize key words that reflect the report title and the major body headings in the report.

Write concluding statements. Briefly draw together any conclusions reached as a result of the findings described in the body of the report. Conclusions should be as specific as possible, with no more than a sentence or two needed.

Review, revise and prepare the final abstract. Ensure that the final abstract is a concise summary of the entire report. Preparation of a good abstract—one that summarizes the important content of the scientific report and nothing more—deserves as much pondering, rewriting and perfecting as any other section of the report.

Tips
  • Material should be quantitative rather than qualitative.
  • Prepare the abstract after the entire report has been written.
  • New material should not be presented.
  • Only discuss information that appears in the body of the report.
  • Keep the total word count to 250 words or less.
  • Avoid the use of references, acronyms and abbreviations.
About the Author

Since 1977, Rhonda Howard has been writing and editing scientific manuscripts for the U.S. Geological Survey. The Survey publishes earth science manuscripts related to the hydrology, geology, and biology disciplines. Rhonda presently serves as the Publishing Service Center Chief for Florida and the Caribbean and oversees all publishing activities including editing, graphics, layout, visual identity/508 compliance, printing, and Web preparation and posting.

Photo Credits
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