Your Sociology instructor has just given you your first research paper assignment, required to be written in American Psychological Association, or APA, format. Assignment directions tell you that in between the cover page and the table of contents, an abstract is also required. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, then you want to understand what an abstract is and what it is not, and know how to write one and include it in your final paper.
What an Abstract Is
An abstract is a brief summary of the content of your research paper. Reading through the abstracts of the first academic articles you research is a good starting point to thoroughly understand its purpose. It can be a useful tool in determining if the selected article fits in with your research topic. If it does not, then you can save time by just reading the abstract and moving on to more appropriate resources.
What an Abstract Is Not
First, an abstract does not present any new information that is not already included in your paper. Your abstract will contain elements such as an introduction, a few sentences that describe the main points and a conclusion. Secondly, an abstract is brief in length and not overly detailed. Lastly, regardless of the type of paper, even for persuasive papers, the abstract does not express opinion or use the first-person perspective.
Suggestions for Writing an Abstract in APA Format
Even though the abstract comes after the cover page in APA format, you usually compose it after your paper is complete. You have all of your content in place, so picking your main points and summarizing them is much easier. Let your introduction and your thesis statement, or topic sentence, as well as other headings and sub-headings and your conclusion guide you as your compose your summary.
Suppose the topic of your research paper is that major fast food chains are now offering healthier options than the usual burgers and fries, and your research shows this is true for four specific reasons. You might include your topic sentence in your abstract such as, "Today's fast food restaurants are offering up healthier options than in the past." Then you might offer four sentences, one sentence per point and provide one concluding statement to complete your abstract.