GUIDE TO WRITING ABSTRACTS
Manuscripts submitted to ESNBU must include an abstract. An abstract is a concise summary of a larger work, typically written in one paragraph of 150 to 300 words. Its purpose is to help readers quickly discern the purpose and content of the work. Accuracy, brevity, and clarity are the ABCs of writing a good abstract.
- Use a who, what, when, where, why, how, and "so what" approach to addressing the main elements in your abstract.
- Use specific words, phrases, concepts, and keywords from your paper.
- Use precise, clear, descriptive language, and write from an objective rather than evaluative point of view.
- Write concisely, but in complete sentences.
- Use plain language, do not use jargon, and do not use acronyms except for commonly used terms (then define the acronym the first time used).
- Write in the third person; do not use "I" or "we."
- Use verbs in the active voice.
A well-written abstract generally addresses four key elements:
- Purpose: describes the objectives and hypotheses of the research.
- Methods: describes important features of your research design, data, and analysis. This may include the sample size, geographic location, demographics, variables, controls, conditions, tests, descriptions of research design, details of sampling techniques, and data gathering procedures.
- Results: describes the key findings of the study, including experimental, correlational, or theoretical results. It may also provide a brief explanation of the results.
- Implications: show how the results connect to policy and practice, and provide suggestions for follow-up, future studies, or further analysis.
Sample narrative abstract (205 words) showing how each element adds to the abstract:
Note: The recommended narrative abstract element labels, shown in bold in the sample below, do not appear in the submitted or the published abstract.
(Purpose) The purpose of this study was to understand the learning trajectories of the growing numbers of English learners in Montana, especially those who struggle to pass state English language proficiency tests. (Methods)This study followed three cohorts of learners in Montana (grade 4, grade 7, and grade 12) over six school years, 2006/07 through 2011/12, to assess their progress in English proficiency (based on their scores on the State English Language Learner Assessment) and their academic progress in mathematics (based on their scores on standardized state tests). (Results) More than 90 percent of the students scored at or above the required level for reclassification as fluent English proficient students. Their cumulative passing rate was highest for the English language proficiency test, followed by academic tests in math. English learner students who were eligible for special education services had the lowest passing rates on both tests. In general, English learners in higher grades had lower cumulative passing rates on both tests than students in lower grades. (Implications) Educators might consider devoting additional attention to improving teaching practices and support services to help the English learner subgroups with the poorest performance (i.e., students in higher grades, male students, students eligible for special education services, and/or students eligible for school lunch programs).