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Guidance on Writing Abstracts

ERIC provides the following guidance to help authors write an abstract of maximum value to users. Authors are encouraged to follow this guidance, and see our video "Tips and Best Practices for Writing ERIC Abstracts."

An abstract is a concise summary of a larger work, typically written in one paragraph of 150 to 500 words. Its purpose is to help readers quickly discern the purpose and content of the work. Material submitted to ERIC must include an abstract written in English. Accuracy, brevity, and clarity are the ABCs of writing a good abstract.

Writing Style

  • 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.

Abstract Elements

A well-written abstract generally addresses five 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.
  • Additional materials: notes the number of references, tables, graphs, exhibits, test instruments, appendixes, or other supplemental materials in the paper.

Sample narrative abstract showing how each element adds to the abstract:

(Purpose) The purpose of this study was to understand the learning trajectories of the growing numbers of English learner students in Arizona, especially those who struggle to pass state English language arts and math content tests. (Methods) This study followed three cohorts of English learner students in Arizona (kindergarten, grade 3, and grade 6) over six school years, 2006/07 through 2011/12, to assess their progress in English proficiency (based on their scores on the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment) and their academic progress in English language arts and math content knowledge (based on their scores on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards English language arts and content tests). (Results) More than 90 percent of Arizona's English learner 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 English language arts and math. English learner students who were eligible for special education services had the lowest passing rates on all three tests. In general, English learner students in higher grades had lower cumulative passing rates on all three 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 student subgroups with the poorest performance (i.e., students in higher grades, students eligible for special education services, students eligible for school lunch programs, and/or and male students). (Additional Materials) The following are appended: (1) Arizona programs that provide context for the study; (2) Data and methodology; and (3) Additional findings.

Note: The recommended narrative abstract element labels, shown in bold in the sample above, do not appear in the published abstract.