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Essay Abstract: 7 Dumb Mistakes You’ll Kick Yourself For Making

Essay Abstract: 7 Dumb Mistakes You’ll Kick Yourself For Making

Abstract Naija Writers CoachThere are some dumb mistakes writers make often when they write essay abstracts.

It’s vital to know them and see how to not make them.

Earlier, we’ve examined when to write – or not write – an abstract and how to actually write it.

Today, we’ll be looking at what an abstract is not. Every time you do any of the following in writing your abstract, you’re just getting it wrong – whether you realize it or not.

#1: Using an excerpt

An abstract is never a passage excerpted or culled from the essay. While it may contain keywords found in the essay, a good abstract is invariably an original document.

#2: Giving too much details

An abstract isn’t a detailed writing which contains quotations or requires citations or footnotes.  It’s only a summary of the main ideas in your essay; so make sure it’s not an essay itself

#3: Stating what the essay will do

The abstract shouldn’t state what you’ll do in the essay. Rather, it should state what you actually have done in the essay. So don’t write:

This essay will examine the several security measures put in place in Nigeria and why they’re proving ineffective.

You should instead edit it to read:

This essay examines/examined the several security measures put in place in Nigeria and why they’re proving ineffective.

#4: Using numbering or bullets

An abstract isn’t styled like a note with bullet or numbered points. It properly is a continuous prose. So it’s wrong to have something like:

The problems identified are:

1. gross lack of youth empowerment schemes;

2. absence of leadership training; and

3. inordinate desire of the ruling class to hold onto power.

#5: Using the passive voice

An abstract isn’t crafted in the passive voice. So make use of the active voice. So you should write: “This study interviewed 20 high school students” rather than “20 high school students were interviewed in this study.”

#6: Using abbreviations, acronyms and jargon

An abstract should do away with this. Remember that the reader should be able to understand the abstract without having to read your essay. So use “the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) found…” instead of “the NBS found…”

#7: Providing information not contained in the essay

Since it’s a summary of the essay, an abstract shouldn’t supply to the readers, information which aren’t contained in the essay. So ensure the content of your abstract is consistent with the information in the essay.

Further reading here…

If you’ll like to broaden your knowledge on this subject, see this helpful free PDF booklet by the Writing Support Centre of the University of Western Ontario.

It’s your turn…

Have you made any of these mistakes in the past? Or do you know more things the abstract is not? Leave a comment to share your views.

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About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Treemendous says:

    Thanks for the coaching. But i want to ask, must abtrasts be written before the essay? Looking at the mode of writing it, i think it should be the last thing to do but in conferences and seminars, abstrats are requested for before the submission of the whole article. What is your take on this?

    • Hi,

      Yes — like you said, the abstract should be written last. But in the case of conferences, the conveners need it before the scholar writes the essay so they can know and tell him whether to write the paper or not. That’s why such abstracts are intimation of what is to be written and not a summary of what has been written. Also, such abstracts are written by ‘experts’ who already know the exact direction their paper would go.

      In the case of an essay contest, you should never write your abstract before the essay.

  2. Treemendous Abdulhakeem says:

    thanks. Very well understood.

  3. Yeah. I have made one mistake before. Stating what the mistake will do instead of what it has done. Good thing I found that on here. Thanks,coach.

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