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How To Write A Great Essay Abstract With 4 Simple Questions

How To Write A Great Essay Abstract With 4 Simple Questions
how to write an abstract

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Do you want to know what an abstract must contain?

You’ll discover that right now. But first, it’s not every time you’ve got to write an abstract. If you’re not sure whether you need it for your essay entry or not, read this first: When Should You Write – Or Not Write – An Abstract?

Basically, an abstract contains – or should contain – four elements: a statement of problem, the research methodology, the immediate result and the conclusion.

I have reduced these into four simple questions for ease of application.

  • Why did you start?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you find?
  • What does it (your finding) mean?

Each of these is x-rayed below in turn.

#1: Statement of Problem

This identifies the problem and why we should care about it. Did you write in response to growing youth unemployment, the global fight against polio or the rising wave of terrorism?

Example:

Africa has a large youthful population with half of its citizens less than 20 years. However, the youth play little or no significant roles in nation building and Africa’s political development with the average age of the African head of state being 62 years.

Ultimately, this element answers the question, “Why did you start?”

#2: Methodology or Approach

This is where you state the approach to your research: what you did, where you sourced your materials or how you addressed the problem. Did you analyze the views of two schools of thought, interview 12 rape victims, draw from personal experiences, study 7 historical records or conduct an experiment?

You’ll also state whether you approached the subject using a specific theoretical framework, technical procedure, or methodology. Did you adopt a universal, comparative, scientific, African, Islamic, cultural, or legal perspective in analyzing the issues?

Example:

This essay examines Africa’s gerontocratic political set up and utilizes data from local and international researches and personal experiences to diagnose the causes of the situation with Nigeria as a case study.

This answers the query, “What did you do?”

#3: Immediate Results or Findings

This is a statement of what you learnt, discovered or created as a result of completing the above procedure, investigation or analysis. Did you discover that some religions support cremation? Did you find that failing family values, poverty and low budgetary allocation are the causes of dwindling standard of the Nigerian education system?

Example:

It is found that gross lack of youth empowerment schemes, absence of leadership training and an inordinate desire of the ruling class to hold onto power are factors hindering effective youth participation in the political process.

So this answers the question, “What did you find?”

#4: Conclusion

This is usually a single sentence stating the larger implication of the research, predicting a consequence or summarizing the recommendations. Is the problem of global warming likely to escalate by 40% in the next five years? Are you suggesting amnesty or military crackdown as the panacea to insurgency?

Examples:

It is recommended that Africa engages her youth as active stakeholders in the political process through education, political sponsorship and fixing a compulsory retirement age for political leaders.

This element addresses the question, “What does it (your finding in #3) mean?”

Now we have an abstract

From the examples I’ve given, the final abstract on the topic, African youth, political renaissance and nation building, will be:

Africa has a large youthful population with half of its citizens less than 20 years. However, the youth play little or no significant roles in nation building and Africa’s political development with the average age of the African head of state being 62 years. This essay examines Africa’s gerontocratic political set up and utilizes data from local and international researches and personal experiences to diagnose the causes of the situation with Nigeria as a case study. It is found that gross lack of youth empowerment schemes, absence of leadership training and an inordinate desire of the ruling class to hold onto power are factors hindering effective youth participation in the political process. It is recommended that Africa engages her youth as active stakeholders in the political process through education, political sponsorship and fixing a compulsory retirement age for political leaders.

Each of the four questions is answered very briefly in 1 or 2 sentences with much of the details omitted.

Types of abstracts

Note that there are two types of abstracts:

  • The descriptive abstract which merely answers the first two questions; and
  • The informative abstract which answers all the four questions.

Hence, the informative abstract is usually longer, more detailed and more widely used. It’s the type I personally use and recommend.

What next now?

You can write down the four questions somewhere so you’ll always remember and apply them. Next week, God willing, we’ll be looking at what an abstract is not … the contents and formats your abstract shouldn’t feature. Miss it, miss out!

What do you think?

Your comments are welcome. You can also comment with a topic of your choice and a sample abstract, and I’ll help you critique it for FREE.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

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

Comments

  1. Hi abdul,
    HOW A BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE
    Abstract:

    Millions of books are and still to be published; many of which lacks structure and authority. People are losing interest in buying books online as quacks and wannabes are releasing tons of pitched blabbing. This essay shares a personal experience of an encounter with a book and how it changed me. It’s seen that many information marketers are desperado. However,this essay shares tips on finding structural and authorial books online.

    Hope it was awesome? And are you able to feel my writing style for the first time? Correct any errors,please.

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