Abstracts

A Guide to Doing Abstracts or a Research Paper Proposal

Dr. Burgess


Everyone has an idea about how to do an abstract or a proposal.  It is probably best to keep it simple, unless told to do otherwise.

Abstracts are one-to-two page summaries of a longer research project.  They may serve as a proposal for a project to be undertaken or as a summary of a completed project.

Because they are short, they need to be clear and concise .  Your style needs to be simple, declarative sentences.  Avoid flowery language, hyperbole, or other errors of style which would inhibit accurate language.  Do not include a long introductory paragraph, "thesis paragaph" or some other lengthy introduction.  Save that for your paper.

The First Paragraph: Indicate clearly, in a few sentences what the longer project will be/is about.  (Ex. "The subject of this paper is the Aristotelian notion of megale harmatia  in the Oedipus Tyrannos of Sophocles, and whether or not Oedipus exhibits hubris in the traditional understanding of that term.")  Follow this with two or three sentences which expand precisely upon the subject of the project.

The Second Paragraph:  This paragraph should give a clear indication of your principal primary sources and their relative value, without lengthy discussion on how the relative values are assigned.  Save that for the paper.  (Ex.  If you are doing ancient history, then primary sources would be the actual ancient authors.)  This paragraph should also contain some reference to your secondary -- modern -- sources, and their relative value for your project.

The Third Paragraph:  This should contain a concise summary in half a dozen sentences or so, of your findings, or what you expect your findings to be.  Again, avoid hyperbole and flowery language.

Bibliography: If this is a proposal for a paper, you may be asked to include a working bibliography.  Make sure this includes your principal primary sources, and your principal secondary sources.  Do not include your entire bibliography if it would run for pages.  Save that for the longer project.

Last modified:  Ides of August, in the 2762th ab urbe condita (from the Foundation of the City, Rome, that is....2009, for those of you on a different calendar).