An abstract of a theorist’s position
Academic papers are often published in journals with abstracts at the beginning of the article. An abstract is a brief paragraph or two, written in very precise and clear language, that summarizes the argument, findings or claims of the entire article. It will state what the article will demonstrate, what evidence will be used to support its claim, and usually what other critical work the article is responding to. If it is a scientific article, it may summarize an experiment that was conducted and what the experimenters found. The form an abstract takes might vary from one academic field to another, but the same basic information is always present. A sample abstract follows below.
This pre-draft assignment asks you to prepare an abstract for one of the critical essays we have read. Obviously, you need to have read the article, but you also need to work to get a sense of what it’s about. Once you feel confident that you understand the article and can summarize its main points, you can begin to write an abstract.
Here is a sample abstract for a dissertation in the humanities:
Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998
This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.
Here is some advice from the Purdue Owl:
Writing Report Abstracts
Summary: This handout discusses how to write good abstracts for reports. It covers informational and descriptive abstracts and gives pointers for success.
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll
Last Edited: 2010-04-21 08:23:08
Types Of Abstracts
There are two types of abstracts: informational and descriptive.
- communicate contents of reports
- include purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations
- highlight essential points
- are short—from a paragraph to a page or two, depending upon the length of the report (10% or less of the report)
- allow readers to decide whether they want to read the report
- tell what the report contains
- include purpose, methods, scope, but NOT results, conclusions, and recommendations
- are always very short— usually under 100 words
- introduce subject to readers, who must then read the report to learn study results
Qualities Of A Good Abstract
An effective abstract
- uses one or more well-developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone
- uses an introduction-body-conclusion structure in which the parts of the report are discussed in order: purpose, findings, conclusions, recommendations
- follows strictly the chronology of the report
- provides logical connections between material included
- adds no new information but simply summarizes the report
- is intelligible to a wide audience
Steps For Writing Effective Report Abstracts
To write an effective report abstract, follow these four steps:
- Reread your report with the purpose of abstracting in mind. Look specifically for these main parts: purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations.
- After you have finished rereading your report, write a rough draft WITHOUT LOOKING BACK AT YOUR REPORT. Consider the main parts of the abstract listed in step #1. Do not merely copy key sentences from your report. You will put in too much or too little information. Do not summarize information in a new way.
- Revise your rough draft to
- correct weaknesses in organization and coherence,
- drop superfluous information,
- add important information originally left out,
- eliminate wordiness, and
- correct errors in grammar and mechanics.
- Carefully proofread your final copy.
Download: Comedy and Satire Pre-Draft an Abstract of a Theorist’s Position (PDF)