The purpose of an abstract is to provide a clear and succinct summary of the report in 150 to 250 words. The abstract is often one of the most difficult parts to write as it draws from each section of the report – so it makes sense to write it last. You begin the abstract on the top of a new page with a centred and boldface heading. Use double spacing and note that there is no paragraph indent. The most common mistakes in writing an abstract include making them too long or using redundant information. Sentences need to be precise and meaningful. When writing your abstract you need to state the research aim, briefly outline the method, provide the main findings, and state your conclusions.
When stating the research aim/s you need to summarise the purpose of the research. To determine the purpose of your research ask yourself, 'what was being investigated?' and communicate this to the reader.
When outlining the method include sufficient information to give the reader a summary of your methodology without going into too much detail. Things to include are how many participants there were, participant demographic information (e.g., mean and standard deviation for age, gender breakdown), what measures were used, and a quick outline of the procedure. In regards to the procedure, this refers to 'what did the participants have to do?'. Did they complete a survey or participate in an experiment? Include these details briefly.
In the results, provide a summary of the main findings. Don't give your hypotheses here. You can state that the results confirmed the hypotheses but still give an overview of the results.
Lastly, state your conclusion. This may include study implications and/or recommendations for future research. Think 'big picture' here and don't simply re-state the results.
Below is an example of an abstract from a journal article.
An Example of an Abstract from a Journal Article
Traditional models of exercise motivation presume that behaviour is driven by rational decision-making processes. However, recent evidence suggests that automatic motivational processes also play a role in motivating exercise behaviour. The current study examined whether regular exercise engagement is linked to implicit approach–avoidance memory associations, as well as explicit intentions and self-determined exercise motivation. A sample of 104 healthy adults completed self-reported measures of exercise intentions, self-determined exercise motivation, and levels of exercise engagement. Approach–avoidance associations were measured using a modified Recoding-Free Implicit Association Test. Overall, participants associated exercise more strongly with approach than with avoidance attributes in memory, indicating an approach bias for exercise cues. In addition, individuals who reported engaging in higher levels of leisure-time exercise displayed a significantly stronger approach bias for exercise than less active individuals. Furthermore, approach–avoidance associations explained unique variance in exercise behaviour after controlling for the effects of explicit exercise intentions and self-determined exercise motivation. These findings suggest that increased engagement in leisure-time exercise is associated with an implicit cognitive bias to approach exercise-related cues in the environment. Moreover, these findings support current theoretical models that suggest that exercise is at least partly motivated by implicit motivational processes.
Abstract taken from: Hannan, T. E., Moffitt, R. L., Neumann, D. L., & Kemps, E. (2019). Implicit approach-avoidance associations predict leisure-time exercise independently of explicit exercise motivation. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 8(2), 210-222. https://doi.org/10.1037/spy0000145