Writing an abstract should be easy. However, I struggle every time I have to write one. My biggest problem is always diving head in, telling myself that summarizing the main points and findings of my paper is the easiest assignment I could ask for. I just have think about my text, write down what I remember about it—that’s obviously the most important information—and move on.
Working this way, though, leads me to forget what the abstract is for: helping readers decide if my paper is relevant to them. If it is confusing or doesn’t look how they expect, they probably won’t read on.
But what do readers expect? After my most recent failed attempt, I decided to figure this out and learned there is actually a basic formula to abstracts. I found this lecture and sat for exactly seventeen minutes learning how to write it correctly the first time, rather than relying on a cycle of failed revisions. I learned that writing an abstract is not easy, but at least now that I know how to write one, people may actually want to read my papers. And that’s what really matters.
Graduate Assistant, Virtual Writing Center