RMP Resource - Abstract
An abstract is a self-contained, short and powerful brief summary of a project report,
research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis
of a particular subject or discipline that describes a larger work, and is often
used to help the reader quickly ascertain the purpose. When used, an abstract always
appears at the beginning of project report or a manuscript, acting as the point-of-entry
for any given project application
An abstract may contain the scope, background, purpose, results, and contents of
the work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted.
While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original
document rather than an excerpted passage.
There are two type of abstracts:
descriptive and informative.
- A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information
found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results
or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text
and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the
descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it
an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually
very short—100 words or less.
- A informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work
itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the
important results and evidence in the complete project. An informative abstract
includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods,
scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations.
The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely
more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it
may be much less.
Its puIts purpose is to act as a reference tool (for example in a library abstracting
service), enabling the reader to decide whether or not to read the full text.
These are the basic components of an abstract
- Reason/Purpose of Work: at is the importance of the
project? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
- problem statement/Scope:What problem does this project
work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
- Methods/procedure/approach: How did you go
about solving or making progress on the problem? Did you use simulation, analytic
models, prototype construction, or analysis of field data for an actual product?
What was the extent of your work (did you look at one application program or a hundred
programs in twenty different programming languages?) What important variables did
you control, ignore, or measure?
- Results: What's the answer? Specifically, most good
computer architecture papers conclude that something is so many percent faster,
cheaper, smaller, or otherwise better than something else. Put the result there,
in numbers. Avoid vague, hand-waving results such as "very", "small",
or "significant." If you must be vague, you are only given license to
do so when you can talk about orders-of-magnitude improvement. There is a tension
here in that you should not provide numbers that can be easily misinterpreted, but
on the other hand you don't have room for all the caveats.
- Conclusion/implications:What are the implications
of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant "win",
be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste
of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially
generalizable, or specific to a particular case?
Abstract must make sense all by itself. Some points to consider include:
- Meet the word count limitation. If your abstract runs too
long, either it will be rejected or someone will take a chainsaw to it to get it
down to size. Your purposes will be better served by doing the difficult task of
cutting yourself, rather than leaving it to someone else who might be more interested
in meeting size restrictions than in representing your efforts in the best possible
manner. An abstract word limit of 150 to 200 words is common.
- Any major restrictions or limitations on the results should
be stated, if only by using "weasel-words" such as "might",
"could", "may", and "seem".
- Think of a half-dozen search phrases and keywords that people
looking for your work might use. Be sure that those exact phrases appear in your
abstract, so that they will turn up at the top of a search result listing.
Conclusion: Writing an efficient abstract is hard work, but will repay you
with increased impact on the world by enticing people to read your publications.
Make sure that all the components of a good abstract are included in the next one