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American Psychological Association (APA) Citation Style: How to Write an Abstract in APA 6th Edition Format

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format Videos

Abstract Basics

How to Write an Abstract

Abstract Information

Most research articles include an abstract, which the APA Manual defines as “a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of the article” (p.25). Because some of our AP Biology classes require students to prepare abstracts, this Guide will include details about abstract writing from section 2.04 of the APA Manual.

Abstracts (2.04):

  • Accurate. Ensure that the abstract correctly reflects the purpose and content of the article. Comparing an abstract with an outline of the article's headings is a useful way to verify its accuracy.

  • Concise. Be brief and make each sentence maximally informative, especially the lead sentence. Begin with the most important information but do not waste space by repeating the title. Include in the abstract only the four or five most important concepts, findings, or implications. Use specific words in your abstract that you think your audience will use in their electronic searches.

  • Nonevaluative. Report rather than evaluate; do not add to or comment on what is in the body of the article.

  • Coherent and readable. Write in clear and concise language. Use verbs rather than their noun equivalents and the active rather than the passive voice. Use the present tense to describe conclusions drawn or results with continuing applicability; use the past tense to describe specific variables manipulated or outcomes measured.

Most scientific journals require the author(s) to submit an abstract prior to publication. Word limits for abstracts vary by journal, but abstract length averages 150-250 words. Abstracts are typed as one double-spaced paragraph without indentation. A well-prepared abstract enables readers to identify the basic content of a document quickly and accurately, to determine its relevance to their interests, and thus to decide whether they need to read the document in its entirety. Abstracts are identified on p.26 of the APA Manual as the “most important single paragraph of the article” because they are usually indexed verbatim in computer-manipulated databases. Thus, the article can be retrieved by other researchers, as well as by students.

             Created by:  Vicki Norman