How to write an abstract for your research paper, proposal, or dissertation?

An important part of research-related documents is the abstract. This document gives an “eagle view” to readers of what is your research about. Potential readers will read the abstract and decide if it is worth reading the entire document. Because of this, it is important to write it in such a way that gives an overview of what you will read in the whole document.

You write an abstract following the following steps. First, you write a background of your research, usually no more than one paragraph. Secondly, you will write what you did in your research. Thirdly, you explain how you did it. Lastly, you must write why your result is important.

1- Writing the background

The purpose of the background of your research is to give context to what you are going to present next.

In this case, you should explain the current situation in the specific area you want to make an impact with the result of your research.

Because you are writing the abstract, you should be concise and precise. There are no guidelines as to the extension of this part, just make sure you write enough to give context to your research.

If you are writing a research paper, consider that some journals have a specific word limit for the whole abstract. If you write too much in the background, you may not have all the space (in words) you need to write the most important part of the abstract.

I wrote another post that can help you to get a better understanding of what the background is, how to write, and also have an example.

2- Writing what you did

This part is straightforward. It is very close to your research objectives. Here, you just have to describe the research objectives. These objectives, suppose to show what you achieved.

I wrote a post on how to write research objectives that can help you with this part.

Notice that you are not expected to write research objectives here. You just have to write what you did during your research.

3- Writing how you did it

In this part of the abstract, you suppose to write the how. Notice that one principle in research is that what you publish, should be reproducible. This means that someone should be able to follow what you wrote and have the same results (or similar, depending on the type of research) that you.

This part is usually aligned with the methodology and methods you used during your research. If you want to read more about methodology and methods, you can check this post I wrote for you.

Here you can mention that you use a questionnaire to evaluate the impact of what you achieved or, that you use K-fold cross-validation to test the model you created, and so on.

4- Writing why it is important

In this last section, you will mention the relevance of your results, why they are important, and why someone else should use them.

To write this part you can think about how your solution will have an impact in the real world. How it will benefit people’s lives or a business or the research community. Then you just summarize those benefits.

Abstract example

Find below an abstract example.



Nowadays, intrusion detection systems play a major role in system security. Ideally, intrusion detection systems are capable of detecting intrusions in real-time to prevent intruders from causing any harm to computer systems. Intrusion detection systems can be implemented using different intrusion detection approaches with their strengths and limitations.  

What you did.

This paper provides an overview of the strengths and limitations of the different intrusion detection approaches, including Statistical-Based Anomaly, Pattern Matching, Data Mining, and Machine Learning approach. The results show that Machine Learning is the most suitable approach for implementing intrusion detection system solutions, because of its ability to work as an automated process, which hardly needs human intervention.

How you did it.

Using this partial conclusion, different machine learning techniques are studied and presented, also with their strengths and limitations.

Why is important.

After the study, it can be concluded that the best technique to implement this kind of system is recurrent neural networks. An intrusion detection system that hardly needs human intervention, can be developed, and implemented, using this technique.

You can find in this link the full paper that was published with the previous abstract.

It is also usually that after the abstract, you must write keywords.

The keywords are just used to help people find related work. These are used by search engines to show other researchers the papers/documents that are relevant to their search.

As an example, see below the keywords used in the paper that was mentioned above.

Keywords: Intrusion Detection Systems; IDS; Intrusion Detection Approaches; System Security.

With these keywords, if a researcher is searching for information about “Intrusion Detection Systems”, he/she will probably find the paper that has these as keywords.


As a summary, when writing an abstract always keep in mind to first write a short background to give context to what comes next. After that, make sure you answer the following questions:

  • What you did.
  • How you did it.
  • Why is important.

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