What goes in the ABSTRACT?
The abstract should convey to the reader concisely and accurately
within the space of a few sentences, the claim to knowledge that the
authors are making. It should indicate the boundaries of space and time
within which the enquiry has occurred. If there is a claim to generality
beyond the boundaries of the enquiry the basis of that claim should be
given, for example that a random sample is thought to be representative
of a larger population. There should also be a hint of the method of
The boundaries of an enquiry are important - and are unfortunately
too often omitted from abstracts. This is due to the regrettable
tendency for researchers to generalise their results from, for example,
a few schools to all schools, and to imply that what was true at a
particular time, is true for all time. Some reference to the
geographical location of the children, or teachers, or schools on whom
the claim to knowledge rests should be made. Because of the
international nature of the research community it is worth making clear
in what country the research took place. Also the period in which the
data was collected should be stated.
The abstract should be a condensation of the substance of the paper,
not a trailer, nor an introduction. Journals and thesis regulations
usually put a limit of around 200 to 300 words to the length of an
abstract. “Trailer” is a term borrowed from the cinema industry to
describe a showing of a few highlights in order to win an audience. An
“Introduction” tells that something is coming, but doesn’t reveal
its substance. These are not what is needed.
Abstracts are recycled in abstract journals and electronic networks
and provide the main vehicle for other researchers to become aware of
particular studies. Hence the more clearly they convey the claim to
knowledge of the original paper the more useful they are in helping the
reader to decide whether it is worth taking the trouble to obtain and
read the original and possibly cite it in his/her own writing.
Both the abstract and the paper should make sense without the other
Bassey, M. (1995) pages 70-71