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Write an abstract

The abstract is one paragraph that summarizes the research question, hypothesis, design, methods, and results in an easy to read way. This chapter briefly outlines the basics of good abstracts.

Short summary of everything
The abstract is a written summary of a research. It is around 150 to maximally 250 words of length. When you write an abstract, take your time to be informative but brief and concise at the same time, rather than writing a long and verbose text. Also, write your abstract for readers from other fields or who have never heard of your specific methods or research topic. The audience of an abstract is a psychologist who is not necessarily working in your field and does not know your area of expertise.

How is the abstract structured?
The text of the abstract of an empirical paper has a standard structure. It starts with one to two sentence that clearly state the problem or research question and goals of your research (for instance, “This paper investigates the role of … in …”). The next one to two sentences must explicitly state all the tested hypotheses, even if exploratory (for instance, “We hypothesized, based on prospect theory, that highly loss-averse individuals should … compared to people that are less loss-averse …”). Next, briefly write about the experimental design and methods that were used, including the sample size (for instance, ”To investigate this question, we conducted one online experiment (N = 89), which asked participants to … followed by … and …”), this usually takes one or two sentences. Afterwards, the next one or two sentences describe the main results, usually in plain text using words rather than in numbers (for instance, ”The results from a ANOVA show that … increases ….”). This is followed by a very brief sentence that relates the result back to the hypotheses (for instance, ”These findings fail to support prospect theory”). This is followed by the last sentence of the abstract which always is a conclusion from the empirical findings that mentions implications (for instance ”Taken together, our work shows that prospect theory is not …”). Implications are what the research findings mean for the practice or theory or future research.

How is the abstract formatted?
Following the APA format, the abstract has a section heading called Abstract in bold and centered. The abstract text is always formatted as one single paragraph, which means abstract texts contain no line breaks and no paragraph breaks. The line spacing is double-spaced (as usual in APA). Abstracts appear on the first page after the title page of psychological papers, and the abstract starts at the top of the page.