Note: This description of a typical abstract and its elements is geared toward researchers in the arts and humanities. Additional information on writing abstracts is available in Dr. Robert Labaree's libguide on organizing research in the social sciences.
An abstract is a summary of a paper, a book, or a presentation. As a general rule, the abstract is written by the author of the work. Most abstracts are informative.
Abstracts are a required part of graduate theses and dissertations. Abstracts are common in academic and scholarly journal articles, as well as in conference presentations and publications of proceedings. The author, the title, and the abstract are the most immediately visible elements of a work of scholarship that other researchers see as they peruse scholarly databases and publications. These are also the elements that may be indexed by search engines such as Google.
Stylistic guidelines: Use active verbs, when possible, and write in complete sentences. Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of a reader who is not familiar with your work, and who might be reading the abstract to decide on the importance and relevance of your research.