An abstract is more than just a summary of key points and ideas. While an abstract certainly does touch upon key takeaways, it essentially functions as a condensed account of a paper. Moreover, an effective abstract’s key concepts are carefully structured to capture the essence of the paper.
So what does this ideal abstract structure look like? An abstract should first clearly outline the problem the author is trying to solve. To borrow the terminology of the Writing Program’s Lexicon, this would mean that the abstract establishes the motive. This is essential for establishing the relevancy and necessity of one’s paper; in reading the abstract the reader should immediately be able to identify the problem at hand. From there, the abstract should present the author’s thesis as a response to this problem so that the reader can immediately grasp the author’s approach to the issue. This is not only accomplished through the succinct presentation of the thesis but can also consist of a short discussion of the methodology employed and the initial results and conclusions arrived at from such an investigation. As a result, the author not only presents readers with the problem, the respective solution, and the approaches to rationalizing this solution, but also establishes the relevancy and importance of the paper for the target audience.