WHAT IS AN ABSTRACT?
An abstract is a short summary of your research paper that includes three main parts: 1) the scientific question, 2) the major results of the study, and 3) the conclusions of the study. However, you might find it helpful to think of structuring your abstract according to this 5-part format:
Sentence #1: Briefly introduce your study.
Sentence #2: State the main objective of your study.
Sentence #3: Summarize the method (or methods) you used to accomplish your objective.
Sentence #4: State the major results of the study.
Sentence #5: State your most important conclusion (or conclusions).
In terms of length, you might aim for creating an abstract that is under 250 words. And know that most scientists write the abstract after all of the other section of their research article is completed. In other words, it’s usually the last thing they write.
When you do an abstract for this class, it should have its own page. This page should come after the Title Page but before the Introduction. Before actually writing your own abstract, however, you might consider first visiting The Workshop to practice writing abstracts about studies performed by other scientists.
Largely because it was written largely by very young students, the Blackawton Bees research article did not limit their abstract to 250 words. As a matter of fact, they used 500 words, and I think you can tell that most of the abstract was written by a more experienced adult.
In any event, here’s what the Blackawton Bees research team used for their abstract…
Real science has the potential to not only amaze, but also transform the way one thinks of the world and oneself. This is because the process of science is little different from the deeply resonant, natural processes of play. Play enables humans (and other mammals) to discover (and create) relationships and patterns. When one adds rules to play, a game is created. This is science: the process of playing with rules that enables one to reveal previously unseen patterns of relationships that extend our collective understanding of nature and human nature. When thought of in this way, science education becomes a more enlightened and intuitive process of asking questions and devising games to address those questions. But, because the outcome of all game-playing is unpredictable, supporting this ‘messyness’, which is the engine of science, is critical to good science education (and indeed creative education generally). Indeed, we have learned that doing ‘real’ science in public spaces can stimulate tremendous interest in children and adults in understanding the processes by which we make sense of the world. The present study (on the vision of bumble-bees) goes even further, since it was not only performed outside my laboratory (in a Norman church in the southwest of England), but the ‘games’ were themselves devised in collaboration with 25 8- to 10-year-old children. They asked the questions, hypothesized the answers, designed the games (in other words, the experiments) to test these hypotheses and analysed the data. They also drew the figures (in coloured pencil) and wrote the paper. Their headteacher (Dave Strudwick) and I devised the educational programme (we call ‘i,scientist’), and I trained the bees and transcribed the childrens’ words into text (which was done with smaller groups of children at the school’s local village pub). So what follows is a novel study (scientifically and conceptually) in ‘kids speak’ without references to past literature, which is a challenge. Although the historical context of any study is of course important, including references in this instance would be disingenuous for two reasons. First, given the way scientific data are naturally reported, the relevant information is simply inaccessible to the literate ability of 8- to 10-year-old children, and second, the true motivation for any scientific study (at least one of integrity) is one’s own curiousity, which for the children was not inspired by the scientific literature, but their own observations of the world. This lack of historical, scientific context does not diminish the resulting data, scientific methodology or merit of the discovery for the scientific and ‘non-scientific’ audience. On the contrary, it reveals science in its truest (most naive) form, and in this way makes explicit the commonality between science, art and indeed all creative activities.
‘We discovered that bumble-bees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from. We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.’ (Children from Blackawton)