Although the abstract for a research paper is frequently the shortest of the paper’s sections, it is just as frequently the most difficult part of the paper to write. This article hopes to facilitate the writing process by offering a brief sample abstract for a quantitative research paper. The text follows the recommendations of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for the abstract of a research paper reporting an empirical study. A length limit of 250 words has been observed, this being an extremely common length for abstracts across disciplines and fields of study.
The research summarised in the sample abstract is entirely fictional, and the content and language have been kept as common and accessible as possible for all readers. Generally speaking, this is a good policy when writing an academic or scientific abstract in any case: jargon and specialised terminology can confuse readers and they require definition when they are used, so they should only be considered if they are likely to attract and interest a paper’s targeted audience. Nonstandard abbreviations, tables, figures and bibliographical references should also be avoided in abstracts unless the specific guidelines indicate otherwise. According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (or APA style) an abstract should be written as a single paragraph, so that is the format I have used here, but other manuals and many journal guidelines will demand a structured abstract in which the information is divided into short paragraphs under subheadings that match the internal headings of the research paper itself. The example abstract here might, for instance, bear the subheadings ‘Background,’ ‘Objective,’ ‘Methods,’ ‘Results’ and so on, an arrangement that would require a little rewording and rewriting. The heading Abstract (in bold font) above the abstract and the Keywords (with that word in italic font) listed below it follow APA style, but formatting of this kind varies depending on the guidelines. A certain number of keywords (guidelines vary here too, so always check for the right number) are usually present for online publication and cataloguing, and both the vocabulary of the abstract and the keywords should be designed with the searches and interests of potential readers in mind.
Sample Abstract and Keywords for an Observational Research Paper Using APA Style
I observed the customers of a Pudgy’s Burgers restaurant in Quaintville for 42 four-hour sessions over a period of two winter months to help resolve the local debate that has arisen since the franchise’s plan to close this fast-food establishment was announced. Determining the value of the restaurant for the local working families that some long-term residents believe to be its main clients was my primary objective. The results of several recent studies focussing on family nutrition suggest that families do not eat at fast-food restaurants serving high-fat items as often as researchers expect; when they do, however, they are unlikely to choose the healthier options provided by some restaurants. My observations at the Quaintville Pudgy’s confirm these findings by revealing that families do not constitute the majority of the restaurant’s clientele and that families who do eat at the restaurant rarely purchase the overpriced healthy-menu options. Local claims that Pudgy’s with its indoor play area offers a comfortable atmosphere where families linger and interact have not been supported by my results either. Yet my findings have revealed who does use the restaurant most frequently – individual customers, particularly single men, as well as fathers alone with their children. Recommendations for serving low-income families more successfully include increasing the number of healthy food items on the menu and offering these items for more affordable prices. In the absence of such constructive changes, those outspoken residents in favour of the restaurant’s closure would seem to present the meatier argument.
Keywords: Pudgy’s Burgers, Quaintville debate, fast food, high-fat diet, low-income families, family nutrition, rural restaurants
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