Tips and Best Practices for Writing ERIC Abstracts

Are you writing an abstract for your article
or report? A good abstract can help searchers see in a glance if your resource is relevant to them.
With so many materials in ERIC to choose from, it’s important to have an abstract
that clearly summarizes your work. This video describes what an abstract is, defines the
key elements, and provides tips and best practices to help you write a good abstract. What is an abstract? It is a concise
summary of a larger work. An abstract provides a synopsis of the document
so you can assess its potential usefulness without downloading the PDF. Abstracts summarize journal articles, research
reports, theses, conference papers or other documents. They can help the reader quickly
discern the purpose and content of the work. All materials indexed in ERIC must have an abstract.
Good abstracts are also useful for other places you submit your work for publication. A good abstract can also help ERIC indexers
assign appropriate tags, or descriptors, to the document so your work in ERIC
can be easily found by others. A well-written abstract generally addresses
five key elements. First, the purpose describes the objectives and
hypotheses of the research. The methods section should describe important
features of your research design, data, and analysis. This may include the sample size,
geographic location, demographics, variables, controls, conditions, tests, descriptions
of research design, details of sampling techniques, and data gathering procedures. The results section describes the key findings
of the study, including experimental, correlations, or theoretical results. It also may provide
a brief explanation of the results. This element shows how the results connect
to policy and practice, and suggestions for follow-up, future studies, or further analysis. Finally, additional materials lists the number
of references, tables, graphs, exhibits, test instruments, appendices, or other supplemental
materials in the paper. This information is often found enclosed in parentheses.
Here are some tips and best practices to follow when developing your abstract. First, extract the content needed to address
the six key elements in your abstract. Strong content will address the elements using a
“who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “how,” “why,” and “so what” approach. Use specific words, phrases, concepts, and
keywords from your paper. This will enhance the discoverability of your work in ERIC. Then, fill in the information required for
each abstract element. Focus on the ABCs of abstract writing: accuracy, brevity, and clarity. Only include information provided in the document;
do not add extra information. Use precise, clear, and descriptive language.
Write from an objective, rather than evaluative point of view. Write concisely, but in complete sentences. Use plain language that is understandable
to a broad audience. Don’t use acronyms as a general rule, but if an acronym is a
commonly used term (such as NAEP), define it the first time used. Do not use jargon. Next, revise and strengthen the draft. Reword and delete unnecessary words and phrases
to shorten and tighten the narrative. You do not have to use the abstract element headers
in your abstract (for example, Purpose, Methods, etc.). Be sure to use action verbs.
It is an ERIC best practice to have abstracts that range from about 150 to 500 words, although
there is no limit to the length of an ERIC abstract. Then, read the abstract to yourself.
Would you know what this work was about and the significance of it from the abstract? Finally, review and carefully proofread the
draft for typos and grammar errors. Remember, spellcheck programs will not catch all
misspellings, and ERIC does not proofread abstracts. For example, it would be misleading for the abstract
to say “the results do now show” when the document says “the results do not show.” Here is a sample abstract that provides a
comprehensive but concisely written synopsis of the content, while adhering to the
guidelines outlined in this video. The paragraph begins by explaining the purpose
of the study. Next comes methods, which in this example, explains the sample size, demographics,
controls, condition, and details of sampling techniques. The results, shown next, describe
the differences between the groups assessed and a provides a brief description of
the study’s findings. Implications are provided at the end of the paragraph,
along with any additional data. An ERIC user reading this abstract can quickly
determine whether this is a good fit for their research and whether they
should review the full document. For more information about ERIC,
check out these resources.

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