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What is an abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of a research paper. It is usually no more than 250 words and it should briefly refer to all key components of the paper.


Although the abstract is at the beginning of the paper, it should be the last thing you write before you submit your manuscript. This so you can be sure that the conclusions in the abstract accurately reflect the content of the paper. You may need to re-draft your abstract several times, but it is worth the effort to ensure you promote your hard work in the best way possible.


What is an abstract for?

Abstracts are typically required for proposal submissions for conferences, full article submissions to journals, theses submissions and applications for research grants and awards. For more information on the British Society for Rheumatology’s awards criteria, please click this link.


Why write an abstract?

The abstract is fundamental to the paper for selection and indexing purposes.


For selection, the abstract is the first thing that is linked via electronic searches. The abstract needs to be interesting enough to grab the attention of the reader so that they view the entire paper. Furthermore, many editors and reviewers will read the abstract first and decide whether to proceed with peer review of the manuscript. If the abstract is not well-written, then there is a high chance that the paper will be rejected at the outset.


For indexing, most academic journal databases use abstracts as a searching tool. It is important to use keywords relating to the research within the abstract. This will help researchers find the right papers for their own research.


What to include in an abstract

An abstract should summarise the key points of the entire paper in a sequence that includes:


  • Objectives: this should cover the overall aims of the study and outline the research problem that you investigated

  • Methods: this section should describe the basic design of the study and the tools used to perform the research

  • Results: this should summarise the major findings or trends found as a result of the analysis

  • Conclusion: this is a brief summary containing your interpretations of the study and how the work adds to the body of knowledge on the subject. Also, it would be worth noting here if there are any implications for future research.