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The abstract is most second-most read part of your paper (after the title). It can be either unstructured, where it is written as one paragraph, or structured, where it is divided into multiple sections (e.g., Objective, Research Design and Methods, Results, and Conclusions).

Some journals also require a graphical abstract, which includes a figure, or a plain language abstract (sometimes called "Plain Language Summary"), which is written for the general public (no jargon). Check guidelines.

Make sure that terms used in the title are mentioned in the abstract and that terms mentioned in the abstract are mentioned in the main text.

General advice


The abstract is often written in the present tense.

Example 1. Present tense

We develop a method …​


The results indicate that …​

Example 2. Past tense

We developed a method …​


The results indicated that …​


Most journals prefer the active voice because it’s more readable.

Example 3. Active voice

This study proposes a method …​


We conduct a numerical analysis to show that …​

Example 4. Passive voice

A method …​ is proposed.


A numerical analysis is conducted to show that …​

Other considerations

Some journals do not allow personal pronouns (e.g., "we"). Check guidelines.

Avoid using references in the abstract. If a reference is absolutely necessary (e.g., you are proving that a certain cryptography algorithm is insecure), check the guidelines for the required format.

Unstructured abstract

An unstructured abstract is typically one paragraph. Its structure is similar to that of a structured abstract but without the headings. The word limit is typically 150 to 250 words. Although an unstructured abstract has no headings, it can be divided as follows:

  • One or two sentences that give the general background (can be understood by all scientists).

  • One or two sentences that give a more detailed background (can be understood by scientists in your field).

  • One sentence that gives the problem statement (what you are trying to accomplish).

  • One or two sentences that describe the methods used (avoid details).

  • Two or three sentences stating the main results.

  • Two or three sentences that state how results add to existing knowledge.

Example 5. Unstructured abstract

Example abstract coming soon.

Structured abstract

The headings for a structured abstract depend on the journal. The are usually some variation of:

  • Objective (the purpose or hypothesis of study)

  • Methods (methods of assessment)

  • Results (significant data found)

  • Conclusions

Example 6. Structured abstract

Example abstract coming soon.


The abstract is usually followed by 3-6 keywords (check guidelines for requirements). The keywords are either plural (e.g., "dynamic systems") or singular (e.g., "dynamic system").