Abstract guidelines

The purpose of an abstract is to convey the essential aspects of your project.

General guidelines

  • Abstracts are submitted via the application form, not as a separate document or as part of the written proposal.
  • Write your abstract in your own words -- do not submit an abstract that was written by your faculty research mentor.
  • Your abstract should be written in such a way that it is comprehensible to a broad audience.
  • Your abstract should be no longer than a single paragraph (200 hundred words maximum).
  • It should be one paragraph written as prose (no bullet points, lists, etc.)
  • Do not include diagrams or references in your abstract.
  • Do not include your project title in your abstract.
  • Do not include references in your abstract.
  • Do not include tabs or paragraph returns in your abstract (it should be a SINGLE paragraph)
  • Use only letters, numbers, and basic punctuation (e.g. periods and commas). DO NOT use any special characters (e.g. dashes, quotation marks, tildes, umlauts, bullet points), tabs, or line breaks.
  • Be sure to proofread your abstract carefully.

Abstract contents

  • Research topic:  begin your abstract with a clear statement of the topic and provide a concise description of your project.  Are you experimenting with color in watercolor paintings?  Are you trying to identify the neural correlates of cognitive processes?  Are you synthesizing a chemical compound?  Are you analyzing how the media influences political processes?
    • Focus on the research you will be doing and your role in the project, not on your faculty research mentor. For example, your faculty mentor may be planning to write a book or article or hold a symposium, but that is not what you are doing. You are doing research on a particular topic, and your abstract should focus on what the research is about and what you will be doing on the project.
  • Background:  this will vary according to the type of project but should be very brief -- just enough to put the project into context.  It may include such things as previous findings in the field, your own academic work on the topic, consideration of the wider context of the issue, the importance of the topic, etc.
  • Methods:  briefly summarize how you intend to approach the project. Are you going to be doing surveys? Archival research? Lab experiments?
    • Note that the methods section does not need to include details such as number of studies, statistical approaches, etc.
  • Conclusion:  comment on your anticipated outcome and/or what you hope to learn.