The concept of an abstract in academic studies

Within the research community, materials abound that has contributed immensely to the growth of knowledge. These materials can be in the form of books, journals, manuscripts, webpage posts, etc. However, of more importance to the school community are books and journals.

Download full material here in pdf: Michael Jules’ Conceptualization of an Academic Abstract

In the presentation of papers however, there is need to highlight the main ideas at the beginning to help a reader understand what the whole book is all about. Thus, from the beginning, a prospective user can understand whether such paper is related to his/her current study or not. Hence, the need for an abstract.

An abstract has been defined as a short summary of a completed research (Leah, n.d.).  It is a concise statement indicating the problem, the purpose, the structure/methodology, findings and conclusion of a study. It is single line-spaced, not necessarily italicized, with no paragraph. For the purpose of empirical papers, the author has dichotomized an abstract into the following structure:

The inspiration or problem statement: This is the cause of the study. What necessitated or inspired the study? This is often the topic of the study. No need for plenty of sentences. Stating the topic of the work covers this area.

Purpose of the study: Perhaps, this is one of the most important parts of an abstract even though all parts are important. Without a purpose of study, the study is waywardly conducted. Hence, immediately after the topic, a researcher brings up the purpose of the study. It is this purpose(s) that a future researcher will peruse through to ascertain the relevance of such work to his/her current study.

The methodology: The methods of a study relate to all the skills, strategies, approaches, design, population, sample, instrument(s) adopted, validation, administration and data analysis method used in a study. In the abstract,

a researcher makes an attempt to cover all the parts of the methods used without skipping any. A succinct and meticulous coverage of the methodology will not make your abstract too large. So, spend time to enumerate in few words, a step by step presentation of the methods used.

Findings: The findings are the ultimate consequence of your purpose. They are the results emanating from your research endeavour. A researcher selects just one or few findings as the case may be and add to the abstract. There is no requirement to add all the findings.

Recommendations: Now that you have found something, what will you recommend? Is there anything that can be done to improve or solve the problem you found? If there is and it was presented in your work, ably state one or two of your recommendations.

Sometimes, a researcher may also add a suggestion for further studies. This is to make a suggestion on a related problem for future researchers to delve into.

Abstract for position papers:

Position papers can be said to be the opposite of empirical papers. They are conducted with no form of scientific methodology. All issues presented are those of the author and a review of related authorities. For position papers however, an abstract may be a bit different. This is because there is no methodology in a position paper. Hence, a little description of the issues at hand may be imperative after presentation of the problem (the topic). Instead of methodology, the researcher enumerate how data was gathered (perhaps, may have used secondary sources), then, findings and suggestions. In position papers, there may be no need to recommend but to suggest. So, instead of recommending in position papers, a researcher suggests.

Conceptualization of an Abstract

The following abstract on “influence of Nigerian Pidgin English on the communication skills among school administrators in Yenagoa Local Government of Bayelsa State” was lifted from Dieonuwo (2017):

Abstract

This study is on the influence of Nigerian Pidgin English on the communication skills among school administrators in Yenagoa Local Government of Bayelsa State”. The study was carried out to determine the influence of Pidgin English on the writing skills, speaking skills and use of simple and correct English among school administrators in Yenagoa Local Government of Bayelsa State. Hence, three respective research questions were raised to guide the study. The study adopted an ex-post facto design research design (sic), a population of five hundred and thirty-seven (537) administrators and a sample of 150 respondents. The instrument for the study was a questionnaire titled “Influence of Nigerian Pidgin English on the Communication Skills among School Administrators Questionnaire (INPECSSAQ)” r=0.70. The instrument which was validated by the supervisor of the study was administered to respondents in selected secondary schools in Yenagoa Local Government Area. Same were collected from them after two weeks and the data retrieved from the questionnaire were analyzed using percentages to analyze biodata and statistical mean were used to analyze the research questions. The result revealed that Pidgin English do not affect the writing skills of school administrators; that Pidgin English do not affect the speaking skills of school administrators; and that Pidgin English do not affect the use of simple and correct English of school administrators. Based on the findings, it was recommended that since Pidgin English do not affect the writing skills of school administrators, its continued usage is recommended because it causes quick understandability among administrators.

Source: Field Survey (2019)

The dichotomization above divides an abstract into five major parts – the topic, the purpose, the methods, the findings and subsequent recommendations. Any other thing will be to bring in unnecessary statements. However, any addition and removal should be subject to the supervising staff and consequent upon the researcher’s discretion.

Uses of an abstract

An abstract have various functions. However, because this paper is limited to only two pages, the vital aspects are discussed. For one thing, an abstract gives readers a preview of what is inside a study. So, take time to make it straight to the point. An abstract can also be used to fulfill the need of an empirical review. In research practice, there is always need to review literature that has been mostly empirically conducted. In this case, what a researcher does is to lift the abstract of a related empirical work and utilize it as part of the review of empirical studies to his/her work. Nevertheless, because of the need for originality and to avoid plagiarism, such researcher is required to paraphrase the lifted content.

Conclusion

For emerging researchers, it is imperative to understand that an abstract do not need much explanation. Just straight to the point. No definitions, no explanations, no side attractions, just the points. Build your abstract around the structure of the work and not around the review of literature concerns.

References

Dieonuwo, R. (2017). Nigerian pidgin English and the communication skills of school administrators in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Unpublished undergraduate project. Faculty of Education, Niger Delta University

 

Leah, C. (n.d.). How to write an abstract: Tips and samples. Retrieved May 2nd, 2019 from https://hsp.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/HOW%20TO%20WRITE%20AN%20ABSTRACT.pdf

Michael O'Jules

Michael O'Jules

Vocational Business Educator, Admissions and UTME Nigeria

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