|Page updated: 21-Aug-2012 02:25 AM|
The most important thing to remember about your abstract is that it is essentially a written outline of your research essay. To construct this abstract, first carefully map out your essay by outlining the main body. You should have 2 sections in the main body. The first section should contain 4-6 central arguments/reasons that advance or prove your position that you take in your thesis statement. Each of these 4-6 arguments/reasons will require a separate paragraph to develop; consequently,you will have at least 4-6 paragraphs in this first section.
The second section should contain 2-3 of the main counter-objections that the opposition would raise to quarrel with your thesis. Your job is to fairly and accurately represent those 2-3 views and also to refute them. By refuting these 2-3 opposing arguments, you must try to challenge them, show them to be wrong, reveal what is logically problematic with them. In essence, you want to do your best to dismantle them. You will in all likelihood, however, discover that at least one of these 2-3 counter-objections will be pretty hard to refute. In this case, the best argumentative strategy is to acknowledge that it's indeed a pretty good argument and concede that it is a good point. In any controversy, no side is ever always right about each point in the debate, so an occasional concession is appropriate.
Having understood what your essay should accomplish in its main body section, you just need to condense all of this for your abstract into single-sentence statements. You should not elaborate or go into any detail or explanation; that's what your essay is for. Overall, keep in mind that your abstract just gives the reader an overview, a bird's eye view of the landscape of your essay.
The abstract must include the following 5 elements (but do not enumerate them in your abstract like I've done here!):
Requirements for the research essay abstract:
The following is part of my abstract on the controversial issue of the morality of zoos. I have color coded all of the sentences so that you can match them to the 5 elements above so that you can see how to write the various parts of the abstract.
Take note of two aspects of this abstract.
First, notice that the thesis talks about the essay as if the essay were a separate piece of work. That's okay here because it is an entity separate from the abstract. If you read published abstracts that you have encountered in the course of your research, you'll find that this practice is common. (However, it is not acceptable to announce your thesis statement like this within your research essay when you turn it in!)
Notice also that in the counter-argument section, I write the objection in the subordinate clause and then put my refutation in the main clause of the sentence (note the italics). This is the most effective--and economical--way to write both the counter-argument and my own refutation of it. Since you don't have a lot of room to work with, try this method in your own abstract so that you economize on your language.