Celebration of Scholarship

Plan Your Abstract

An abstract is one of the requirements for applying to the Celebration of Scholarship

As noted on the "Should You Participate?" page, you have to provide several pieces of information to apply to participate in the Celebration of Scholarship:
  • The title of your work
  • Your faculty sponsor (if you are a student)
  • A brief description of your work
  • Keywords that help the review team classify your work
  • The type of presentation you will give (concurrent session, poster, or performance)
  • An abstract of up to 250 words
This section will help you organize your thoughts so that you may write a good abstract. The abstract is the most important piece of your application, because it is the primary artifact by which the review team will judge proposed contributions.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a document that summarizes a thesis, scholarly research report, creative work, project, or performance. It lists the work's goals, methodology, and findings, and it highlights the work's contributions to the discipline. The abstract must summarize your particular work's contributions and is not meant to be a treatise on the topics that form the foundation of your work.

A good abstract gives the reader a reason to investigate your work. If the reader can't learn the purpose, approach, and conclusions of your work from reading a summary of it, then he or she likely won't take the time needed to study it in full. Therefore, your abstract must identify your aims, describe the process you took to achieve those aims, and outline your conclusions, and it must do these things in a clear and engaging way.

There are different "best practices" for writing abstracts depending on your discipline. Science abstracts tend to emphasize the methodology and results more, while abstracts in the humanities describe the work's objectives in greater details. Abstracts for the performing and visual arts focus on the work's objectives while describing its methodology in terms of its genre, styles, and influences. The structure of your abstract will depend on the kind of work you are describing, but it always must identify the work's objectives, approach, and conclusions.

What should an abstract include?

Although not labeled as separate sections, an abstract includes distinct components that help it summarize the goals, approach, and findings of your work. Every abstract must include the following:

Aims
Why did you do this work? What problem did you try to solve, or what issue did you investigate? Did you have a particular hypothesis or viewpoint you wanted to test that your discipline has not adequately investigated? The opening sentences of your abstract should identify the problem, area, or thesis your work probes. If your work is in the sciences, one to three sentences should suffice for this section. Feel free to devote more space to this area if your work is in the humanities.

Methodology
In this section, explain how you explored your work's focus. The content of this section will depend very much on your discipline. For a science work, list and describe the process your followed in your research. For example, explain that you collected bacteria samples from a particular location and investigated them using electron microscopy. If your work is in the humanities, describe the focus of your analyses, both quantitative and qualitative. If your work is in the performing or visual arts, identify the setting, styles, and media you employed. Write two to four sentences to provide this information.

Results
What were the outcomes of your work? What were your findings? Write one to three sentences answering these questions. If the work is not yet complete, summarize preliminary results and indicate your next steps.

Conclusion
The abstract should end with one sentence that emphasizes the importance of the contributions of the work. In other words, why is your work worthy of the reader's interest?

Putting it all together

Now that you've learned what comprises a typical abstract and have seen a number of examples, you are ready to write your own. Remember, every abstract must identify

  • the aims of your work. In other words, why did you do it?
  • the methodology of your work. In other words, how did you do it?
  • the results of your work. In other words, what did your work allow you to find?
  • a conclusion statement, which summarizes the work's impact.
If you are new to writing abstracts, a good strategy might be to write sentences that address each of these four points. Then, connect them together to make your abstract.

Remember, your abstract should be no more than 250 words and must describe the purpose, approach, and significance of your efforts in an engaging way that entices the audience to pay attention to you.

What's next?

Go on to the "Apply" page to apply for inclusion in the Celebration of Scholarship. You will be asked to provide
  • a title for your work.
  • a brief description that will be printed in the event program.
  • keywords that will help classify your work.
  • if you are a student, the name of a faculty mentor who will guide you as you develop your work.
  • the type of presentation you wish to give.
  • the abstract, the focus of this page and the key criterion for judging your work.