In your research paper writing journey or any other piece of writing, two parts stand out; an abstract and the introduction. And for many students, these two seem similar. But while they have an overlap, they are ways apart different.
Their similarities range from information contained and that they are found at the beginning of a paper. Nevertheless, other fundamental differences exist. Additionally, these sections summarize your ideas and findings and give background information.
But how do these two compare? This article discusses the differences between these two critical pieces of any scholarly writing project.
|Similarities||Both are found at the beginning of the paper.||Both provide an overview of the paper’s content.|
|Both summarize ideas, findings, and background information.||Both attract the interest of the reader.|
|Differences||Abstract is a summary of the entire paper.||Introduction describes the problem and research question.|
|Abstract includes study’s purpose, methodology, results, and conclusions.||Introduction includes the importance of the study, what the paper covers, past studies, and a brief on what was done.|
|Abstract is shorter and more concise.||Introduction is longer and sets up the argument.|
|Abstract does not contain specific evidence or detailed discussions.||Introduction provides background information and references previous research.|
|Abstract serves as a standalone summary of the paper.||Introduction serves as a bridge to the body of the paper.|
|Abstract precedes the introduction in the paper.||Introduction follows the abstract and is placed after it.|
What Is an Abstract?
An abstract is a summary of the entire paper. Also, it is the synopsis of your article and tells readers what the essay covers. It gives readers reasons for the study, the study’s purpose, key questions answered, the methodology used, and the conclusions.
You can view it like a product’s benefits, and a buyer considers if the benefits match their needs. Likewise, if the abstract is well-written and summarises the paper’s key points, readers will likely read it, but if the part is not well-written, they may not.
Abstracts are primarily used in research papers where deep research and a literature review are needed. These article parts are what you see on websites that have articles hidden in paywalls. This helps you determine the paper’s usefulness rather than purchase it and not serve your needs.
Contents of an Abstract and How to Write One
Depending on the study, an abstract can be a few sentences long to several paragraphs. It contains the following information.
- Background information
- Study’s objectives
- Study design details
- Number of interviews or participants
- Control mechanisms
- Study results
- Conclusions of the study
Most importantly, you must keep your abstract short but informative enough so readers can understand what they will read in your paper.
What is an Introduction
An introduction is a paragraph or two that describes the problem you will investigate and states the research question. It comes after the abstract and is briefer. It consists of the importance of your study, what the paper covers, past studies, and a brief on what you did.
Generally, it prepares your readers for what is in the paper and serves as a “hook” to draw them into what comes next.
Once you’ve introduced your topic, you can get into the nitty-gritty details about how you intend to solve or answer this problem or question. You may have already done some preliminary research into this topic, so now is the time to share with readers why it’s vital for them and society.
Contents of an Introduction and How to Write One
An introduction is the first section of a research paper and summarizes your research problem. In an introduction, you should briefly summarize what you plan to discuss in your article and how that information will be presented.
Additionally, you should provide background information about the topic so the reader can understand why it’s essential for them to pay attention.
The general rule in writing introductions is to make them as short as possible. In fact, it can be shorter because, by now, a reader has already decided to read your paper. Therefore, making this part longer may seem repetitive to readers who want to get into your piece’s meat.
Abstracts and introductions share several similarities, which sometimes may make you confuse the two. Some of these similarities are
- Both are found at the beginning of your paper
The abstract and introduction are placed at the paper’s beginning. In fact, in many instances, an abstract is considered an introduction, even though the latter will still be written.
They also give readers an overview of the paper, even in different ways. On the one hand, the abstract provides the methods, results, and conclusion, while the introduction provides the background and the objectives.
- They attract the interest of the reader
An abstract and introduction always pique a reader’s interest. This is because a writer writes them concisely, in an active voice, and in a way that catches their attention.
Despite an abstract and introduction containing some similar content, they are different. And knowing these differences will help you in writing the perfect research paper. These differences are;
- Abstract Vs. Introduction: Their Purposes
The Abstract is a summary of the paper. It’s written to help readers decide if the piece serves their purpose or to get a gist of the article. It can also help readers know what the research is all about and how the reader will benefit.
This means an abstract includes pieces of evidence, findings, and conclusions because it is another version of your study, although in a summarized manner.
On the other hand, the introduction summarizes the paper but in a shallow manner. Its primary purpose is to hook the reader, serve as a bridge to the body and give background information. Additionally, the body has importance, what will be covered, and what past studies show.
Generally, an introduction has no findings, evidence of the study, or conclusions. Its purpose is to prepare readers and give them the context of your research.
- Abstract Vs. Introduction: Their Structures
With the abstract and introduction serving different purposes, so do their structures. Each has a distinctive design that helps it achieve its goals.
An abstract can have a block of text or several subheadings. However, the preferred structure is a continuous block separated by paragraphs. However, the paragraphs address different aspects, thus making it easier if you want to follow the subheadings way.
If you choose to use subheadings, the following are the allowed ones
- Aim and objective
- Material and methods
- Discussions and conclusions
Generally, an abstract answers the following questions
- Why is the presented study important?
- What are the basics of your study?
- What are the questions your study is answering?
- Which mode are you using to provide the answers
- Which answers are you providing?
Answering these questions lets a reader know whether your paper is beneficial.
Conversely, the structure of an introduction varies depending on what type of paper you’re writing. However, it also answers some questions found in the abstract. It must answer the following questions to make the introduction effective and serve its purpose.
- Why is the field being studied important?
- What background information will you provide to make a reader be at par with your current research?
- What previous research has an impact on your study
- What will this study do?
By answering these questions, a reader develops more interest and understands the study and the current position regarding the topic.
- Abstract Vs. Introduction: Their Lengths
The length of an abstract and introduction is most common. Although an abstract looks like it covers more information, in most cases, it is shorter than an introduction.
In addition, the abstract needs to be shorter than the introduction because it has one purpose: to give a brief overview of your paper’s content. The introduction has two goals: introducing your topic and setting up your argument. These purposes provide a clear distinction of how long the parts should be.
The general rule requires an abstract between 200 and 600 words; many individuals keep it at 350. This means it should be concise but still provide a perfect study overview. Further, the abstract should be void of unnecessary information that cannot summarize your study.
On the other hand, an introduction is much longer, typically between 1.5 and 2 pages. This helps you write one that serves the intended purpose.
Can I Use My Abstract as an Introduction?
Even though an abstract and an introduction are different sections of a research paper, you can use an abstract as an introduction. However, this is limited to some fields, such as letters or short-submission journals.
An abstract is a short summary of the main ideas of a document or speech. Usually, it is the first thing your reader will see, so you want to ensure that it catches their attention and draws them in. It’s also a great way to give readers a preview of what they are about to read.
In such kinds of papers, you will have an abstract summarizing your article and also serve as the introduction to your writing. The introduction will be like an engaging section that piques readers’ interest for continued reading.
However, in standard research papers, an abstract and introduction are two different sections and must be presented as such. The former provides readers with a summary of the research paper, whereas the latter introduces readers to the article by creating interest and curiosity.
Generally, an abstract will be short even though heavily loaded, whereas the introduction will be longer and still have all the vital information.
Which Comes First, the Introduction or the Abstract
The abstract comes before the introduction, and this is the widely accepted and followed rule, and it is so for a reason. It is scarce to find an introduction preceding the abstract, mainly because of the purposes these two sections serve in a research paper.
An abstract provides a summary of the paper, and it helps readers have a general idea of the paper, the experiment used, and the conclusions drawn. Thus, it helps them decide if the paper will be helpful. On the other hand, an introduction provides a bridge to a paper and, therefore, must be exciting and engaging. Additionally, the abstract is followed by the table of content and then the introduction.
Abstracts and introductions are two mainly confusing research paper parts. However, with this guide, you now understand their differences, purposes, lengths, and the information in each part.
Typically, an abstract summarizes your study, is short and allows readers to gauge whether the research is ideal for them. On the other hand, an introduction is longer and provides background information and why a reader should read the paper.
With these differences, you can feel confident to tackle your next research paper and not confuse these two again.