What do I need to cover in an abstract of my paper?
What should be included in an abstract can vary between disciplines, and since this is a student paper, and not a piece of research (i.e. you did not conduct an experiment using a methodology) I'll try to split the difference and use a social sciences abstract.
My source is Wendy Laura Belcher's excellent book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks (Sage, 2009). Here are her points for a a good social sciences abstract (p. 55) -
- "State why you embarked on the project - often some reference to a gap or debate in the literature or a persistent social problem.
- State what your project/study was about, the topic of the article.
- State how you did the project, your methodology.
- State what you found through the project, your findings
- State what conclusions you draw from your project, your argument.
- Some abstracts include recommendations, although this isn't necessary."
Belcher also discusses the fact that many people will never read a published paper, only the abstract. So keep that in mind. If you distill your paper down to four sentences, what was its essence? You must have a had a question you tried to answer with this paper. You must have conducted a search for articles to read. You then read them (or at least the abstract! :) ) and then drew some conclusions. If you have only four sentences, this would seem to be the essence of what you want.