Al ingresar a la universidad los y las estudiantes se enfrentan al desafío de leer, escribir y comunicarse oralmente según las convenciones y modos de pensar que son propios de las diferentes disciplinas. ¿Te has enfrentado ya a leer un capítulo de libro teórico, a escribir un informe de laboratorio o a preparar una defensa de examen oral?. Pues bien, en estos recursos encontrarás herramientas para enfrentar estos y otros desafíos similares.


What is a research article?

It’s an article that appears in specialized journals. It presents the results and contributions of an original research work. It’s also known as “paper”.

What is the purpose of a research article abstract?

Its general purpose is to briefly and appealingly communicate the main findings and contributions of your research.

Why is the research article abstract important?

Because it’s similar to a cover letter or an ad for your article. Thousands of professors, students and researchers look for catalogued research articles on scientific databases, and they always read the abstracts first. It offers a concise vision of the investigation and its main contributions, so that the readers can decide whether to read the full version or not.


Activate your prior knowledge

  • Have you ever written a research abstract before?
  • Generally, how have you begun writing your abstract?
  • Have you followed a particular structure?


“In general, to write an abstract I start by brainstorming and then I write directly in English. I don’t use a specific strategy, however I do pay attention to technical words or expressions, so I can look up the most appropriate term in English while keeping the meaning of my original idea.”

Professor from Philosophy and Humanities Faculty,
Universidad de Chile

Planning, drafting, revising

Writing is a complex process that includes different activities, strategies and moments. Some people start by brainstorming before writing, while others prefer to start writing right away. What strategies work better? Here are some ideas to help you face the process of writing a research article abstract in English.

Writing Tip

The most common grammar structure in an abstract or research article is the passive voice. This is a structure that focuses the attention into the action, not on the author. For example: Indiana Jones was directed by Steven Spielberg. We focus on the movie and on the fact that it “was directed” (that is why it goes at the beginning), and not on the director. Learn more about this here..

Be aware of the journal requirements

Before writing, either your article or abstract, take into account the requirements of the journal where you want to publish. In general, abstracts for research articles are 150 to 200 words long, but this can vary. It’s essential to know what guidelines you must follow for a particular journal.

Be sure of the purpose of your abstract

It is essential you have a clear idea of the purpose of your abstract. The usual purpose of an article abstract is to show and share the research you have been working on, as well as emphasizing its contribution to its field. Also, you may want to meet some specific goals, such as highlighting the original methodology you followed.

Be careful with your writing

If you are writing in a language that is not your native tongue, you need to be extra careful with your writing, not only in the way you present your ideas or in the structure you follow, but also in grammar, style, and vocabulary. Avoid literal translations from Spanish to English, as these languages are structured differently and your ideas may get lost in the process. If you prefer to translate instead of writing directly in English, translate your ideas and not the exact words. When you’re done, go over your work again after a couple or hours (or the next day), and, ideally, share it with someone who can give you feedback about your English use and format of the abstract. You can also visit: to check your writing.

Writing Tip

Double-check the spelling of words in an English dictionary, such as the Cambridge online. Also, decide on using American or British English spelling, as there are differences between them – in spelling and meaning!


“When I write an abstract I use the same procedure that I do in Spanish, but I put special emphasis on the contribution of my study on the global or English speaking context. In relation to the type of research that I conducted, it’s important to mention the context of the country where the study was done, in my case Chile. Having the context clarified helps future readers to understand our research better.”

PhD student, Sociology Department,
Universidad de Chile


Even though there are differences between areas, abstracts tend to follow the same five-part structure: introduction, purpose, methods, results and conclusions. Let´s check it out!

What do you know about the topic?

Present the topic of your research. Express the importance of the topic to be studied, or the need to expand the study of this since there is a lack of evidence. This is called a research gap. Use phrases or expressions to show this gap: “Even though some studies have covered this topic, there is not enough investigation of it…”

Writing Tip

Always present your topic at the beginning of your abstract; you should be clear and straightforward. Do not start with the general context – go directly to your specific theme of inquiry instead, making clear what it is about and why it’s important to say something new about it.

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you introduce the topic of the research?
  • How can you emphasize the relevance of the topic?
  • How can you show the contributions of the study?

What is your study about?

Describe your research in terms of its purpose or study design. For the former, you can declare your main purpose: “the purpose of this research was…” or “this study aims to…”, for example. You could also emphasize your study design: “this is a longitudinal study that compares…”, “this correlational study describes how…”

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you present the topic of your study clearly?
  • What is the purpose of your study?
  • What is your study design?

Writing Tip

A sentence in English is usually not longer than two lines. In average, in academic writing, a sentence is usually 15 to 20 words long. As a general rule, a sentence should contain one main verb, and, in some cases, a secondary verb. For example:

Recent research has proven that people best understand sentences that are around 17 to 20 words long in average. 

This sentence has 19 words – including numbers. Its main verb is “has proven”, while “are” acts as a secondary verb, presenting a derived idea from the first part of the sentence. For further information about length or sentence construction, go to the “in-depth” section.

How was your study conducted?

Describe the methods and procedures you followed. In an abstract, you don’t need to go on many details, but it is important to include the main methodological decisions you made. For example, you can note your sample size, the type of participants, the context of the study, or your data collection and analysis procedures. The general methodological orientation (quantitative or qualitative) or particular kinds of study design (single case study, experimental study, among others) also can be mentioned here.

Writing Tip

Unless the main contribution of your study relies on methodological aspects, this part should be brief. Most of the time, readers are more interested on the results and conclusions than on the particular methods.

Questions to help you draft

  • What methodological aspects do you consider relevant to understand your research?
  • Should you describe your sample size or sampling procedures?
  • Should you mention the analysis procedures?

What were your findings?

Include the most important findings of your study. You can include main and secondary results. For example: “the study shows a relationship between teaching methods and learning results. Specifically, it was observed that learning by problem solving is associate with a higher learning results than other learning types”. Also, you can enlist only the main results or findings.

Writing Tip

Select the results you are going to present here in relation to the main objective, hypothesis or research questions of your study. Results that better meet those are the most relevant ones.

Most commonly, the results are introduced by phrases such as: “The results of the study are…”, “this shows that…”; “This result highlights that…”; “The findings were/are…”.

Questions to help you draft

  • Which findings are more relevant?
  • Which of your findings do you think best answer your research question?
  • Which of your findings do you consider a contribution to your field of study?

What do your findings mean?

Give an interpretation of your results. You can explain what they mean, what their implications or practical applications are. For example, in the area of engineering, we could find a conclusion such as: “The trails performed show that the instrument is useful for the prediction and study of the high traffic zones of the city”.

Writing Tip

No all abstracts include a conclusion. However, it is important you use some memorable expressionto call the attention of your readers. Also, you can use some typical conclusive expressions, such as: As a conclusion; we could conclude that; it demonstrates; it verifies.

Questions to help you draft

  • What do your results mean?
  • How are these findings important?
  • What would be an attractive phrase to conclude your abstract?


Checking out other research article abstracts before writing yours will help you in two main areas: firstly, the structure you should follow; secondly, the type of language you should use (including grammar, vocabulary and spelling). Get familiar with as many abstracts as you can, if possible, make notes on the items you start finding similar or repeated in different abstract (discover the patterns), this would help you greatly when the moment of writing arrives. You will feel so familiar and connected to the format, that the process will be much easier and faster.

Let´s check the structure of the research article abstract in the following example!

parallax layer

Example 1

Pho, Phuong Dzung (2008) Research article abstracts in applied linguistics and educational technology: a study of linguistic realizations of rhetorical structure and authorial stance. Discourse Studies. Vol. 10, Issue 2, pp. 231 – 250.

(Introduction) The abstract found at the beginning of most journal articles has increasingly become an essential part of the article. It tends to be the first part of the article to be read and, to some extent, it `sells’ the article. Acquiring the skills of writing an abstract is therefore important to novice writers to enter the discourse community of their discipline. (Method) Based on 30 abstracts from three journals, (Purpose) the present study aims at exploring not only the rhetorical moves of abstracts in the fields of applied linguistics and educational technology, but also the linguistic realizations of moves and authorial stance in different abstract moves. (Results) The results show that there are three obligatory moves in abstracts in these two disciplines — Presenting the research, Describing the methodology, and Summarizing the results. The results also indicate that a combination of certain linguistic features such as grammatical subjects, verb tense and voice can help distinguish moves in the abstract. (Conclusion) The findings of the study have some pedagogical implications for academic writing courses for graduate students, especially students from non-English backgrounds.
In this example, you can identify the section studied before, looking for some specific key word. For example, for the purpose, we see the use of the “aim” which refers to the direction or the way something can take. Some section use more evident words, such as “the results show”, in the results section. See also, how the author benefits from following this structure, showing a consistent and organized way of presenting ideas, making the reading much easier.

Let´s check the use of grammar and style in the following example!

parallax layer

Example 2

Gola, A., Silman, D., Walter, A. et al. (2018) Prime and target immunization protects against liver-stage malaria in mice. Science Translational Medicine 26 Sep 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 460, eaap9128.

Despite recent advances in treatment and vector control, malaria is still a leading cause of death, emphasizing the need for an effective vaccine. The malaria life cycle can be subdivided into three stages: the invasion and growth within liver hepatocytes (pre-erythrocytic stage), the blood stage (erythrocytic stage), and, finally, the sexual stage (occurring within the mosquito vector). Antigen (Ag)-specific CD8+ T cells are effectively induced by heterologous prime-boost viral vector immunization and known to correlate with liver-stage protection. However, liver-stage malaria vaccines have struggled to generate and maintain the high numbers of Plasmodium-specific circulating T cells necessary to confer sterile protection. We describe an alternative “prime and target” vaccination strategy aimed specifically at inducing high numbers of tissue-resident memory T cells present in the liver at the time of hepatic infection. This approach bypasses the need for very high numbers of circulating T cells and markedly increases the efficacy of subunit immunization against liver-stage malaria with clinically relevant Ags and clinically tested viral vectors in murine challenge models. Translation to clinical use has begun, with encouraging results from a pilot safety and feasibility trial of intravenous chimpanzee adenovirus vaccination in humans. This work highlights the value of a prime-target approach for immunization against malaria and suggests that this strategy may represent a more general approach for prophylaxis or immunotherapy of other liver infections and diseases.



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