This is a link to a fantastic guide on writing for academic publishing.

The Abstract

This is a summary of the paper or presentation. It needs to be written so that a non-expert audience can understand it, but also so that an expert audience can see the contribution to the field. The abstract is your ‘elevator speech’ so needs to emphasize the importance or novelty of your work. There should be a sentence or two summarizing each section which usually include:

  • Introduction: 1) A general framing statement and 2) a statement indicating the aims of the research
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Be aware of the following difficulties:

  • Revision: You may have written the first abstract in order to be accepted at a conference, but the paper and your work will have gone through many iterations through to the final draft. Don’t forget to update it! You may even wish to work on it last in your writing process.
  • Flow: Although each sentence of the abstract refers to a different section of the paper, the writing should still flow in order to help the reader process it. The flow should be
    • from more general information to more specific information
    • from old to new– the first part of a sentence should have a clear connection to the previous (aka old) sentence
  • Big reveal: Some publications expect your abstract’s concluding sentence to include your overall results so that readers can see immediately whether the paper will be of use to them. Other publications do not; perhaps they want potential readers to have to read through the full-text article to get that information. Be sure to find out which type of concluding sentence is required.

The Introduction

Introduction VS Literature Review VS Background

These terms are often used interchangeably, but no matter what they are called, you need to do the same thing.

Use a General to Specific first paragraph. Start with the real world issue that your project is related to. The first paragraph of the introduction should be written for a general audience who know nothing about your project. Your task here is to make make that audience interested in your project because of their interest in a general real world issue.

End with a statement of the aims of your project. This functions as a thesis. There are many ways to frame this depending on your field.

Identify the gap. Demonstrate how your work fits in with that of other experts–this is often called “THE GAP.” It is written for an expert audience.

  1. Show that you have done your homework and aren’t reinventing the wheel
  2. Show that although your project is innovation, it’s based on reasonable assumptions — i.e. it’s not just a wild guess.

Common Problems

  1. Not following the above: a) moving from general to specific and b) identifying the gap in the field into which your research fits.
  2. Data dumping: putting in serial summaries of different sources rather than synthesizing the sources.
  3. Poor fit: The introduction needs to fit your aims and results. You may have written the intro before you got your results; if so, throw it away. It makes sense to write the intro AFTER you’ve written the results.


Provide explicit information so that a reader can reproduce your methods. However, if certain methods are well-known and commonly used, you can just reference it without detailing it.

Results and Discussion

Use subheadings and coordinate the information in the paragraphs with that in the tables or figures.

Common Problems

Too much or too little detail in the text compared to the figures. The text should be explained enough so that the reader isn’t forced to look at the figure, but the text should not include all details in the figure. It should summarize.

Interpreting the results. You need to interpret your results, but this is usually done in the DISCUSSION section which may be separate or incorporated in RESULTS AND DISCUSSION. Assume that an expert reader might interpret the results in a different way. You need to make an argument.


There are many different types of conclusions, so check the stylesheet of your target publication. If there is no specific style indicated, follow the default format.

First, summarize the key results.

Second, reiterate the way your results fill the gap in the field.

Third, make suggestions for future research.