Step-by-Step Instructions for Writing an Abstract in APA Format

APA format, which stands for the American Psychological Association format, is a writing format that was developed for researchers and students in psychology as well as other fields in the social sciences. The APA format specifies the guidelines for different aspects of academic writing, including the paper’s presentation, layout, structure, citation, and references.

Therefore, if you are writing a paper in APA format, you may need to include an abstract in APA format as part of your paper. Although the abstract page is optional, it is useful for readers to get a sneak peek into your paper and what it is about. The abstract also serves as a way for prospective readers to judge if your paper is worth reading.

APA format states that the abstract should be written in such a way that it summarizes the key details in the paper while keeping brevity in mind. An abstract is usually a summary of your paper’s overall focus that provides readers with the main point of your paper. The abstract is generally on the second page of an APA paper.

Basics of Abstract in APA Format

In APA format, the abstract page should follow immediately after the title page. According to the APA format, your abstract should function like your title page, that is, allowing your readers to know what the paper is all about. Therefore, an abstract written in APA format should be:

  • Accurate and objective: The abstract should accurately reflect what the paper is about, including only information that can be found in the paper. Also, the abstract is not written to provide commentary; instead, it is written to report what is in the paper.
  • Brief and complete: The abstract must be short, focus on only including essential points, concepts, and findings. The sentences must, however, be written to have the maximum impact on the readers.

An abstract in APA format should be between 150-250 words. It should describe the research problem, methods, findings, and conclusion of your research. When writing a paper for publication, it would include a list of keywords.

The formatting of the abstract page is similar to that of the rest of the paper in APA format. That is, it must:

  • Have a running head that should be aligned to the top left corner of the page.
  • Have a heading titled “Abstract” that should be centered and in bold.
  • Not have any part of the text indented.
  • Be written in Times New Roman font in 12 pts.
  • Have double line spacing
  • Have margins of one-inch or 2.54cm

When including the keyword sections in the abstract, the first line is to be indented with the word “keywords” italicized.

Steps to Take When Writing an Abstract in APA Format

check-mark Make sure you have a running head: The running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title, and it should be aligned to the top left of the page. Also, every letter in the running head should be capitalized with its characters not exceeding 50. The page number should also appear on the top right corner of the page.

check-mark Make use of the standard font: Unless instructed otherwise, the font is 12 point Times New Roman.

check-mark Ensure that your texts are double spaced: The text of your abstract is double spaced.

check-mark Make sure you write your abstract last: as the abstract is a summary of your paper, it should only be written when your paper is finalized. Also, when writing your abstract, you are expected to use the present tense when referring to the results and conclusion and use past tense when discussing the methods and measurements used.

check-mark Know the type of abstract you are writing: There are two types of abstract which can be informational or descriptive. However, the descriptive abstracts are not common to the APA format. So, it is advisable to stick to an informational abstract. An information abstract is written to state the purpose, scope, methods, results, conclusions as well as the recommendations.

check-mark Avoid the use of the first person as well as abbreviations: when writing the abstract, do not use “we” or “I.” Instead, you can use third-person pronouns. Also, the abstract should be written in active verbs rather than passive verbs. Abbreviations and acronyms should not appear in your abstract, even if they appear in your essay.

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