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An abstract is a brief summary of the content of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, etc. In scholarly journals, it usually appears at the beginning of an article, after the article title and author(s) name(s), and before the text.

Because of catchy or nondescript titles, the abstract of a work is often the best place to quickly find out what it's about.

The writing of abstracts is called abstracting. As with indexing and cataloging, abstracts may be written by the original authors, or by professional abstractors, often through an abstracting service.

Databases and similar finding tools that do not contain full-text may be called abstracting indexes.


There are two primary types of abstracts, descriptive and informative. Descriptive abstracts usually read like sales pitches. For example, an experiment may be described, but the results will not be included. Informative abstracts, in contrast, provide all information about the work.

External Links[edit]

  • Abstracts UNC Writing Center Handout
  • National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services

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