How to Write an Abstract for the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference
How to Write an Abstract Workshops:
The following Workshops will be in Meeting Room D, Student Community Center
Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 12:10 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 3:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 1, 2018, 4:10 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
What is an abstract?
An abstract is a one-paragraph summary of a research project. Abstracts precede papers in research journals and appear in programs of scholarly conferences. In journals, the abstract allows readers to quickly grasp the purpose and major ideas of a paper and lets other researchers know whether reading the entire paper will be worthwhile. In conferences, the abstract is the advertisement that the paper deserves the audience's attention.
Why write an abstract?
The abstract allows readers to make decisions about your project. Your sponsoring professor can use the abstract to decide if your research is proceeding smoothly. The conference organizer uses it to decide if your project fits the conference criteria. The conference audience (faculty, administrators, peers, and presenters' families) uses your abstract to decide whether or not to attend your presentation. Your abstract needs to take all these readers into consideration.
How does an abstract appeal to such a broad audience?
The audience for this abstract covers the broadest possible scope--from expert to lay person. You need to find a comfortable balance between writing an abstract that both shows your knowledge and yet is still comprehensible--with some effort--by lay members of the audience. Limit the amount of technical language you use and explain it where possible. Always use the full term before you refer to it by acronym [DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs), for example]. Remember that you are yourself an expert in the field that you are writing about--don't take for granted that the reader will share your insider knowledge.
What should the abstract include?
Think of your abstract as a condensed version of your whole project. By reading it, the reader should understand the nature of your research question. Like abstracts that researchers prepare for scholarly conferences, the abstract you submit for the Undergraduate Research Conference will most likely reflect work still in progress at the time you write it. Although the content will vary according to field and specific project, all abstracts, whether in the sciences or the humanities, convey the following information:
- The purpose of the project identifying the area of study to which it belongs.
- The research problem that motivates the project.
- The methods used to address this research problem, documents or evidence analyzed.
- The conclusions reached or, if the research is in progress, what the preliminary results of the investigation suggest, or what the research methods demonstrate.
- The significance of the research project. Why are the results useful? What is new to our understanding as the result of your inquiry?
Whatever kind of research you are doing, your abstract should provide the reader with answers to the following questions: What are you asking? Why is it important? How will you study it? What will you use to demonstrate your conclusions? What are those conclusions? What do they mean?
The abstract should be one paragraph and should not exceed the word limit. Edit it closely to be sure it meets the Four C's of abstract writing:
- Complete — it covers the major parts of the project.
- Concise — it contains no excess wordiness or unnecessary information.
- Clear — it is readable, well organized, and not too jargon-laden.
- Cohesive — it flows smoothly between the parts.
The importance of understandable language
Because all researchers hope their work will be useful to others, and because good scholarship is increasingly used across disciplines, it is crucial to make the language of your abstracts accessible to a non-specialist. Simplify your language. Friends in another major will spot instantly what needs to be more understandable. Some problem areas to look for:
- Eliminate jargon. Showing off your technical vocabulary will not demonstrate that your research is valuable. If using a technical term is unavoidable, add a non-technical synonym to help a non-specialist infer the term's meaning.
- Omit needless words—redundant modifiers, pompous diction, excessive detail.
- Avoid stringing nouns together (make the relationship clear with prepositions).
- Eliminate "narration," expressions such as "It is my opinion that," "I have concluded," "the main point supporting my view concerns," or "certainly there is little doubt as to. . . ." Focus attention solely on what the reader needs to know.
Before submitting your abstract
- Make sure it is within 150-200 words. (Over-writing is all too easy, so reserve time for cutting your abstract down to the essential information.)
- Make sure the language is understandable by a non-specialist. (Avoid writing for an audience that includes only you and your professor.)
- Have your sponsoring professor work with you and approve the abstract before you submit it online.
- Only one abstract per person is allowed.
Multimedia Risk Assessment of Biodiesel - Tier II Antfarm Project
Significant knowledge gaps exist in the fate, transport, biodegradation, and toxicity properties of biodiesel when it is leaked into the environment. In order to fill these gaps, a combination of experiments has been developed in a Multimedia Risk Assessment of Biodiesel for the State of California. Currently, in the Tier II experimental phase of this assessment, I am investigating underground plume mobility of 20% and 100% additized and unadditized Soy and Animal Fat based biodiesel blends and comparing them to Ultra Low-Sulfer Diesel #2 (USLD) by filming these fuels as they seep through unsaturated sand, encounter a simulated underground water table, and form a floating lens on top of the water. Thus far, initial findings in analyzing the digital images created during the filming process have indicated that all fuels tested have similar travel times. SoyB20 behaves most like USLD in that they both have a similar lateral dispersion lens on top of the water table. In contrast, Animal Fat B100 appears to be most different from ULSD in that it has a narrower residual plume in the unsaturated sand, as well as a narrower and deeper lens formation on top of the water table.
Narrative Representation of Grief
In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go how can grief, an incomprehensible and incommunicable emotion, be represented in fiction? Is it paradoxical, or futile, to do so? I look at two novels that struggle with representing intense combinations of individual and communal grief: William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. At first glance, the novels appear to have nothing in common: Faulkner's is a notoriously bleak odyssey told in emotionally heavy stream-of-consciousness narrative, while Ishiguro's is a near-kitschy blend of a coming-of-age tale and a sci-fi dystopia. But they share a rare common thread. They do not try to convey a story, a character, an argument, or a realization, so much as they try to convey an emotion. The novels' common struggle is visible through their formal elements, down to the most basic technical aspects of how the stories are told. Each text, in its own way, enacts the trauma felt by its characters because of their grief, and also the frustration felt by its narrator (or narrators) because of the complex and guilty task of witnessing for grief and loss.
This webpage was based on articles written by Professor Diana Strazdes, Art History and Dr. Amy Clarke, University Writing Program, UC Davis. Thanks to both for their contributions.
Instructions for Submitting an Abstract
Please submit the following by Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
- Complete online registration form and abstract
- We will send an e-mail to your faculty sponsor to confirm that your abstract has been reviewed and approved.
Writing a paper for an art history course is similar to the analytical, research-based papers that you may have written in English literature courses or history courses. Although art historical research and writing does include the analysis of written documents, there are distinctive differences between art history writing and other disciplines because the primary documents are works of art. A key reference guide for researching and analyzing works of art and for writing art history papers is the 10th edition (or later) of Sylvan Barnet’s work, A Short Guide to Writing about Art. Barnet directs students through the steps of thinking about a research topic, collecting information, and then writing and documenting a paper.
A website with helpful tips for writing art history papers is posted by the University of North Carolina,
Wesleyan University Writing Center has a useful guide for finding online writing resources,
The following are basic guidelines that you must use when documenting research papers for any art history class at UALR. Solid, thoughtful research and correct documentation of the sources used in this research (i.e., footnotes/endnotes, bibliography, and illustrations**) are essential. Additionally, these Guidelines remind students about plagiarism, a serious academic offense.
Research papers should be in a 12-point font, double-spaced. Ample margins should be left for the instructor’s comments. All margins should be one inch to allow for comments. Number all pages. The cover sheet for the paper should include the following information: title of paper, your name, course title and number, course instructor, and date paper is submitted. A simple presentation of a paper is sufficient. Staple the pages together at the upper left or put them in a simple three-ring folder or binder. Do not put individual pages in plastic sleeves.
Documentation of Resources
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), as described in the most recent edition of Sylvan Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing about Art is the department standard. Although you may have used MLA style for English papers or other disciplines, the Chicago Style is required for all students taking art history courses at UALR. There are significant differences between MLA style and Chicago Style. A “Quick Guide” for the Chicago Manual of Style footnote and bibliography format is found http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. The footnote examples are numbered and the bibliography example is last. Please note that the place of publication and the publisher are enclosed in parentheses in the footnote, but they are not in parentheses in the bibliography. Examples of CMS for some types of note and bibliography references are given below in this Guideline. Arabic numbers are used for footnotes. Some word processing programs may have Roman numerals as a choice, but the standard is Arabic numbers. The use of super script numbers, as given in examples below, is the standard in UALR art history papers.
The chapter “Manuscript Form” in the Barnet book (10th edition or later) provides models for the correct forms for footnotes/endnotes and the bibliography. For example, the note form for the FIRST REFERENCE to a book with a single author is:
1Bruce Cole, Italian Art 1250-1550 (New York: New York University Press, 1971), 134.
But the BIBLIOGRAPHIC FORM for that same book is:
Cole, Bruce. Italian Art 1250-1550. New York: New York University Press. 1971.
The FIRST REFERENCE to a journal article (in a periodical that is paginated by volume) with a single author in a footnote is:
2 Anne H. Van Buren, “Madame Cézanne’s Fashions and the Dates of Her Portraits,” Art Quarterly 29 (1966): 199.
The FIRST REFERENCE to a journal article (in a periodical that is paginated by volume) with a single author in the BIBLIOGRAPHY is:
Van Buren, Anne H. “Madame Cézanne’s Fashions and the Dates of Her Portraits.” Art Quarterly 29 (1966): 185-204.
If you reference an article that you found through an electronic database such as JSTOR, you do not include the url for JSTOR or the date accessed in either the footnote or the bibliography. This is because the article is one that was originally printed in a hard-copy journal; what you located through JSTOR is simply a copy of printed pages. Your citation follows the same format for an article in a bound volume that you may have pulled from the library shelves. If, however, you use an article that originally was in an electronic format and is available only on-line, then follow the “non-print” forms listed below.
Citations for Internet sources such as online journals or scholarly web sites should follow the form described in Barnet’s chapter, “Writing a Research Paper.” For example, the footnote or endnote reference given by Barnet for a web site is:
3 Nigel Strudwick, Egyptology Resources, with the assistance of The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University, 1994, revised 16 June 2008, http://www.newton.ac.uk/egypt/, 24 July 2008.
If you use microform or microfilm resources, consult the most recent edition of Kate Turabian, A Manual of Term Paper, Theses and Dissertations. A copy of Turabian is available at the reference desk in the main library.
C. Visual Documentation (Illustrations)
Art history papers require visual documentation such as photographs, photocopies, or scanned images of the art works you discuss. In the chapter “Manuscript Form” in A Short Guide to Writing about Art, Barnet explains how to identify illustrations or “figures” in the text of your paper and how to caption the visual material. Each photograph, photocopy, or scanned image should appear on a single sheet of paper unless two images and their captions will fit on a single sheet of paper with one inch margins on all sides. Note also that the title of a work of art is always italicized. Within the text, the reference to the illustration is enclosed in parentheses and placed at the end of the sentence. A period for the sentence comes after the parenthetical reference to the illustration. For UALR art history papers, illustrations are placed at the end of the paper, not within the text. Illustration are not supplied as a Powerpoint presentation or as separate .jpgs submitted in an electronic format.
Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, dated 1893, represents a highly personal, expressive response to an experience the artist had while walking one evening (Figure 1).
The caption that accompanies the illustration at the end of the paper would read:
Figure 1. Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893. Tempera and casein on cardboard, 36 x 29″ (91.3 x 73.7 cm). Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo, Norway.
Plagiarism is a form of thievery and is illegal. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, to plagiarize is to “take and pass off as one’s own the ideas, writings, etc. of another.” Barnet has some useful guidelines for acknowledging sources in his chapter “Manuscript Form;” review them so that you will not be mguilty of theft. Another useful website regarding plagiarism is provided by Cornell University, http://plagiarism.arts.cornell.edu/tutorial/index.cfm
Plagiarism is a serious offense, and students should understand that checking papers for plagiarized content is easy to do with Internet resources. Plagiarism will be reported as academic dishonesty to the Dean of Students; see Section VI of the Student Handbook which cites plagiarism as a specific violation. Take care that you fully and accurately acknowledge the source of another author, whether you are quoting the material verbatim or paraphrasing. Borrowing the idea of another author by merely changing some or even all of your source’s words does not allow you to claim the ideas as your own. You must credit both direct quotes and your paraphrases. Again, Barnet’s chapter “Manuscript Form” sets out clear guidelines for avoiding plagiarism.