Organise the paper in “triangular” or “newspaper” style, not in “joke” or “novel” style. Newspapers start with the most important part, then fill in background later for readers who want more details.
A good joke or a mystery novel has a long windup to the final punchline. Put the punchline right up front and then slowly explain the joke. Too often, the reader never really finds out what the contribution of the paper is until the last page, the last table, and the last five minutes. They don’t care how you came to figure out the right answer.
Put your contribution (what), before methods (why or how). Readers skim, so use the triangular style and open with your punchline.
Most journals allow 100-150 words. The main function of the abstract is to communicate your contribution. Do not mention other literature in the abstract. It must be concrete. Say what you find, not what you look for. Don’t write “data are analysed, theorems are proved, discussion is made.”
SMILE Technical writing by Marion Kelt, GCU, Vince Ricci, CIEE, Joe Schall, PennState University and Glynis Perkin, Loughborough University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Details on our credits page.