An abstract is presented to the reader before the beginning of an article. The abstract briefly tells what the researchers did, how they did it, what they found, and what that means. More specifically, an abstract of an social scientific study will describe:
A properly written abstract will convey all that information in about 100 to 120 words. There should be no reason to refer to the article to understand jargon, abbreviations, or other oddities in the abstract.
Use abstracts to gain a first glance into journal articles. When you are researching a particular topic you can usually tell if a journal article pertains to that topic just by reading the abstract. If you determine that the article is relevant then be sure to read the entire article. Be aware that when a journal article reports multiple significant findings only the most important four or five will be mentioned in the abstract. When writing about a journal article never rely solely on the abstract (unless you absolutely cannot find the journal article, then be sure to cite the abstract, not the article).
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