If you are writing a paper according to APA style—guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association—you may need to include an Abstract page as part of your paper. Although the Abstract page is optional, many professors and readers find this page useful (especially as part of a long dissertation or thesis paper) and, thus, your professor may request that you include one. The Abstract page plays an important role in summarizing the overall purpose of your paper to help readers decide if your paper is worth reading.
In this special article, I will show you exactly how to format the Abstract page in APA style, 6th edition and what you must include on this page. I have added visual examples so you can easily remember the format, layout and specs of a correct Abstract page.
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The Abstract Page
This is what an Abstract page looks like as part of a paper adhering to APA style.
Let us look at some of the elements that format the Abstract page correctly.
Elements of the Abstract Page
A Different View of the Same Abstract Page
The Purpose of the Abstract Page
The Abstract page has one function: to summarize—in one paragraph—the main points of your paper. Your Abstract needs to identify all four components of an "empirical" paper (i.e., the Introduction, the Method, the Results, and the Discussion).
Your Abstract may include:
1) Your research topic
2) Questions you will attempt to answer
3) Data analysis that you've conducted
4) Any conclusions that you've reached.
You need to write the abstract concisely and succinctly. Do not explain odd terminology--you can do this later in the main body of your paper. Even though the Abstract is the second page of your paper, you can work on it last after you've completed the majority of your paper. It is much easier to write an abstract once you have fully fleshed out the premise of your paper. You can easily write a purposeful abstract by briefly discussing each of the four questions above.
One caution: NEVER copy the first few paragraphs of your main body text and place it on the Abstract page to save time.
Parts of the Abstract Page
Let me elaborate on the individual parts that compose a correct Abstract page.
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Part 1: THE TITLE
The Abstract page should have a single-word title, "Abstract" at the top of the page, on the line just under the heading. The word Abstract is always singular, never plural (so never add an "s" to it). Center the title between the right and left margins.
Part 2: THE MAIN BODY
The paragraph that contains the Abstract should follow on the line after the title. Because we are double-spacing, this paragraph is two lines below the title. Use the same font as the rest of the paper, which is a 12-point, Times New Roman. Use your own words to compose the abstract; do not include any citations, quotes, or outside sources on this page.
Part 3: PARAGRAPH INDENTS
Do NOT indent the paragraph; it should be in a block format. All lines of the abstract should be flush against the left margin of the paper. The abstract should only be one paragraph in length.
PART 4: SPACING
As with the rest of your paper, you will double-space the entire Abstract page. Also use the same margin sizes, which are 1 inch on all four sides of the paper.
PART 5: KEYWORDS (Optional)
You can include a single brief paragraph of keywords under the abstract body text if your professor or publisher requests you too; otherwise you can skip this.
Journal publishers sometimes want keywords on the Abstract page so that when they distribute and/or index your paper online or in databases, readers and researchers can find your paper quickly and more easily.
On the line after the abstract paragraph, indent the next paragraph and type "Keywords:" in italics. Then list your keywords in normal text, with each keyword separated by a comma. Adding a keywords paragraph is optional.
Length of Abstract Paragraph
Unless your professor has requested a different word count, you should aim for 150 to 200 words to meet with APA style. This equates to 10 and 20 lines of text. You will have no problem fitting your abstract in one text block on one page. Most professors prefer a word count under 200 words.
1) Do not use bold, italics, or underlined text anywhere in the abstract paragraph.
2) Capitalize all proper nouns, just as you would in the main text.
3) One aspect of the Abstract page that differs from the main text is using numbers in the block paragraph. Use numerals (Arabic numerals) for all numbers inside the Abstract block of text, rather than spelling out the word for any number. The exception is if you begin a sentence with a number, then you spell out the number.
4) Write in third person—avoid "I," "we," "us," and "you."
5) The Abstract page is always page number 2.
It is common to wind up with plenty of white space in the lower half of the Abstract page. In fact, if your text runs into the lower half of the page, this may indicate that your Abstract is going above the word limit. Never start your main text on the lower half of the Abstract page. Just leave the white space as is, and start the main body of text on the third page of your paper.
I welcome your comments and/or corrections
dana on May 24, 2020:
Foday Maurice Juana on July 02, 2019:
Thank you for your edification, I really enjoyed it.
Sally Ashby on December 11, 2018:
Thank you so much. Clear and concise, just what I needed. The visuals were a great resource!
Celinez Jodoin on September 20, 2018:
Thank you very helpful information!
AB on August 28, 2018:
very helpful, well presented and simplified. Thanks a lot
Edward James on August 25, 2018:
The information is well presented and will be of great benefit for students learning to write in accordance with the APA format
Michael B on August 29, 2016:
Well presented with simple language and great visuals. Very nice reference tool.
Benjamin Tanko on November 02, 2015:
I found this templete very useful to me. Thank you very much.