Rules for the Length and Writing Style of an Abstract

A woman drinking some tea before starting to work on her abstract.

Here are a few rules for the length and writing style of an abstract. Keep these in mind for your next lab report.

The length and writing style of your abstract helps show your audience that you’ve done a valid piece of research. It shows your instructor that you have a firm grasp of the lab experiment that you’ve performed.

1. Keep it Concise

Abstracts are usually limited to around 250 words, so it is important to be concise and to the point. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that are not widely understood. Use enough words to describe your experiment, but don’t pad it with superfluous words.

The example below is only about 60 words, but it might only be part of an actual experiment. The target of 250 words is an upper limit, but don’t feel like you have to hit it exactly.

2. Be clear and easy to understand: 

Make sure the abstract is easy to understand and free of errors. Write your abstract in a way that is accessible to a wide audience, including those who are not experts in the field.

3. Use the right format and writing style: 

Use the format and style required by the professor, conference, or journal you are submitting the paper to. Some professors and journals prefer a third person voice, others prefer a more active voice.

In general, structure the abstract in the same way as the main paper, but in a more condensed form.

4. Proofread and edit: 

After writing your first draft, carefully proofread and edit the abstract to ensure that it is free of errors and clearly written.

Another Example Abstract

Light passing through a transparent medium can be refracted. We used Snell’s Law to determine the index of refraction for an acrylic block. We found the index of refraction to be 1.53, which is within 2.00% of the expected value. Knowing the index of a refraction is important for the design of optical systems, particularly those involving lenses.

You are now ready to write decent abstracts for your lab reports.

Remember to include why you are doing the experiment, your numerical results, and why the experiment is important.