This activity has two parts. In the first, students work at home to familiarize themselves with the form of an abstract and to write their own; in the second, students build on this homework in small groups to more closely analyze the genre. One question asks students to distinguish abstracts from introductions, which is a point of confusion for many.


To practice finding abstracts; to learn more about the genre’s use in different fields; to practice writing abstracts; to prepare for the research project and paper

Key Terms

rhetorical situation; introductions; information literacy; genre; point of view; research; metacognition

Individual Work

  1. Before class, Use the library’s resources to locate various abstracts from three different fields of your choosing, including one from the discipline of your own major. Select one abstract from each field that seems to follow the models we discussed in class.
  2. Copy and paste or type up each abstract in a document. Include the source citation information.
  3. Label the four key parts of each abstract:
    • problem statement/conversation;
    • claim;
    • method/exhibits;
    • conclusions/contributions.
  4. Reflect, in a short paragraph, on similarities and differences in this genre across academic fields.
  5. Write an abstract for your own project, taking this reflection and the various models you’ve seen in class and in your own research into consideration.

Group Discussion

  1. Work in small groups.
  2. Choose three abstracts to read from the pool provided by the group, including at least one from a humanities field and at least one from the sciences.
  3. Discuss the questions below, referring specifically to the abstracts you read together:
  1. What is an abstract? What is the difference between an abstract for an essay and the essay’s introduction?
  2. How and why do first-person pronouns play a role? Do such roles differ by field? By argument?
  3. What is the role of passive language or constructions?
  4. Can you tell the essay’s elevator story from just an abstract?
  5. Can you determine claims/evidence/reasons/acknowledgments & responses?
  6. What do abstracts from different fields or disciplines tell us about how evidence and authority work in these separate contexts?

You may also want to refer students to the UNC Chapel Hill guide to writing abstracts.