How to format an APA abstract

An abstract is a summary of ± 250 words in which you describe the research problem, methods, results and recommendations of your research. A list of keywords can also be included for use in databases. The abstract is usually written after the paper is finished and is included between the acknowledgements and table of contents.

The APA abstract page must adhere to specific formatting requirements for indentation, spacing, font type, page margins, heading and running head.”

APA format abstract example

SCRIBBR APA ABSTRACT EXAMPLE RUNNING HEAD1

Abstract

What is the problem? Outline the objective, problem statement, research questions and hypotheses. What has been done? Explain your method. What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions. What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations. What is the problem? Outline the objective, problem statement, research questions and hypotheses. What has been done? Explain your method. What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions. What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations. What is the problem? Outline the objective, problem statement, research questions and hypotheses. What has been done? Explain your method. What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions. What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations. What is the problem? Outline the objective, problem statement, research questions and hypotheses. What has been done? Explain your method. What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions. What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations. What is the problem? Outline the objective, problem statement, research questions and hypotheses. What has been done? Explain your method. What did you discover? Summarize the key findings and conclusions. What do the findings mean? Summarize the discussion and recommendations.

Keywords: example keyword, example keyword, example keyword

An APA abstract must be formatted as follows:

  • Include the running head aligned to the left at the top of the page
  • On the first line, write the heading “Abstract,” (centered and without any formatting)
  • Do not indent any part of the text
  • Double space the text
  • APA recommends the use of Times New Roman font in 12 pt
  • Set one inch (or 2.54 cm) margins
  • If you include a “keywords” section at the end of the abstract, indent the first line and italicize the word “Keywords” while leaving the key words themselves without any formatting

How to write an APA abstract

Simply answer the following questions and put them together, then voila! You have an abstract for your paper.

If you need more guidance writing your abstract, read our detailed instructions on what to include and see an abstract example.

How to write an abstract

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How long should an APA abstract be?

An abstract for an APA style paper should be just one paragraph of up to 250 words. How much you write for each subject area (e.g. problem, method, results) covered in the abstract will depend on the specifics of your research, but all should be mentioned.

APA abstract keywords

At the end of the abstract, you can also include a short list of keywords that will be used for indexing if your paper is published on a database. Listing your keywords will help other researchers find your work.

Make sure that your keywords:

  • Accurately represent the content
  • Are specific to your field

APA abstract keywords example

Here is an example of an APA format paper published as a chapter in a book, where the author has included a set of keywords. The author has chosen the terms listed in the title as keywords as well as several other related keywords that feature in their research.

Book chapter title: Nonparalytic Polio and Post-Polio Syndrome

From: Post-Polio Syndrome: A Guide for Polio Survivors and Their Families (pp. 21-26), Julie K. Silver, Yale University Press (2001)

Keywords: Polio, Paralysis, Symptoms, Postpoliomyelitis syndrome, Medical diagnosis, Legs, Physicians, Strokes, Misdiagnosis

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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

4 comments

Hanne
June 2, 2019 at 1:57 PM

Hello,

Should you cite sources in an abstract?

Thanks in advance!

Hanne

Reply

Raimo Streefkerk
Raimo Streefkerk (Scribbr-team)
June 6, 2019 at 6:17 PM

Hi Hanne,

Thank you for your question.
The guidelines for citing sources in an abstract differ per field of study. In general, an abstract should be self-contained. However, if your research heavily depends on another it might be acceptable to include a citation.

I hope this helps!

Reply

Grace
April 21, 2019 at 4:37 AM

When writing an (APA) abstract, the keywords section has two lines... is the second line indented also or is it at the left margin?

Reply

Raimo Streefkerk
Raimo Streefkerk (Scribbr-team)
April 23, 2019 at 11:49 AM

Hi Grace,

That's an excellent question. I looked it up in the APA Publication Manual (6th Edition) and it turns out that the second line should not be indented.
I will also add this to the article :-).

Cheers,
Raimo

Reply

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