How to write and format an APA abstract

An APA abstract is a summary of your paper in 150–250 words. It describes the research problem, methods, results and conclusions of your research. For published papers, it also includes a list of keywords.

Write the abstract after you have finished your paper, and place it on a separate page after the title page.

The formatting of the abstract page is the same as the rest of an APA style paper: double-spaced, Times New Roman 12pt font, one-inch margins, and a running head at the top of the page.

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
  • Use 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 keywords 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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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

Frequently asked questions about APA abstracts

What is the purpose of an abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

How long should an APA abstract be?

The APA manual suggests that most abstracts are around 150–250 words long. However, the length of an abstract varies depending on the publication or university. Always check the requirements, and don’t exceed the specified word count.

Where does the abstract go in an APA paper?

The abstract comes after the title page and before the introduction in an APA format paper.

If you are writing a longer text (such as a thesis or dissertation), place the abstract after the acknowledgements and before the table of contents.

Can you cite sources in an abstract?

Avoid citing sources in your abstract. There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

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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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