Abstracts 101

Abstracts 101

"Write an abstract."
It sounds like a difficult assignment, but it sounds much worse than it is. "Abstract" is a new term for something you've probably already done, even if you've never called it that before.

The first meaning of "abstract" that occurs to most people is not the one you need.

Abstract art?


Probably not.


"Write an abstract" uses a different definition of the word. It doesn't mean "write abstractly" or "write without being specific." It doesn't even mean "write about abstract concepts."

"Write an abstract" means something so different that it's helpful to take a step back and look at the different definitions the word "abstract" has, because you're going to need one that you may never have used before. The word "abstract" has at least six meanings, but you need only one: "a summary, synopsis, digest, summation, or outline." For an abstract, you need to distill your work to its essence. What did you do, and why is it important?

Examples: Actual, Concrete Abstracts.

To make the concept of "abstracts" more clear, it's helpful to familiarize yourself with some concrete examples. These were written by Saddleback students for conferences; all are award-winning; all were published in the journal Building Bridges. They may be of different lengths; the conference or journal to which you submit the abstract determines word count, the need for references, etc. You are welcome to visit the Honors Program Office and read previous years' editions of Building Bridges so that you can find excellent work in your own discipline. Sit in our lounge, browse through some copies, and learn what students in your discipline have been doing at other colleges!

Whatever your discipline, pay strict attention to the submission guidelines and word limits or your abstract may not be read at all, no matter how wonderful it is.


A Final Word: You're Not Alone

The professor with whom you're working or to whom you've submitted the research must serve as your mentor for the conference and can help you with your abstract. (They do not have to attend; many do, but many can't.) You may also come into the Honors Program Office for help from the Chair, but this should be in addition to working with your mentor.