Abstract Writing

Jump to Abstract Format or Faculty Suggestions


What goes in an abstract?


People use your abstract to understand your project and decide if they care to visit your poster or see your talk. They might be interested in the topic, results, or specific methods you used.  Thus, the abstract should briefly describe the big picture and goal of the research, question you investigated/hypothesis you tested, experiments you performed, results you obtained, and relevance of your findings.

Yikes in 250 words (typically) or less!  One paragraph.

The abstract must summarize what you plan to present, so first decide what you will present, and then write the abstract. 

Do not count on results that you think, hope or are sure you will have by the meeting; only mention what you have already done.  Of course, you are encouraged to show us the hottest, latest data in the presentation, but you won’t have promised a result you might not have.

Talk your plan over with your lab adviser (PI, post doc, etc.) before you start writing.

Your abstract must be YOUR words, not from someone else in your lab or another lab.  It is great to read abstracts written by others, but put them away before you write your own.



Abstract Format for Dept. of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium


  • 250 word limit for “body” of abstract (no exceptions).  Title and Authors are not included in word count
  •  One paragraph.
  • Title: 20 point Arial, centered, bold, no more than 2 lines
  • Authors:18 point Arial, centered, two lines below title; first name, last name for each author
  • Body of Abstract: 16 point Arial, two lines below authors, left justified, single-spaced
  • Margins 1 inch
This should fit on one page.

Abstracts will be printed in a booklet distributed at the poster session.  Check yours with your lab PI before submitting it! Do not include your abstract on your poster.


Faculty Suggestions


Dr. Brodsky’s Secrets to Abstract Writing

Your abstract should answer these questions:

  1. Why do we care about your project?  Connect your topic of study (big picture) to human interest (disease, process discovery, long-standing question, etc.)
  2. What is the question you are asking in your specific project?
  3. What approach(es) did you take to answer this question.  Ex. In order to…. we used…
  4. What have you learned?  We have found… Results
  5. Why do your results matter?  Connect back to the big picture.

Dr. Peebles suggests the following Weighting Your Abstract

  • Background and Significance 25-30%
  • Your Approach and Experiments 50%
  • Conclusion and Future 20-25%