The Difference Between an Abstract & a Full-Text Article

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When a student writes an article for a conference or journal publication, she is introduced to format and style requirements that might seem daunting. These guidelines require the writer to submit not just the article but also an abstract, or a concise summary of the research. Writers should know how the content and style of the abstract differ from those of the full-text article.

1 Abstract Structure

Abstracts are brief -- generally between 100 and 400 words long. They should be stand-alone summaries of the article that allow a reader to grasp the basics without reading the full text. Abstracts generally include the problem the research set out to investigate or solve, the objectives of the research, the methods used for the study, the results and a conclusion or statement drawn from the results. The significance of the study should be apparent in these points. An abstract should not include figures, tables or citations.

2 Full-Text Article Structure

A full-text article contains the entirety of the research study. Introduction sections include background information or literature reviews complete with citations for a references section at the end of the article. Notes, figures, tables, appendices and other additional information can be included to clarify and display data. After the introduction, a full-text article will explain the methods used for the study, give the results and present a discussion and interpretation of the results and their impact on the field.

3 Access to Abstracts and Full-Text Articles

Abstracts and full-text articles are found in different places. Conference proceedings only publish abstracts, electronic searchable databases only display abstracts and article reviewers receive only abstracts when they are invited to review papers. Abstracts are generally available online for free, whereas online access to full-text articles -- to read or to download -- may require a paid subscription.

4 Writing Style in Abstracts and Full-Text Articles

An abstract must be clear and concise, as the purpose is to allow readers to quickly understand the key points of the research and decide whether or not to read the full-text article. Abstracts are written in active voice. Full-text articles, on the other hand, describe the study in detail, as readers have decided they want to investigate the study deeply. Some sections of the full-text article can use active voice, such as the introduction and discussion of results sections, but passive voice is more appropriate for others, such as the methodology and results sections.

Sara Juveland has been writing articles and textbooks related to education since 2012. Based in Oregon, Juveland has five years of experience living, studying, and working in South Korea, Japan, and China. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from Pacific University and an MA TESOL from Portland State University.