How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

Introduction to Writing an APA Abstract

The academic world is full of various writing styles and formats, among which the American Psychological Association (APA) style stands out prominently, especially in the social sciences. One essential element in APA style papers is the abstract. But what exactly is an APA abstract? And how do you go about writing one? If you’ve been grappling with these questions, worry no more! In this article, you will learn how to write an abstract in APA format.

APA Abstract: Definition and Purpose

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with the basics. What is an abstract in APA format, and why is it important?


An abstract, according to the APA manual, is a brief, comprehensive summary of the content of your paper. It’s a snapshot of your research paper that includes the key elements of your work in a concise format.


The purpose of an abstract is multifold. It provides a quick overview of your research, allowing readers to decide whether your paper is relevant to their interests. It also helps researchers find your work in databases. In short, a good abstract can increase the visibility and impact of your research.

What is an APA Abstract Page?

The abstract page is where the abstract is housed in an APA format paper. It follows the title page and precedes the main body of the paper. Here’s what you need to know about the APA abstract page:

Running Head

The running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title. It appears at the top of every page of your paper, aligned to the left in the header. On the abstract page, it should be followed by the page number, aligned to the right.

Word “Abstract”

The word “Abstract” should be centered at the top of the page, just below the running head. It should be in normal type (not bold or italicized) and followed by the text of the abstract.


At the end of your abstract, you may list a few keywords. These are the terms that best capture the essence of your paper and will help researchers find your work in databases. Start with the italicized word “Keywords:“, followed by your keywords, separated by commas.

Qualities of a Good Abstract

Writing an abstract is a delicate balancing act. It must be concise yet comprehensive, summarizing your entire research in a limited word count. Here are some qualities that make an abstract effective:


An effective abstract is brief and to the point. Remember, you’re aiming for a snapshot of your research, not an exhaustive explanation. Aim to encapsulate your work within the APA’s word limit of 150-250 words.


While your abstract should be concise, it also needs to be comprehensive. It should cover the key components of your research: the purpose of your study, the methodology, the main findings, and the conclusions.


Your abstract should be easily understood by a broad audience. Avoid using jargon or complex terms that only experts in your field would understand.


Your abstract should flow logically, with each sentence leading naturally to the next. A well-structured abstract will guide your readers through your research story smoothly and coherently.

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

Now that we know the qualities of a good abstract, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how to write an abstract in APA format. An abstract is like a movie trailer—it needs to get the reader hooked and wanting to know more, all while summarizing the main plot. In the case of an abstract, it needs to provide a concise overview of your study while enticing readers to delve into the full paper.

State the Purpose of Your Paper

Starting off, you need to state the purpose of your research. Ask yourself, “What problem or question was my research attempting to solve or answer?” This sets the context for your abstract and primes the reader about what to expect. It’s like the opening scene of a movie, setting the stage for what’s to come.

For example: “The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of nurse-to-patient ratios on patient recovery rates in hospital settings.”

Summarize the Main Points

Next up, summarize the main points of your research. Here, you’re giving a sneak peek into the methods you used to conduct your study, your key findings, and the conclusions you drew from these results. It’s important to keep this section brief yet informative—think of it as the exciting montage in a movie trailer that shows the highlights without giving away the entire plot.

For example: “Using a quantitative approach, we analyzed patient recovery rates in 50 hospitals with varying nurse-to-patient ratios. The findings revealed a significant correlation between higher nurse-to-patient ratios and improved patient recovery rates.”

Conclude with a Brief Paragraph

Lastly, you want to finish your abstract with a brief concluding single paragraph. This is where you tie everything together and showcase the significance of your research and its implications. This is the final scene of the trailer, leaving the audience eager to see the full movie.

For example: “These findings underscore the potential benefits of policies aimed at maintaining higher nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals. Such measures could enhance patient recovery rates and overall healthcare quality.”

In each of these sections, remember to be clear, concise, and focused. Your abstract isn’t the place for detailed explanations or complex jargon – it should be a clear, accessible overview of your work. And with that, you’re well on your way to writing an effective abstract in APA format.

How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

Formatting the Abstract

When it comes to formatting an abstract for an APA paper, here’s a step-by-step guide:

Start with the Running Head

At the top of your abstract page, include a running head. This is a shortened version of your title, followed by the page number. For example, if your nursing study is titled “The Impact of Nurse-to-Patient Ratios on Patient Recovery Rates,” your running head might look like this:


Write the Word “Abstract”

Next, center the word “Abstract” at the top of your page, below the running head. The word should be in regular type—not bold or italicized. Like so:


Provide Keywords

Lastly, provide a few keywords at the bottom of your abstract. These keywords will help other researchers find your professional paper in databases. For our nursing study example, you might include keywords like:

Keywords: nurse-to-patient ratios, patient recovery, healthcare quality

Formats for Writing an Abstract in APA Style

When writing an abstract in APA style, you have two primary formats to choose from: paragraph format and structured format. Each has its own merits and is suited to different types of research. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Paragraph Format

The paragraph format is a more traditional style, typically used in the social sciences and humanities. It involves writing your abstract as a single paragraph with an indent, providing an overview of your research question, methods, results, and conclusions. Here’s an example from a hypothetical nursing study:

“This study aimed to explore the impact of nurse-led interventions on patient satisfaction in a hospital setting. Using a mixed-methods approach, we collected both qualitative and quantitative data from 200 patients over a 6-month period. Our findings suggest that nurse-led interventions significantly enhance patient satisfaction, particularly in areas of communication and emotional support. These findings underscore the critical role nurses play in promoting patient satisfaction and overall healthcare quality.”

Structured Format

The structured format is commonly used in scientific research, including fields such as medicine and psychology. This format divides the abstract into several distinct sections: Objective, Method, Results, and Conclusion. This structured approach allows for more detail and makes it easier for readers to quickly find specific information. Here’s an example from a hypothetical nursing research study:

Objective: “The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a new, nurse-led pain management protocol in post-operative patients.”

Method: “A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 150 post-operative patients. Participants were divided into two groups: one received the new, nurse-led pain management protocol, and the other received standard pain management care.”

Results: “Patients who received the nurse-led pain management protocol reported significantly lower pain scores and higher satisfaction with pain management than those who received standard care.”

Conclusion: “These results suggest that the nurse-led pain management protocol is an effective strategy for managing post-operative pain and improving patient satisfaction.”

When choosing between the paragraph and structured formats, it’s important to consider the nature of your study, the preferences of your audience, and the requirements of the APA publication manual or conference where you plan to submit your work. Always remember to provide a concise yet comprehensive overview of your study in your abstract, regardless of the format you choose.

Wrapping up: How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

The ability to write an effective APA format essay abstract is a valuable skill for any student or researcher. It not only enhances the visibility and impact of your research but also demonstrates your understanding of the topic. Remember to keep your abstract concise, comprehensive, clear, and coherent. Happy abstract writing!

But what if you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed? What if you have more questions than answers? Don’t fret – we’re here to help.

Whether you’re new to APA abstract writing or just need extra guidance, our expert nursing essay writers team is ready and waiting to assist you, providing personalized help tailored to your specific needs. From detailed guides and resources to one-on-one support, we’ve got you covered.

Don’t let writing an abstract stress you out – take advantage of the resources available to you. Why struggle when help is just a click away? Your research deserves to be seen, heard, and understood. Let’s make it happen together.

FAQs on How to Write an Abstract in APA Format

How Do You Start an Abstract in APA?

To start an abstract, you begin by an APA format outline, and clearly stating the purpose of your study. This sets the stage for your abstract and informs readers about what to expect from your research.

Does an APA Paper Need an Abstract?

Not all APA papers require an abstract. It’s typically required for longer research papers and is optional for short papers and case studies. However, it’s always best to check with your instructor or the specific guidelines of the publication you are submitting to.

How Long Should an APA Abstract Be?

According to the APA manual, an abstract should be between 150 to 250 words. However, some journals or professors may have different requirements, so it’s always a good idea to check the specific guidelines.

Where Does the Abstract Go in an APA Paper?

The abstract in an APA paper is found right after the title page and before the introduction of the paper. It should be on its own page and include the header with the running head and page number.

Can You Include Citations in an Abstract?

Generally, you should avoid including citations in your abstract. The abstract should be a standalone summary of your paper. If a citation is absolutely necessary, you should write out the name of the work instead of using a parenthetical citation.

Should an Abstract Be on Its Own Page in APA Format?

Yes, in APA format, the abstract should start on a new page following the title page. The word “Abstract” should be centered at the top of the page, and the abstract should be a single, unindented paragraph.

Where do I include keywords in my abstract?

In an APA format abstract, keywords should be included at the end. Start with the italicized word “Keywords:” followed by your keywords, separated by commas.

Can I use abbreviations in my abstract?

While it’s best to avoid abbreviations in your abstract, sometimes they might be necessary. If you do use abbreviations, make sure to spell them out (with the abbreviation in parentheses) the first time they’re used.

How do I write an abstract if my research is not complete?

It’s best to write your abstract after your research is complete. This way, you can accurately summarize your research question, methods, results, and conclusions.

Should I use active or passive voice in my abstract?

Generally, it’s best to use active voice in your abstract. It’s more direct and easier to read.

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