All research papers, posters, and proposal typically start with an abstract. An abstract is a key piece of the project- it provides a brief overview of the research study and forms the reader’s first impression of the proposal. Often, readers will review the abstract to decide if they want to read the entire research paper or move on to another paper. For research proposals, often readers review the abstract to determine if the proposal is worthy of further consideration. Thus, your abstract is very important in making a good impression – many consider it the most important element in a research proposal!

Your abstract should provide a brief (no more than 200 words) summary of a few critical areas:

1) the significance and need for the research you are proposing

2) the hypothesis or research questions and major objectives of the study

3) the procedures/methods that you will use to accomplish the objectives

4) The potential impact of the work

Often, the abstract is created and revised last to ensure it provides an adequate summary of the final version of the research proposal.

Below, I’ve detailed an example structure for a research abstract:

1st sentence: What is the major issue in the field that you will focus on in your study? This typically will refer to previous research, other researchers, and/or statistics. For example, you might start with a sentence that reads “The United States currently has the largest incarceration rate in the world…” or “The question of gun control has been widely debated in the United States, with previous research finding….”

2nd sentence: What is the gap in the existing research on this topic? For example, even know previous research on gun control has found xxx, they have not examined whether, xxx”. It is important that your proposal is unique and original. You cannot propose to study something that has already been examined many times.

3rd-4th sentences: What will you examine in your project? What is your research question? What are your objectives? What are you trying to learn/uncover?

5th-6th sentence – Your main argument and contribution to the field. Why is this project important? What are the implications of this project? What can we do with the findings? Why should someone else care about this project?

A good strategy is to write out your own abstract following this general structure without worrying about a word limit. Once you have all of your ideas on paper, you should revise, refine and shorten according to the word limit (200 words). To keep your abstract within this word limit, you must ensure you do not use any filler – every sentence should have a clear and concise meaning (refer back to writing clearly and concisely!). Remove any wordy phrases (“it can be argued that…” “i believe”…”i wish to propose”. 

Remember – your research poster reflects a research PROPOSAL. This means you will not and have not conducted any study. You will NOT have original research findings.