How to Write an Abstract

Writing an abstract is hard work — distilling your academic work and big ideas into 250 words doesn’t leave much space for nuance. It’s a skill that takes practice… but how do you even get started?

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Since our Call for Papers deadline is quickly approaching (more information here), we wanted to share our Top 5 Tips and Tricks for writing a successful abstract, that we hope you’ll be able to use whether you’re submitting to MEMS Fest for the first time or the fourth. 

  1. Topic and Purpose: while these are two separate things, they go hand in hand. What are you writing about and why? What makes it interesting or worth exploring?
  2. Problem and Argument: what question are you asking? What problem are you investigating? What is your main argument?
  3. Context: what else has been written about this topic or question? How does your research work alongside or within the existing critical field?
  4. Broad Conclusions: what does your research and the angle from which you’re exploring it begin to contribute? What conclusions are you drawing so far?
  5. Be Clear and Concise: remember, you only have 250 words to work with! Your abstract isn’t your paper, so don’t worry about covering every single detail at this stage.

Some conferences also ask for key words or a biography when you submit an abstract. At MEMS Fest, we don’t require them, but you’re welcome to include a few short sentences about you and your work if you like. Do make sure to include your name and the title of your paper, so that we know who you are.

We understand that everyone’s research can take different forms, so please don’t let these guidelines restrict you. We welcome your own personal style and encourage you to simply use these Top Tips as a platform for sparking your application structure.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t worry! We want to hear about your research and why it’s exciting. The MEMS Fest committee is made up of postgraduate students just like you. We’re all quite friendly and can’t wait to read what you submit. Happy writing!