WHAT IS AN ABSTRACT?

Abstracts are summaries communicating the central ideas of an argument or project. They are widely used in academic and professional life to offer audiences a short preview of an article, a research program, a presentation, a performance, etc.

 

WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR THE CONFERENCE?

To apply to the UCI Community College Honors Research Conference, students are required to submit two summaries of the presentation, poster, or performance that they are proposing for the conference. The first summary is a very brief 25-word abstract known as a “Proposal Description.” The second is a more detailed 250-word summary known as a “Proposal Abstract.” If students are admitted to the conference and deliver an oral presentation or performance presentation, they may also choose to submit a 400-word abstract to compete for conference awards and scholarship. In addition, all conference participants may submit a 250-word abstract to vie for the honor of being published in the post-conference booklet, entitled Building Bridges.

WHEN AND HOW DO I SUBMIT THE ABSTRACTS?

As an honors program director, you will ultimately submit the two application abstracts for your students, as well as the awards and publication abstracts should your students choose to enter those.  Students should work closely with their mentor professors and their honors director on drafting the abstracts, allowing ample time to receive feedback and to make any necessary revisions before your school’s deadlines.  You will determine the exact deadlines for your program, but the following description of the various abstract types includes a general timeline. You may also consult the conference website for up-to-date information about timelines.

GUIDELINES AND TIPS FOR WRITING ABSTRACTS

 

Format

Students should follow regulation MLA style, using 12-point Times New Roman font and ragged (not justified) margins. The 250- and 400-word abstracts should contain multiple paragraphs that begin and end in logical places. Whereas the Proposal and Awards Abstracts should be single-spaced, the Publication Abstract will need to be double-spaced. More specific instructions for the 250-word Publication Abstract are available on the Conference page of the HTCC website.

Word Counts

Although writing a few words over the target word counts is acceptable, students should aim for conciseness and should respect these targets as much as possible.

Correctness and Accuracy

Students should proofread their abstracts meticulously and repeatedly, and revise for conciseness, clarity, correctness of spelling and grammar, and for the accuracy of claims and evidence.

Composing Titles

The title is an important part of an abstract and should be both original and informative. The title that students choose for their initial Proposal Description should then be used for all subsequent versions of the abstract. The title words are not included in the word count. The goal of the title is simultaneously to interest their audience and to inform them of the topic of the presentation. One effective strategy is to use a two-part title in which the main title is intriguing and suggestive while the subtitle is informative (or vice versa), such as “Taking Home the Prize: How to Write a Winning Abstract.”

Format

Students should follow regulation MLA style, using 12-point Times New Roman font and ragged (not justified) margins. The 250- and 400-word abstracts should contain multiple paragraphs that begin and end in logical places. Whereas the Proposal and Awards Abstracts should be single-spaced, the Publication Abstract will need to be double-spaced. More specific instructions for the 250-word Publication Abstract are available on the Conference page of the HTCC website.

Content

25-word Proposal Description:

The Proposal Description should be a concise single sentence (or sentence fragment) articulating the thesis, hypothesis, or purpose of their presentation, poster, or performance. Because this description will appear in the conference program, this sentence should—in conjunction with the title—aim both to intrigue and to inform conference attendees so that they will desire to come hear the student's presentation or to view their poster  Encourage your students to use active, vivid language, and be clear. If they have already finished their research or project and therefore know their conclusion, they should attempt to assert a definite claim rather than simply alluding to the fact that they will do so once their research or project is completed. In the examples below, the “less effective” description offers very little to interest the reader since the actual content of the writer’s “learning” is not specified. The “more effective” example, by contrast, attracts the reader with concrete assertions based upon the outcome of the writer’s research.

Less effective: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo: In this presentation, I will talk about what I learned about animal behavior from a recent trip to the Los Angeles Zoo.

More effective: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo: While captivity can impede animals’ natural behaviors and create behavioral disorders, properly structured zoo environments can effectively stimulate species-appropriate behavior and mitigate animals’ stress.

250- and 400-word Abstracts:

The Proposal Abstract, as well as the Awards and Publication abstracts, should begin with a sentence designed to intrigue their readers and to introduce their topic.(This opening sentence may be, but is not required to be, the same sentence used in your 25-word Proposal Description.) They should clearly articulate the student's thesis, hypothesis, or purpose towards the beginning of the abstract and should continue with a fuller account of your proposal. Students may want to include some or all of the following in the abstract:

  • a fuller explanation of your thesis or purpose

  • necessary background or context for your project

  • an explanation of your research methodology and type(s) of supporting evidence

  • a few specific instances of key evidence—examples, statistics, facts, quotations—with accompanying in-text citations

  • an explanation of the significance or application of your work

  • a relevant and catchy epigraph

  • an emphatic or thoughtful concluding sentence

As with their Proposal Description, students should strive to make the language of your abstracts assertive and content-rich. They do not want to wait until the actual presentation to tell us their central ideas; encourage them to use the abstract to outline those key ideas.

Considering Audience

Although expectations for academic language and form differ among disciplines, the abstracts that students write for this conference should reflect the conference’s attendees and goals and should consequently be written to appeal to a broad audience with diverse academic interests and areas of expertise. Their language should be professional and should demonstrate mastery of the concepts and vocabulary appropriate to the discipline(s) of inquiry. At the same time, students should also try to make the language accessible and to make clear why their ideas should be of interest to just such a multi-talented and multi-disciplinary audience.

Documentation

Students must include with all of submitted abstracts a Works Cited or References list of their top four sources written in accordance with MLA style and identifying the major sources cited or consulted in their research. This list will not count towards the word total for their abstracts. Student abstracts themselves should include brief MLA-style in-text citations where relevant in order a) to indicate any words, ideas, or other evidence included in their abstract that are taken from their research sources or b) to point their readers to sources where such evidence can be found. For more information on MLA documentation style, students should consult the following sources:

 

Evaluation Criteria

Abstracts will be judged on the following criteria, using this rubric:

  • quality of critical thinking

  • originality and relevance of topic, argument, and/or approach

  • clarity, logical organization, and cogency of argument

  • quality, relevance, and specificity of research

  • quality and appropriateness of style

  • grammatical correctness

  • correctness of MLA documentation

© 2019 Honors Transfer Council of California.