Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper
Definition and Purpose of Abstracts
An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:
- an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
- an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
- and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.
It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.
If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.
The Contents of an Abstract
Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.
Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:
- the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
- the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
- what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
- the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
- your research and/or analytical methods
- your main findings , results , or arguments
- the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.
Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.
When to Write Your Abstract
Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.
What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.
Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract
The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.
The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.
The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).
Sample Abstract 1
From the social sciences.
Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses
Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.
Sample Abstract 2
From the humanities.
Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications
Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.
Sample Abstract/Summary 3
From the sciences.
Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells
Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.
Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract
Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study
Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.
Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.
“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.
METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.
RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.
CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)
Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:
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How to Write and Format a White Paper: The Definitive Guide
You’re ready to compile and share your company’s deep knowledge of your industry. A white paper seems like the perfect format. It’s a useful product to highlight your company’s expertise and a valuable tool in marketing.
But, how do you transform your knowledge into a white paper?
White papers are similar but distinct from business reports. In order to write a successful one, you need to understand the difference and include key elements. This article will help you decide if a white paper is right for you, and if yes, how to prepare and produce one.
What is a white paper?
A white paper is an authoritative document intended to fully inform the reader on a particular topic. It combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation.
The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
White papers are data-centric, text-heavy business documents. Due to a large amount of data and research, white papers are deep reads and tend to have a formal tone.
Use and value
Businesses write white papers both to record expertise and to market themselves.
White papers are generally written for an audience outside of the business. Therefore, they are a tool to attract readers to the company by offering top-quality, industry knowledge.
However, a white paper is not a sales pitch. It sells the company by highlighting the internal expertise and valuable recommendations, not by bidding for business.
Sales Pitch: 8 Ways ABC Marketing will save money in your social media budget
White paper: Social Media Advertising: Matching marketing needs and platforms
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How to select a white paper topic:
Choosing the right topic is essential to have your white paper read. There are three major factors:
As with any business writing, the audience is your first consideration. The white paper must be written with a target reader in mind. The audience may be long-time customers familiar with the industry or new prospective buyers who are entirely new to the field.
Reflect on the reader’s pain points or major questions. Within these topics, look for ones that have not been fully investigated or the available information is out-of-date.
Your white paper should match and highlight your company’s expertise.
The document should provide a complete investigation including external research and internal knowledge. The business’s own know-how informs the content that is included and how it is compiled.
3. Problem-based and solution-focused
White papers should identify and address a particular problem. The problem should be relevant and timely in your field. The document may focus on issues such as common dilemmas, new trends, changing techniques, industry comparison, etc.
The white paper must have a proposed solution or recommendation to answer the problem. This solution is based on a thorough examination of the problem and potential solutions.
White paper preparation
The selected topic must be comprehensively researched. Pull information from online references, industry resources, and internal documents. White papers are data-focused, so they should be supported by significant research.
There’s no hard and fast rule on citations but you need to cite any information that is not public knowledge and that you didn’t know before beginning your research. However, understand that the reader’s confidence is likely to increase with an increasing number of cited references.
Of course, all resources must come from authoritative sites. In order to write a valuable document, all research materials must be from credible, reliable sources.
Read other white papers
Are there white papers covering your topic or area already? Read them to determine the knowledge gaps and the opportunities to build on existing content. This review will also ensure that your white paper is novel instead of redundant.
Use a mind-map
It can be overwhelming to keep track of the many sources, ideas, and content involved in preparing a white paper. A helpful organizational tool is the mind-map . A mind-map allows the writer to catalog and connect the many different pieces into one visual overview.
We suggest using the free tool MindMeister to organize your content. It’s simple to use and free.
FreeMind is another alternative but some organizations don't allow it to be used since it must be downloaded.
White paper format
White papers generally follow a standard document format. The content order may seem similar to other business reports, but there is one major difference:
A white paper places the conclusion at the end.
Many business communications, such as technical reports or proposals, place the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This order responds to the desires of the reader and their preference in receiving the information.
In a white paper, the content and research inform the reader and increase their understanding of the problem throughout the document. The final section provides the ‘ta-da!’ moment where the reader now receives the solution which is supported by the evidence in the document.
The reader’s journey and preferences in a white paper and business report differ. The major findings follow suit.
If you’re unsure of these distinctions or are looking to improve your business writing skills, consider enrolling in our online self-paced Technical Report Writing Course (see all of our courses here ).
And, no matter the journey, the document must be easy to understand and include informative headings for easy navigation.
Choose an accurate title
A good title is essential. It should clearly indicate what the reader will learn from the white paper. It should also be enticing.
Bland title example: White paper on Law 123.4 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments.
Enticing title example: The Rules are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2018
The phrase ‘white paper’ does not necessarily need to be in the title at all. Some audiences are seeking that authoritative indicator. Other readers may be scared off from valuable content because of the term. As always, think of what your audience would prefer.
The abstract offers the reader a brief overview of the white paper’s main points. It allows the reader to ensure they have found a document relevant to their needs. After reading, the reader should be able to know if they are ‘in the right place.’
The problem statement specifies the issue the white paper will address. The problem needs to be defined and placed into a context to ensure it’s understood by the reader.
This section provides the background information required for the audience to grasp the problem and, ultimately, the solution. The content may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level. The content depends on the reader and the problem.
If original research is completed for the white paper, the methods should be communicated.
The ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper.
Based on the preceding information, the solution is now presented. It is developed and argued for using the gathered evidence and the expertise of the author and their company.
This section summarizes the white paper’s major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are provided.
All sources used to develop the white paper must be collected and cited in this section. It adds validity to the document. It also gives the reader content for further research. Depending on your industry, follow MLA or APA citation formats.
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Writing a good white paper is not a simple task. However, the investment of time and skill can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge, contributing to overall education and progress in your industry. And, a good white paper increases business opportunities.
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How To Write a Whitepaper Document
Table of Contents
A white paper is the perfect format to compile and share your business’s deep knowledge of the industry. It’s a useful product that can highlight your company’s expertise, and it’s also a valuable marketing tool. But how exactly do you transform your knowledge into a cohesive white paper?
White papers and business reports are similar, yet still distinct from one another. To write a successful white paper, it’s necessary to understand the difference and cover various key elements. This article will help you determine whether a white paper is for you, as well as how to prepare and produce one.
What Is a White Paper?
A white paper is an authoritative document. It’s meant to fully inform the reader on a specific topic by combining expert knowledge and research into one document, which argues for a specific recommendation or solution. White papers allow the reader to either understand an issue, make a decision, or solve a problem.
White papers are focused on data, and they’re very text-heavy business documents. Because of their large amount of data and research, they are deep reads with a generally formal tone.
Use and Value
There are two main reasons that businesses write white papers: to market themselves and to record expertise. Usually, white papers are written for an audience outside of the business, so they’re a tool to attract readers to the company with their top-quality industry knowledge.
A white paper is not a sales pitch, however. It doesn’t bid for business; instead, it sells the company by highlighting valuable recommendations and internal expertise.
Sales Pitch: 10 Ways XYZ Marketing Will Save Money in Your Advertising Budget
White Paper: Advertising: Matching Marketing Platforms and Needs
How to Select a Topic for Your White Paper
If you want people to read your white paper, then you have to choose the right topic. There are three major factors to remember:
The audience should always be your first consideration. Every white paper needs to be written with your target reader in mind. The audience could be prospective buyers that are new to the field, or it could be long-time customers who have familiarity with the industry.
Focus on the reader’s major questions or pain points. Look for topics within these that haven’t yet been fully investigated, or for which the available information would benefit from an update.
A white paper should highlight and match your company’s expertise, providing a complete investigation with both internal knowledge and external research. The content included and the way it’s put together is informed by your business’s own know-how.
3. Problem-Based and Solution-Focused
White papers identify and address specific problems. The particular problem you choose for your white paper should be timely and relevant in your field. It may focus on issues like new trends, changing techniques, industry comparison, and common dilemmas. Your white paper should have a proposed recommendation or solution that answers the problem. This solution is formulated through a thorough examination of the problem and its possible solutions.
White Paper Preparation
You always need to do comprehensive research on your selected topic before writing your white paper. Use information from internal documents, industry resources, and online references. Remember that white papers are data-focused, so they need to be supported by a significant amount of research.
Although there’s no exact rule regarding the number of required citations, you’ll need to cite any information that isn’t public knowledge and that you weren’t aware of before conducting your research. Still, you should be aware of the fact that your reader’s confidence in your white paper is likely to increase the more cited references you have. All resources must come from authoritative sites if you want to write a valuable document. Look for research materials that have credible and reliable sources.
Read Other White Papers
If there are already white papers that cover your area or topic, read them so you can identify the knowledge gaps and opportunities to build on content that already exists. This also ensures that your white paper isn’t redundant and introduces new ideas.
Use a Mind Map
There are many ideas, sources, and content involved in preparing a white paper, and it can be a challenge to keep track of everything. A mind map is a helpful organizational tool that helps the writer catalog and connect all of the pieces into one visual overview. The free tool FreeMind is a great way to organise your content, and it’s simple to use.
Related: Learn about better organising your ideas to serve your audience needs: How thinking small can improve your writing
White Paper Format
There is a standard document format that white papers generally follow. The order of the content is similar to other business reports, but the major difference is that the conclusion is placed at the end of the white paper. Often, you’ll see business communications like proposals and technical reports put the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This is a way to cater to readers’ desires and their preference to receive the information as quickly as possible.
The content and research in a white paper inform the reader and continue to increase their understanding of the issue throughout the entire document. In the final section, the reader receives the solution, which is supported by all of the evidence put forth in the document.
The journey and preferences of the reader are different for white papers and business reports. The major findings follow suit. But regardless of the journey, the white paper must include informative headings and be easy to understand.
Choose an Accurate Title
A good title is crucial. The title should be enticing and indicate exactly what the reader will learn from reading the white paper.
Bland Title Example:
White paper on Law 567.8 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments
Enticing Title Example:
The Rules Are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2021
It’s not necessary to include the phrase “white paper” in the title. While some audiences are looking for that type of authoritative indicator, others may shy away from valuable content simply due to the use of the term. Always consider what your audience would prefer.
The abstract is the first portion of the white paper. It offers readers a short overview of the white paper’s main points and shows the reader whether the document is relevant for them. After reading the abstract, the reader should know whether they’re “in the right place.”
Next, the problem statement identifies the issue that will be addressed within the white paper. The problem should be well-defined and contextualized so that it is understood by the reader.
The background section of a white paper provides the background information that’s needed for the audience to understand the problem and the solution. Depending on your topic and audience, the content could be technical and detailed, or it could be broad and high-level. If you complete original research for the white paper, be sure to communicate the methods.
The solution is the “ta-da” moment of the white paper, and it’s based on the preceding information. This solution is developed and argued through the use of the gathered evidence, as well as the author’s and company’s expertise.
The conclusion of a white paper summarizes its major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are also presented here.
Within the references section, you’ll need to collect and cite all of the sources that were used to develop the white paper. This adds validity to your document while also providing the reader with further research materials. Depending on the industry, you’ll need to follow either MLA or APA citation formatting rules.
It’s not a simple task to write a white paper. But if you put in sufficient time and skill, you can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge and expertise. It can contribute to the overall education and progress in your industry. Finally, a good white paper can also increase your business opportunities.
Want to sharpen your business writing skills? Discover our acclaimed online courses at syntaxtraining.com
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- How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples
How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples
Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis , dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.
Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.
One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:
Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.
In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
Table of contents
Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about abstracts.
Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.
This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the US during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).
Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.
Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.
A faster, more affordable way to improve your paper
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You will almost always have to include an abstract when:
- Completing a thesis or dissertation
- Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
- Writing a book or research proposal
- Applying for research grants
It’s easiest to write your abstract last, right before the proofreading stage, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:
- Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
- Be fully understandable on its own
- Reflect the structure of your larger work
Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?
You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic , but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialized terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.
After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.
This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.
- This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
- This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.
- Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
- Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.
Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.
Next, summarize the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.
- Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
- Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
- Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.
Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.
- We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
- We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.
If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalizability of your research.
If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.
If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.
Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.
It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.
Read other abstracts
The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.
You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .
Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.
For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.
Write clearly and concisely
A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.
To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:
- Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
- Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
- Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
- Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
- Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.
If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or use the paraphrasing tool .
Check your formatting
If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .
The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.
The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .
I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.
I have briefly described my methodology .
I have summarized the most important results .
I have stated my main conclusions .
I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.
The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.
You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.
If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:
- To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
- To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.
Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.
An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.
The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .
Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:
- The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
- The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.
There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.
The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
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What this handout is about
This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.
What is an abstract?
An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.
Why write an abstract?
You may write an abstract for various reasons. The two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, many online databases use abstracts to index larger works. Therefore, abstracts should contain keywords and phrases that allow for easy searching.
Say you are beginning a research project on how Brazilian newspapers helped Brazil’s ultra-liberal president Luiz Ignácio da Silva wrest power from the traditional, conservative power base. A good first place to start your research is to search Dissertation Abstracts International for all dissertations that deal with the interaction between newspapers and politics. “Newspapers and politics” returned 569 hits. A more selective search of “newspapers and Brazil” returned 22 hits. That is still a fair number of dissertations. Titles can sometimes help winnow the field, but many titles are not very descriptive. For example, one dissertation is titled “Rhetoric and Riot in Rio de Janeiro.” It is unclear from the title what this dissertation has to do with newspapers in Brazil. One option would be to download or order the entire dissertation on the chance that it might speak specifically to the topic. A better option is to read the abstract. In this case, the abstract reveals the main focus of the dissertation:
This dissertation examines the role of newspaper editors in the political turmoil and strife that characterized late First Empire Rio de Janeiro (1827-1831). Newspaper editors and their journals helped change the political culture of late First Empire Rio de Janeiro by involving the people in the discussion of state. This change in political culture is apparent in Emperor Pedro I’s gradual loss of control over the mechanisms of power. As the newspapers became more numerous and powerful, the Emperor lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people. To explore the role of the newspapers in the political events of the late First Empire, this dissertation analyzes all available newspapers published in Rio de Janeiro from 1827 to 1831. Newspapers and their editors were leading forces in the effort to remove power from the hands of the ruling elite and place it under the control of the people. In the process, newspapers helped change how politics operated in the constitutional monarchy of Brazil.
From this abstract you now know that although the dissertation has nothing to do with modern Brazilian politics, it does cover the role of newspapers in changing traditional mechanisms of power. After reading the abstract, you can make an informed judgment about whether the dissertation would be worthwhile to read.
Besides selection, the other main purpose of the abstract is for indexing. Most article databases in the online catalog of the library enable you to search abstracts. This allows for quick retrieval by users and limits the extraneous items recalled by a “full-text” search. However, for an abstract to be useful in an online retrieval system, it must incorporate the key terms that a potential researcher would use to search. For example, if you search Dissertation Abstracts International using the keywords “France” “revolution” and “politics,” the search engine would search through all the abstracts in the database that included those three words. Without an abstract, the search engine would be forced to search titles, which, as we have seen, may not be fruitful, or else search the full text. It’s likely that a lot more than 60 dissertations have been written with those three words somewhere in the body of the entire work. By incorporating keywords into the abstract, the author emphasizes the central topics of the work and gives prospective readers enough information to make an informed judgment about the applicability of the work.
When do people write abstracts?
- when submitting articles to journals, especially online journals
- when applying for research grants
- when writing a book proposal
- when completing the Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
- when writing a proposal for a conference paper
- when writing a proposal for a book chapter
Most often, the author of the entire work (or prospective work) writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract. Undergraduates are sometimes asked to draft abstracts of books/articles for classmates who have not read the larger work.
Types of abstracts
There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. They have different aims, so as a consequence they have different components and styles. There is also a third type called critical, but it is rarely used. If you want to find out more about writing a critique or a review of a work, see the UNC Writing Center handout on writing a literature review . If you are unsure which type of abstract you should write, ask your instructor (if the abstract is for a class) or read other abstracts in your field or in the journal where you are submitting your article.
A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short—100 words or less.
The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the complete article/paper/book. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it may be much less.
Here are examples of a descriptive and an informative abstract of this handout on abstracts . Descriptive abstract:
The two most common abstract types—descriptive and informative—are described and examples of each are provided.
Abstracts present the essential elements of a longer work in a short and powerful statement. The purpose of an abstract is to provide prospective readers the opportunity to judge the relevance of the longer work to their projects. Abstracts also include the key terms found in the longer work and the purpose and methods of the research. Authors abstract various longer works, including book proposals, dissertations, and online journal articles. There are two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. A descriptive abstract briefly describes the longer work, while an informative abstract presents all the main arguments and important results. This handout provides examples of various types of abstracts and instructions on how to construct one.
Which type should I use?
Your best bet in this case is to ask your instructor or refer to the instructions provided by the publisher. You can also make a guess based on the length allowed; i.e., 100-120 words = descriptive; 250+ words = informative.
How do I write an abstract?
The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:
- Reason for writing: What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
- Problem: What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
- Methodology: An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
- Results: Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
- Implications: What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?
(This list of elements is adapted with permission from Philip Koopman, “How to Write an Abstract.” )
All abstracts include:
- A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
- The most important information first.
- The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
- Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
- Clear, concise, and powerful language.
Abstracts may include:
- The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
- Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
- The same chronological structure as the original work.
How not to write an abstract:
- Do not refer extensively to other works.
- Do not add information not contained in the original work.
- Do not define terms.
If you are abstracting your own writing
When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.
This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper– see our short video . For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence. Practice grouping ideas using webbing or color coding .
For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.
Cut and paste:
To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.
If you are abstracting someone else’s writing
When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:
Identify key terms:
Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.
Highlight key phrases and sentences:
Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.
Don’t look back:
After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.
Revise, revise, revise
No matter what type of abstract you are writing, or whether you are abstracting your own work or someone else’s, the most important step in writing an abstract is to revise early and often. When revising, delete all extraneous words and incorporate meaningful and powerful words. The idea is to be as clear and complete as possible in the shortest possible amount of space. The Word Count feature of Microsoft Word can help you keep track of how long your abstract is and help you hit your target length.
Example 1: Humanities abstract
Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998
This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.
Now let’s break down this abstract into its component parts to see how the author has distilled his entire dissertation into a ~200 word abstract.
What the dissertation does This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.
How the dissertation does it The time period studied in this dissertation includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies.
What materials are used Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports.
Conclusion This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to movement demands and the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.
Keywords social movements Civil Rights Movement Mississippi voting rights desegregation
Example 2: Science Abstract
Luis Lehner, “Gravitational radiation from black hole spacetimes” Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1998 DAI-B 59/06, p. 2797, Dec 1998
The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search for and analysis of detected signals. The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm. This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.
This science abstract covers much of the same ground as the humanities one, but it asks slightly different questions.
Why do this study The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search and analysis of the detected signals.
What the study does The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm.
Results This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.
Keywords gravitational radiation (GR) spacetimes black holes
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.
Kilborn, Judith. 1998. “Writing Abstracts.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated October 20, 1998. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/bizwrite/abstracts.html .
Koopman, Philip. 1997. “How to Write an Abstract.” Carnegie Mellon University. October 1997. http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html .
Lancaster, F.W. 2003. Indexing And Abstracting in Theory and Practice , 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing.
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The 2023 Ultimate Guide: How to Write and Format a White Paper
The step by step guide to succeeding with white paper marketing.
- 1 What is a white paper?
- 2. White paper examples
- 3 How to write a white paper
- 4 Mistakes a white paper should avoid
- 5 White paper Format
- 6 Gating your white papers
- 7 White paper distribution
- 8 Handling your white paper leads
- 9 Choosing the right white paper template
- 10 Final thoughts
White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader and authority on a subject by presenting useful and persuasive research findings and information about your products and services, White papers can also be used as a powerful asset to generate more leads when the information is valuable enough for readers to submit their personal details in order to access your findings. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy .
1. What is a white paper?
A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.
In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content , similar to an eBook . The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data.
The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.
Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.
White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership .
Who uses white papers?
In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.
With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.
Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.
Types of white papers
There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.
- One type is the backgrounder , in which the benefits of their product, service, or methodology are explained in depth.
- Another is a problem-solution approach, which walks the audience through the solution to a problem that is common in their industry.
Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.
Whatever type you produce , the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for an information document, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.
The contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area.
The purpose of a white paper
White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you're reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for an informational document to help them understand a problem or opportunity they're facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they'll turn to you again in the future.
This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.
Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation . The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks , case studies, analyst reports , podcasts, brochures , or infographics.
With all of these potential benefits, utilizing white papers in your content marketing strategy can produce great results.
More than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper.
2. White paper examples
When you think about white papers, you probably think of PDF articles with thousands of words. But times are changing and so is the way we produce and consume content.
Nowadays, every marketing collateral (including white papers) needs to be well written, well structured, and designed for every type of visitor.
Here are some great examples of white papers doing exactly that.
This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what's possible with our embed feature.
Open white paper example #1
Privacy and the GDPR - BDO
This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that's engaging and comes to life.
Open white paper example #2
This white paper is a step by step guide to succeeding with content marketing.
See more white paper examples
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3. How to write a white paper
Starting a white paper can be a daunting task. So much information and research are required that it’s easy to get lost in that portion of the work and let it become a roadblock to actually putting things on paper.
Even after the writing itself has begun, white papers are tricky to do well. Simply listing statistics without some form of narrative arc is a surefire way to keep your white paper from ever being read. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines can help keep a white paper engaging and make the process of finishing it much easier.
Pick the right topic
This might seem obvious, but without a topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper is not likely to be read. When choosing the right topic, you should consider three important criteria:
- It should be something you are qualified to write about.
- It should be something your audience is interested in.
- It should address a topic around which little content has been written already and thus fill a " content gap ."
Naturally, finding a topic that brings points 1 and 2 together is vital. White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content based upon the author's experience and expertise, so it's important to write about what you know . But you must match this to the interests of your readers if you're to produce something they'll be eager to engage with .
Don't be afraid to crowdsource information from within your organization. If the topic of a white paper is related to engineering, why not interview an engineer or have them look over what you’ve written? The same goes for other roles. Crowdsourcing knowledge means having the power of a true expert in many fields.
Finally, filling a "content gap" will help your white paper get noticed and gain traction. By addressing a topic no one else has written about definitely, your white paper will be more likely to rank highly on search engines and even be featured elsewhere on the web.
Pro tip: You can even ask your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. You'll get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you'll generate buzz around your content even before it's finished. In fact, we used the same method for this guide!
Define your audience
Defining your audience goes hand in hand with choosing the right topic. But moving beyond your audience's interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.
- Are they fellow professionals, well versed in your subject?
- Are they likely to be reading something they are relatively unfamiliar with?
Knowing this helps establish the voice you should use and whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. It also narrows the scope of the research you should include. It’s always important to ensure all arguments are logically sound and well supported, but the stats and information presented should be relevant to the specific audience you're targeting.
Part of defining an audience in the age of Google centers around how people will find the white paper. This means thinking about which platforms specific personas use for research and what search terms they put in. Not only will this help a white paper get found by the right people, but it is useful when outlining the white paper later on.
Optimizing for keywords is important, but remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content . This has become particularly important with the advent of AI-powered language models which can produce long-form content at scale.
Wrap it in a great intro and outro
Ad with all good writing, your intro should serve to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It's good practice to provide a brief summary of what they'll find in the white paper and to emphasize exactly what benefit they'll get from reading it.
Your outro is equally important, especially if you're using your white paper to market your products or services. You should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper, but you can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them — perhaps using a compelling call-to-action — at the end.
Pack it with value
White papers are not meant to be advertisements for your company, and you should avoid any overt promotion. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful information that will be valuable to readers even if they don't become customers. Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.
Remember, white papers serve to showcase your expertise as a company or brand in a given field. Your readers should come away having learned something useful and with the impression that you're a reliable source of expert information. As pointed out earlier, generating this kind of reputation will lead to greater business success as buyers are more likely to purchase from companies they trust.
Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.
Don’t be scared of multiple drafts
No first draft is ever a finished work. Elizabeth Bishop, the renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote seventeen drafts of her poem “One Art” before it was completed. It’s now considered one of the best villanelles ever written .
While a white paper may not need seventeen drafts, there will undoubtedly be points missed and logical inconsistencies in the first version. Finishing a draft, stepping away, and coming back to it with a fresh mind is the best way to ensure quality. If there’s another good writer at your company, getting another set of eyes on it is even better.
Keep it interesting
White papers should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks . This may cause them to be more dry and formal, but this doesn't mean they have to be boring.
A trap that white papers easily fall into is using statistics as a crutch and not maintaining interest throughout. Technical as it may be, you still want your white paper to be read. To make this happen, it’s useful to borrow techniques from fiction and creative nonfiction writers.
There are lots of resources for learning about a plot, but generally, it has five parts, as illustrated in Freytag’s pyramid:
These won’t always correspond perfectly in a factual piece of writing like a white paper, but they can get you thinking about how to create and hold interest. Use those ideas to keep readers’ attention until the very end.
4. Mistakes a white paper should avoid
There are some pitfalls and common mistakes to avoid when writing a white paper. Each of these has the potential to make an otherwise stellar piece of content into a wasted effort. Here's a brief list of things to look out for.
Sounding like a sales pitch
When white papers are used as part of a marketing campaign where businesses showcase their product, a common mistake is to make them sound like a sales pitch . Don't let this happen; it will immediately turn your readers off. In a white paper, your audience is seeking unbiased, educational information that will help them, not try to persuade them. Save the sales pitches for other content, like product brochures .
Lack of adequate research
As previously mentioned, white papers should be well-researched documents. It’s true that conducting lengthy original research may be outside a marketing team’s budget, but merely including a few stats from the first page of a Google search simply won’t cut it.
Aggregating statistics and searching through scholarly work may take time, but the result will be worth it. For your white paper to achieve its intended effect, It’s important to establish your content as an authoritative source to which the audience would want to return.
We'll go in-depth into design in the next section, but it's worth mentioning here. The written content of a white paper is what matters most, but neglecting design is a big mistake. Design makes your salient points stand out and helps the reader understand what they're reading. Using visuals (like images, animations , videos, charts, and graphs) that support your arguments is crucial.
Check out this white paper example built with Foleon!. Open the white paper
Not telling a story
White papers are informative and factual. We’ve driven that point home already. That doesn’t mean they should be boring. Backgrounders, problem-solution white papers, and research findings all have a story to tell, and the reader is far less likely to make it through the entire piece without some form of narrative to keep them engaged. Setting up a problem, elaborating on a solution, and including some type of success story is a proven formula for making any type of content more story-like.
Leaving it abstract
Because most white papers will involve sharing research findings, it can be easy to leave them in the realm of theory without explaining how to utilize those findings on a practical level. This is true more of backgrounders but can be the case with problem-solution white papers as well.
A good example is the abundant amount of content on employee engagement. Many B2B cases have covered the importance of employee engagement and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Too little of this content goes further and gives concrete examples of what companies in specific verticals can do to alleviate the problem.
5. White paper format
Before addressing anything else, we first need to talk about the format you'll use.
A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Today, its value is in the number of eyeballs it can keep glued to your content and the ratio of those viewers it convinces to click through to other sections of your website.
Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish . And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute , competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. Long form mediums like the white paper need serious sparkle just to compete.
How to format a white paper
You'll need more than just black text on a white background. Your design choices regarding things like color, typography, and the use of visuals will play a prominent role in the success of your white paper. Here are a few important principles to keep in mind for creating a quality white paper design.
Keeping mobile visitors in mind
More than 54% of internet traffic is now mobile , and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design . Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices.
Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.
But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted . Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format .
The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens . They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.
Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF , you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.
See examples of responsive white papers
Emphasis and readability
Because in-depth white papers contain lots of text and visuals, as well as supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos and copyright info, the danger is that your design becomes cluttered. Clutter accumulates before you realize it. You may choose a clean layout and color scheme, to begin with, but as you continue to add content, things can get crowded. Often, you must make tough choices about what not to include to strike the right balance between completeness and readability.
Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information. These choices and priorities affect layout, placement, color, font size, page order and more. Use these design elements to create emphasis on vital pieces of information. But be careful. Emphasizing too many pieces of information — or too few — will cause readers to struggle to discern what’s important.
Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information.
Have a look at what's trending
Bold fonts and color schemes are in. If you look at the hippest tech companies right now, you’ll see lots of pastels and color gradients. Of course, all that might change tomorrow. But still, a great way to get inspiration when you're just starting is to take a look at what design trends are currently popular.
U2's frontman, Bono, sings "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And he's right. Good designers are always drawing inspiration from other designers. The best way to create a successful design is to spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing successfully. Use Evernote , or a bookmarking service to save white papers and other exceptional designs that you encounter for future reference.
Don’t know where to start looking? Dribbble and Behance are two networks where great designers share their latest work. They consistently have material that’s on the cutting edge of what’s trending.
Design for your audience
While trends may inspire you, it's more important to align your design with your audience and your subject matter.
- Will you be addressing suit-and-tie financial executives or blue-collar management at construction firms?
- Are you writing about changes to privacy regulations in the tech industry, or about the effects of farming on biodiversity?
Your design should support and strengthen your topic. The colors and typography should be consistent with what you're writing about, the tone you've chosen, and the audience you've defined. Writing a white paper for a funeral parlor? Hot-pink headlines might be a bad choice. Taking color psychology into account can help you achieve the look and feel you're after.
Brush up on the basics
No prior knowledge of design? No problem.
If you don’t have a designer working with you in-house, you can still teach yourself the basics of design and check work against those principles. A big part of the battle is knowing the search terms that will get you the knowledge you need. Luckily, good primers on basic graphic design are abundant.
After doing a bit of reading, start creating. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you create a white paper and don’t like the design, try to pinpoint what it is about the design that needs improvement. After the reading you’ve done, you’ll have the tools to critique your own work and the work of others. This is the best way to improve and create well designed white papers.
Choosing the right tools
At Foleon, we pride ourselves on providing a tool that makes creating responsive digital white papers easy, even for those with no prior graphic design experience.
Choosing a tool like this, which takes the guesswork out of design, will shorten the time it takes for you to produce great white papers. There is a vast ecosystem of tools out there, each of which is geared toward a different purpose and skillset. The right one will enable you as both a designer and a writer.
See how you can scale engaging content creation .
6. Gating your white papers
For most companies, lead generation and growing lists of contacts for the sales and marketing teams are important activities. Attracting visitors to your site and offering them something of value in exchange for their contact information is a proven method for filling the top of your funnel.
But for this type of inbound marketing to work, two things are needed: exceptional content that visitors are eager to acquire, and a method for gating (or walling off) that content behind a form.
Many brands skip the first part and move straight to the second. They quickly produce something mediocre and put it behind a form. This might work in the short term for generating lists, but keep in mind that users expect more from content they “pay” for. The quality of your gated content serves as an indicator of the quality of your brand will affect your ability to turn prospects into customers down the road.
So how do white papers fit into your b2b content marketing funnel ? They may act either as lead generation tools themselves or can be used to direct readers to other parts of a website that captures lead information.
What is gated content?
Walling expert content off behind a form designed to capture personal details is one of the most common techniques for generating leads. Gated content is any content that a reader cannot access until after they input some personal information, such as their name and email address. White papers and eBooks are two of the most common types of content used for this purpose.
Typically, a company will create a landing page that includes a description — and perhaps a preview — of what information readers can expect to find inside. The landing page will include a form for visitors to enter their personal information and thus gain access. After entering the required information, visitors are either presented with a download button or receive the gated content in their inbox.
There are plenty of variations on this formula, but the basic technique of providing “free” content and asking readers to “pay” by providing their personal information has been very important part of content marketing for a long time.
To gate or not to gate
While gating your best content is great for lead generation, there are some drawbacks as well. Walling off your white paper will mean it gets read by fewer people as not everyone is willing to give away their contact details.
An open-access white paper will be read by a wider audience. If it’s in-depth and authoritative, it may also do well organically and improve your search rankings. Gating it behind a form, however, will prevent search engines from indexing it.
It’s important to consider what the primary goal of your white paper is: disseminating information and gaining brand awareness or generating leads. If the latter is more important, then gating is a great option.
Another variation on gated content — and one that’s growing in popularity — is semi-gating . This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.
Semi-gating gives readers a taste of your white paper without requiring them to give up any info. You can, for example, make the first few pages of your white paper open access, and then make visitors fill in a form to read more. This works well because digital content is so abundant and brands must offer more for free or risk visitors turning elsewhere.
Allow your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.
Offering more content for free also builds trust and brand loyalty among your readers. Let them know your white papers are valuable and helpful, and they’ll be more interested in giving you their personal information. You’re also more likely to gain qualified leads if readers have a chance to sample your white paper before converting.
Of course, semi-gating doesn’t mean giving away your entire white paper. Typically, there’s at least one section of the white paper that is exclusive to those who go through the gating process. Semi-gating can help reach a wider audience, build trust and loyalty, increase lead quality, and still help you capture the contact information you need.
There’s a concept in marketing and design known as friction . Friction is anything that causes the sales process to slow down. It’s like a roadblock that makes it less likely prospects will convert, sign up, download, or purchase. It can be caused by a multitude of things including poor design, confusing navigation, subpar copy, too many form fields, and more.
Your ability to generate leads with a gated white paper will largely depend on how much friction is involved. Asking for more information than you really need is one common and unnecessary source of friction that can lead to losing potential readers.
The entire field of conversion rate optimization is geared toward removing friction — or making user interactions easier. CRO specialists make forms simpler, navigation more intuitive, and design CTAs that are more likely to be clicked. Optimizing your landing page for conversions is a vital part of any lead generation campaign.
But the reality is, asking for personal information will always be an obstacle for a large number of people. So the key here is to make the process easy and noninvasive as possible.
An excellent way to do this is by reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum and using mid-gating to ensure your ask is timely and yields immediate value for the reader: "Fill out this form to get access to the rest of this white paper, we've saved the best for last!".
Create white papers and eBooks that integrate with your favorite CRM or marketing automation platform. Get started
7. White paper distribution
So, after following the tips in this guide, you create an engaging, informative white paper that inspires readers to take action and deepen their relationship with your company. You mid-gate (or semi-gate) it to capture readers’ information and gain valuable insight into the interests and demographics of your consumer base.
Now, you publish it on your website, sit back, and wait for your Pulitzer.
Only, the traffic never comes… Where did you go wrong? You didn't think about your white paper distribution strategy .
The importance of distribution
The internet isn’t the same as it once was. Thanks to the massive amount of content produced every day for and an ever-growing number of channels, it’s a lot harder to get noticed. Unless you’re Gabriel García Márquez back from the dead, simply writing something and posting it online doesn’t guarantee readership.
To get eyes on your white paper, you need to be smart not only about writing and design but distribution as well. Some content marketing thought leaders go so far as to claim that you should spend 20% of your time on content creation and 80% on promotion.
Distribution is all about identifying traction channels where your ideal customers consume content and making your white paper highly visible on those channels. Depending on the audience you defined in the beginning, some will be more relevant for you than others.
If you’re at all familiar with marketing, advertising, or online media, chances are you’re aware of how important social media is to visibility. People from all walks of life, and from all over the world, are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ensuring that you share your content regularly on these platforms will give you a solid base of promotion on which to build.
But it's not enough to simply write a post and tweet it into the void. Try to find communities like Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram . Find subreddits relevant to your industry.
Once you’ve found your audience, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you contribute to these spaces regularly, you’ll have an easier time keeping their attention and distributing your white paper.
Influencers and earned media
Public relations isn’t what it once was; influencer marketing has taken its place as the way to get noticed by the masses.
These days, influencers — people with large, engaged followings on social media and newsletters — are better equipped to amplify your content than traditional journalists. They play a growing role in shaping public opinion and even in setting business trends . Shares from an influencer can even help you land spots in major publications the way press releases used to.
Social media is the best place to find influencers in your vertical. When you investigate the best communities in which to promote your white paper, look for the content that people are already referencing and sharing. Eventually, you’ll start to get a picture of who’s putting out content that’s getting widespread traction. These are the people whose voices can amplify your brand.
Start by interacting with them. Begin a conversation, comment on their pieces with regularity, and give them feedback on their work. There are great tools, like Voila Norbert and ContactOut , to help you quickly track down email addresses.
After building enough rapport, try offering to collaborate on future white papers or other types of content. This process can take some time because your goal here is to build a relationship.
Eventually, you can ask an influencer to share your white paper. You might even consider quoting them in the white paper itself — anything that gives them an incentive to share your work is helpful.
Pro tip: Try to find an expert in your white paper related subject and interview them. It will add value to your white paper and you'll increase the chance that the expert shares your content with his or her extensive network.
The jungle of online content may thicken daily, but there are a few places you can still get readers’ attention. Email distribution has stood the test of time in this regard. It provides greater ROI than social , and it shows no signs of weakening.
If the purpose of your white paper is lead generation, email marketing will not be applicable. But for boosting sales, building trust, and establishing your brand as a trustworthy source of information, it's important not to neglect your existing contact base.
Although email may not have the appealing viral possibilities associated with social media, it does have other advantages. Namely, anyone who subscribed to your email list chose to be there. This means you can expect a higher level of engagement from this audience than those who come in via other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and engagement by encouraging contacts to share your white paper with their networks and thus multiply your distribution efforts.
This was discussed in the previous section, but it's worth mentioning again here: another big advantage of Foleon's gating features is that when your existing contacts share your white paper with their contacts, those people will be confronted with a login form that will allow you to capture their info and expand your email list further.
Going beyond the basics
The techniques discussed above are essential items in your white paper distribution toolbox. However, they’re not the only ones. The best way to distribute your white paper depends largely on your target audience and the industry to which your content speaks.
Take some time to critically evaluate and research how knowledge is shared in your industry. Every industry will be slightly different. Reaching people in these places is the best guarantee of effective distribution.
8. Handling your white paper leads
As we've discussed, white papers can serve a variety of objectives. They’re commonly used for thought leadership and to disseminate important research, relevant to a specific industry.
When it comes to content marketing, however, the most common use for white papers over the last several years has become lead generation. In chapter 6, we discussed how to bring readers to your white paper and capture their information.
Once you've properly gated your white paper and set up a solid distribution strategy, it's time to think about how you'll handle the leads that come in. If not properly tracked and nurtured, leads will quickly become cold and won't lead to increased sales for your company. So how do you follow up with leads and maximize the opportunity you’ve created with your white paper?
How to track your white paper leads
The buyer’s journey outlines the steps a person goes through, from becoming aware of a problem they have, to learning about different solutions to that problem, to eventually purchasing a product or service (hopefully yours) that solves their problem.
To maximize the chances your new leads become paying customers, you must take the abstract concept of a buyer’s journey and map it to your specific content ecosystem. The actions your prospects take on your website can be indicative of what stage of the journey they're in.
For example, you may see someone read a blog post on your site, then come back a day later to get your white paper, and then finally sign up for a free trial or an email list. After that, they might decide to make a purchase. As patterns begin to emerge around the journey your customers take, you'll learn what actions on your part can help them to advance.
There are many tools available to help you analyze this journey for yourself. Google Analytics is probably the most widely used. It lets you track and compile data regarding user behavior on your website. You can define goals and generate reports that will show you steps users tend to take before completing those goals.
Targeting stages of the buyer’s journey
As it becomes more clear what actions visitors take before purchasing, you'll better understand where to use your white paper in the buyer's journey.
The question you should seek to answer is, where does it provide the most value to your potential customers? Do you see greater success when accessing your gated white paper is a prospect's first interaction with your company? Or is it perhaps more effective to use it as an offer once visitors have returned a second (or third) time to your site?
You can see that white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of an ecosystem. The related blog posts, landing pages, emails, social messages, and follow up sequences must all be carefully orchestrated and properly timed.
This process takes practice. It takes trial and error, and you must be a keen observer of trends . However, that effort will pay off.
...white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of a content ecosystem.
Following up with your leads
Depending on where in the buyer's journey you use your white paper, the way you'll want to follow up with leads will be different.
- If, for example, your white paper targets the awareness stage and the leads you gather are relatively unfamiliar with your company, it might be smart to enroll them in an email sequence that highlights other pieces of content on your site such as blog posts that are relevant to the topic they showed interest in.
- If your white paper is for people in the consideration stage, and leads are already familiar with what you have to offer, you might consider following up by sending them special offers or exclusive deals — again, closely related to the topic of interest.
- If you're taking a highly targeted approach to distribution and using your white paper to generate hot leads that you think are already close to making a purchasing decision, the best way to follow up might be for a sales representative to reach out directly by phone.
This is what it means to nurture leads. By proactively keeping in touch with leads and offering them more relevant content, you maximize the likelihood of them becoming a customer.
9. Choosing the right white paper template
In 2021, Hubspot reported that 82% of marketers actively invest in content marketing. Thus, the need to create interactive content experiences that stand out amongst your competitors has never been more critical in your content marketing strategy as the volume of published white papers grows yearly.
For this reason, the visual representation of your white paper has become increasingly crucial for retaining your audience's interest. In addition to the value your white paper content provides your audience, the single most significant factor at your disposal to maintain content engagement is how your white paper is visually presented.
For whitepapers, the white paper template you opt for to present your content can significantly influence the success of your publication. The template is more than just a matter of aesthetics; it represents a strategic decision that affects user engagement, experience, and even how your brand is perceived.
Below are some factors you should carefully weigh when choosing your white paper template .
Target audience and content
The two biggest influences that will determine the selection of your white paper template are your target audience and the purpose of your content.
For example, if you create an annual report that provides Financial Services information or a research piece exploring trends in Software & IT salaries, you’ll want to use a template that easily represents data-rich elements such as tables and eye-catching statistics. In contrast, visually-oriented templates containing hi-res imagery or videos are better suited for online catalogs or digital magazines .
Think about your target audience's needs and how your template's layout can optimize your content's engagement.
Creative control with flexible features
You’ll get the most value out of your interactive white paper with a content creation platform that allows you to harness professionally designed white paper templates that are easy to use and fully customizable with a drag-and-drop interface. This will allow everyone in your team to create content quickly with no coding experience required.
Custom templates set your white paper up for success by providing a starting foundation to help guide the layout and structure of your content. Custom features allow you to design your white paper any way you like by quickly changing blocks, fonts, and colors according to your brand guidelines with the added ability to add or remove sections.
Mobile experience and device responsiveness
As of September 2023, over 55% of website traffic is from mobile devices. Therefore, it is essential that your white paper is responsive across all devices.
Most content creation platforms have integrated tools that automatically adapt your content to different screen sizes. However, to ensure the best possible user experience, you should always test your white paper on multiple devices as part of your content creation process before publishing.
Finally, website speed is one of the most significant factors influencing user experience and playing a pivotal role in organic rankings. According to section.io , 32.3% of visitors bounce from a webpage if it takes more than 7 seconds to load. Ensuring that your content creation platform and hosting services are optimized for website performance is critical in maximizing your readership when choosing your white paper template.
10. Final thoughts
Be prepared to write a lot more content.
By this point, you should have all the ingredients you need to make your white paper a rousing success. However, you’ll notice by now the reality that your white paper fits into a larger ecosystem of marketing actions and content.
In today’s business world, producing quality content is one of the best ways to get your target market's attention. But not everyone will be ready for the same piece of content at the same time.
From white papers to blog posts, to podcasts, the type of content that will drive conversions for your business is something you'll discover over time. What’s certain is that one type won't satisfy all your audience's needs. Because of that, you should be prepared to fill the rest of your buyer’s journey with other appropriate content.
This means lots of writing. There’s no way around that. It means coming up with content ideas, creating them, distributing them, and measuring their success — then rinsing and repeating. After this primer, you should be fully equipped for success writing not only white papers but whatever content you choose along your journey.
Marketing power plays.
Whether you're in content, comms, or demand gen, here are some novel tactics from Foleon’s Marketing team.
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20+ White Paper Examples [Design Guide + White Paper Templates]
By Sara McGuire , Jun 28, 2023
There’s a reason why white papers are a marketing staple. When created right, white papers boost your authority, solve problems for your clients and stakeholders and act as powerful lead magnets.
But how to you create a white paper that will drive results? Even if you fill your white paper with compelling content, a lackluster design may still hold you back.
In this guide and with the help of Venngage’s White Paper Maker , you’ll learn how to write and design white papers that engage readers, impress clients and generate sales leads. No expensive agencies, complicated software or design experience needed.
To add an element of enjoyment to the process, you can explore our collection of white paper templates that offer captivating and informative formats for narrating your story.
[Watch] How to Create a White Paper with Venngage:
White paper examples we’ll cover (click to jump ahead):
Business white paper examples, marketing white paper examples, government white paper examples.
- Policy paper examples
Research white paper examples
Hr white paper examples.
- White paper FAQ
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Businesses write white papers for a number of reasons. It’s a great document to showcase a company’s expertise in the field and to win over investors. A white paper can also be used for marketing purposes and brand awareness (which I’ll discuss in the next section ).
Here’s an example of a business white paper:
This business white paper example by Google aims to persuade the reader into adopting AI by leveraging Google’s authority. It also contains a technical deep dive for more advanced readers.
This is a perfect case of a business using white papers to demonstrate its expertise and establish itself as the thought leader in the industry.
To create a business white paper like this one, you can use a white paper template . Here’s an example of one:
Just so you know, some of our templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee. Sign up is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.
This business white paper template discusses the importance of employee engagement and different strategies to optimize engagement in a company. A staffing consultancy firm could create a business white paper like this one to demonstrate its expertise.
Now, if you already have a draft of your white paper content, you can just copy and paste it to a template you like. (If you haven’t written it yet, here’s a white paper writing guide you should definitely check out!)
But how do you make the most out of a business white paper template like the one above? Let’s take a look at some design tips you can apply:
1. Create an eye-catching white paper cover page
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of an eye-catching cover page. Like the cover of a book, a captivating cover page will entice people to open it and read it further.
At first glance, your readers should have an idea of what the white paper will contain. Use a photo that reflects the theme of your white paper, or create a visual using diverse icons .
Let’s check out a B2B white paper example on employee engagement. The two men on the cover could easily be a manager speaking with one of his team members.
Both look energized and engaged, indicating that this business white paper will offer valuable insight to companies looking to invigorate their employees.
2. Highlight key takeaways to summarize the information in your white paper
White papers tend to pack a ton of information within their pages. But in reality, many people aren’t going to take the time to read the whole paper cover to cover.
Try highlighting a few key takeaways that will get them excited about reading your white paper. Or outline exactly what they will trade their time to learn about.
As you can see in this white paper example, there’s a whole section that highlights the key takeaways in the report. Because it’s right on the front page, it’s hard to miss, which is a nice touch:
Pro Tip: Not sure which template is right for your use case? Venngage has a massive catalog of 500+ professional and engaging templates you can customize today. No more boring Word documents or endlessly struggling with expensive design tools. Browse our white paper templates.
3. Incorporate photos which resemble your target users in your white paper layout
Photos help create a connection between the information in your white paper and your reader. Using a photo on the cover also tells the reader what they can expect to find within the pages.
In this healthcare white paper template, the image of a child with a sugary dessert connects directly to the topic. The reader will instantly know what the paper is about.
If your goal with white papers is to promote your services and generate leads, your message needs to be memorable. Incorporating visuals resembling your target audience is one way to do so.
This content marketing white paper template depicts someone hard at work while downing a cup of coffee. The image would resonate most with professional marketers you’re trying to reach in a B2B capacity:
Return to Table of Contents
Businesses can use white papers as part of a content (and sales) marketing strategy such as lead generation . Most of the time, the white paper is gated — you need to insert your contact information before downloading/accessing the document. Here’s an example:
This white paper example by Frost & Sullivan (commissioned by Samsung Electronics America) explores the trends in the insurance industry. Specifically, it discusses the impact of digital transformation on this industry and how companies can deal with the change.
In order to access the white paper, you need to put in your contact information:
Now, let’s take a look at some more white paper design tips you can apply to make the best out of your marketing white paper:
4. Use high-quality photos with a consistent style
Photos, icons, and illustrations can play an important role in how effectively your white paper communicates information. It’s almost as important as knowing how to write a white paper that conveys information succinctly.
Don’t just use images for decoration. Instead, use photos to illustrate important concepts, to make information easier to understand, and to convey a mood. Marketing white paper examples, like this one, use bright, colorful photos to engage and excite readers.
Venngage’s integration with Pexels and Pixabay makes it easy to find thousands of high-quality stock photos. Check out our guide to incorporating stock photos seamlessly into your design.
Pro Tip: Use Venngage’s image swap button to change the images in a template in just 1-click. Your images and icons will be replaced with a new image that is already formatted to the template.
5. Use a neutral color scheme for a modern technology white paper design
Say you want to create a white paper to introduce new technology or explain tech-based solutions to problems. A white paper design with a sleek, modern and minimalistic design will likely appeal to techie people.
Pick a neutral background color like white or light grey. Then, pick visuals with similarly sleek color schemes. Tech white paper examples like this use a cool and muted grey palette:
But a great way to add some visual appeal to your white paper layout is to pick an accent color that you can use to make parts of your page pop. For example, this content marketing white paper template contrasts two cool corporate blue accents:
Pro Tip: With Venngage, you can scale your white paper creation without sacrificing quality. How? Once you’ve created a white paper you like, save it as a template to reuse it again. Or hand the design reins to a team member. Want to create a white paper with your team? Our real-time collaboration feature (Business plan only) can help.
Learning how to write a white paper that speaks to your readers is important. For example, when selecting images for your white paper, keep an eye out for people who resemble your target audience .
This will help communicate that your white paper is actually relevant to the group you’re trying to reach.
That said, in some cases, including photos resembling your target audience might not make sense. If this happens, I’d recommend including non-generic stock photos or authentic product images.
This modern business white paper template uses real product images as well as authentic stock photos to give it that visual flair:
Pro Tip: Need help with creating personas for your target audience? Our in-depth user persona guide will help you quickly get upto speed.
6. Use creative backgrounds for a trendy white paper design
A simple design trick to make your white paper more engaging is to use the right background. You can opt for a simple background pattern design to add some visual impact to your white paper layout, or even try a trendy color gradient.
For example, take a look at how a color gradient background gives this content marketing white paper template some wow factor:
Here’s a simpler marketing white paper template that opts for a vibrant color gradient background but with simpler font choices to give it a sleek professional look:
Alternatively, you can use a different color gradient on your white paper template to make it stand out. Remember to keep your branding in mind when choosing the color combination so readers recognize the white paper as belonging to your brand.
It’s so easy to experiment with white paper backgrounds, so don’t be shy about trying out different options. With Venngage, you can change your white paper background with 1-click:
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t have any design experience (I don’t), the right background image can instantly make your white paper look more polished and professional. Keep this simple yet effective trick in mind, so you can create white papers that captivate readers.
7. Include calls to action throughout your white paper
If you’ve been wondering what makes a great white paper, it’s the strategic use of calls to action (CTAs). It’s an important part of understanding how to write a white paper that readers will engage with.
In a white paper, there are plenty of opportunities to position your product or service as a solution to your target audience’s pain points. This means that there will be ample opportunities to include CTAs throughout your white paper.
For example, if you mention a feature of your product, you can place a clickable CTA button beside it:
CTAs are a great way to move people through the sales pipeline , from your white paper to a landing page or blog post.
Governmental organizations write white papers to outline policies before proposing new bills and legislations. A white paper is a good tool for gathering feedback from the public before implementing wide-reaching policy changes.
This is an example of a government white paper:
There are a lot of ways you can make your government white papers more engaging. Here are some design tips:
8. Make your page numbers stand out so your white paper is easy to scan
When designing your white paper, it’s important to keep your readers in mind. Don’t just think about what they want to read, but how they want to read it.
Your white paper isn’t the latest installment of Stranger Thing s , so it’s unlikely that every reader is going to sit down and read it cover to cover. In fact, there’s a good chance they’re going to want to skip ahead to specific sections that interest them.
Making your page numbers easy to read will be appreciated by your readers who are trying to locate a particular topic in your white paper.
Take a look at the page numbers in this policy white paper template:
The above government white paper template can be used by a government to communicate complex social, political, and economic issues to an audience.
Healthcare white paper templates, for example, can be useful in proposing healthcare policies to the general public.
Governments can distribute healthcare white papers to communicate crucial healthcare policy changes to residents in an easy-to-read and accessible format (just like the one above by the American Heart Association).
The white paper example below has a format that’s easy to customize for any industry. Its straightforward table of contents and simple design elements keep the focus on the text.
Go ahead and customize this template with our intuitive drag-and-drop editor:
You can create a functional table of contents by adding hyperlinks to individual chapters and sections. This will help your readers navigate the white paper’s contents.
Select the text you’d like to turn into a link, then click the link icon in the top bar. Along with the option to add a URL, you can select pages within the eBook. When you download your design, download it as an Interactive PDF .
9. Highlight themes in your white paper template using icons
This white paper template, from the cover page onwards highlights the cybersecurity topic it is focused on — phishing scams — by using a hook icon. The cover also introduces a circle motif that is used throughout this technical white paper, to give it a cohesive design and summarize information.
Pro Tip: Do you work in a boring industry? Whether you’re in finance, law or health care, you can set yourself apart from the competition by creating engaging, yet informative white papers. A well-designed white paper can give you an unfair advantage when it comes to making technical information easy to understand and positioning the value of your business.
Policy white paper examples
Good policy white paper examples include a brief description of the scope of a problem or issue to be discussed, alongside recommendations.
This policy white paper from the Australian government is a good example:
Policy papers also include data to give context to issues. The Australian policy white paper above includes a bar graph describing the percentage of Australians born overseas to illustrate the country’s multicultural societies:
On that note, here’s some ways to best incorporate data visualizations to your white papers:
10. Visualize your white paper data using charts and pictograms
A common problem that marketers and consultants face when creating white papers is finding a way to make the data engaging and easy to understand.
The solution? Visualize your data using charts and pictograms.
While everyone on your team is busy creating boring Word documents, you can be the creative genius that uses charts and pictograms to create visually engaging white papers.
The type of charts you use will depend on the type of data you’re visualizing. We have a guide to picking what types of charts to use that can help you there.
You could use a line graph to show revenue growth over time . Or you could use pie charts to show parts of a whole, like in policy white paper examples such as this.
Pro Tip: With our online graph maker, you can create charts and graphs that are more creative and engaging than standard Excel charts. A plain old bar graph won’t do much to inspire anyone, but a creative chart that tells a story can.
Pictograms are also a creative and effective way to visualize statistical data. Take a look at how pictograms are used in technology white paper examples like the below. They act as visual aids to showcase key statistics and changes as it relates to the IT sector.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. They say variety is the spice of life — the same can be said of white papers! This business white paper design, for example, combines both bar graphs and pie charts.
For more ways to add data visualizations to your white papers, check out this post: How to Visualize Data In Your White Papers
Just like other white papers, research white paper examples include reported facts and data aimed at educating readers around a particular topic. Research white papers are also written to help readers understand and address specific problems.
If you’re writing a research white paper for your business, here’s some ways to make it more engaging:
11. Highlight featured quotes using a big font
This is a design trick you’ve probably seen used in magazines and news publications. Well, guess what — it works great for white paper design as well! Pull particularly impactful and persuasive quotes and make them stand out from the rest of the text using big, bold fonts.
Not only will this draw readers’ eyes to the quotes, but it also gives your page design more visual variation. Company white paper examples like this one use a bright orange font to help their featured quotes stand out.
Human resources white papers tackle issues around employment, management, employee retention and churn. HR white papers can also be used to attract potential employees by showcasing the company culture and ethos.
12. Incorporate your branding into your white paper design
To improve brand recognition, you need to have consistent branding across all marketing collateral. This not only helps your marketing efforts but also helps you maintain consistency in your internal and external comms.
Be sure to incorporate your logo , brand color palettes, and fonts into your white paper design.
Venngage’s Brand Kit makes it easy to save your logos, brand color palettes, and brand fonts for later. Then, you can easily apply them to your designs with one click. No designer needed:
Try thinking of creative opportunities to incorporate your branding . This white paper design, for instance, extends the use of its signature color beyond standard headers and icons.
It actually applies a transparent color overlay to the images, adding an additional punch of color and reinforcing its brand palette in an unexpected way.
Pro Tip: Need help with creating your own brand-style guide? Our guide on brand guidelines will help you create brand collateral that will dictate the look and feel of your brand and in the process, help you stand out from the herd.
13. Use icons to emphasize section headers in your white paper template
One of the primary purposes of a white paper is to visually communicate information in an engaging way. But many businesses end up creating something that reads like a college textbook. No one wants to read that…just ask any college student.
TechSmith studied over 4,500 office workers and found that people absorb information 7% faster when they’re given text with accompanying images, versus just plain text. When designing your white paper, look for opportunities to make the text easier to scan with visuals.
An easy way to bring attention to important points is to place an icon beside the text. Government white paper examples like the one below are text-heavy. But the icons help direct the eye to each section header and break up the text.
This marketing white paper layout uses icons to punctuate the headers and add a dash of personality to reinforce its fun and lively color palette.
Here’s another example of a white paper design where icons are used to visualize points and make information easier to find.
14. Use a visual motif that reflects your white paper topic
A visual motif is a visual element that is repeated throughout your design. When you’re designing a multi-page document like a white paper or a report, your pages should have a cohesive look and flow.
To pick a motif for your white paper design, think of some themes reflected in your white paper. Is your white paper about social media engagement? Then a motif of birds (“tweeting”) or speech bubbles could work.
A white paper topic that is focused on establishing a sprint process could use a race track motif instead.
Hiring strategy white paper examples like the below use a leaf motif. Plants reflect the theme of growth associated with recruitment.
Or you can also use a simple shape motif throughout your white paper design. This approach is more subtle but can still lend to a cohesive and well-thought-out white paper design.
For example, this simple white paper template uses a hexagon motif (it kind of makes you think of a beehive, doesn’t it?).
15. Break up chunks of text with visuals when writing a white paper
When you’re laying out your white paper pages, put your storytelling cap on. Think: what kind of flow do I want my report to have? Where can I use visuals to emphasize certain points? Where can I illustrate an idea?
A common mistake novice designers make is to cram too much text into a page, rather than breaking up the text and giving it space to breathe.
Don’t hesitate to dedicate big chunks of your page–or the page in its entirety–to pictures. Images give the eyes a rest and help to reinforce information.
Visual headers are also a great way to break up expanses of text while still having the visuals serve a purpose (yay for purposeful design!). You can create your own illustrations using icons–they can make for some fun and quirky headers, like in workplace tech white paper examples.
16. Open your white paper with a boldly colored glossary
Like any design project, it’s important to start off on the right foot. You can do this by creating a glossary for your white paper. Think of it as a map that outlines exactly what your white paper will cover.
In bright white paper examples like the one below, you can see how the designers used a bold color to bring attention to the glossary. This ensures that it will be seen by a reader, and actually used to navigate the content.
If you make your white paper design engaging, a lot more people are going to want to read it:
Try using a full-page color fill (like in this white paper example) for your glossary. Otherwise, readers may miss it when quickly flipping through the pages.
17. Include tables and boxes to emphasize key points and takeaways
Visualizing information or data isn’t limited to just graphs. When writing a white paper, you can also section off important pieces of information using tables and boxes.
In the white paper examples below, the designers used a table to organize key points and takeaways from each main section:
Here’s another example of a white paper layout that uses a table to highlight some key statistics:
Breaking up lengths of text with boxes will help make your white paper easier to read:
18. Vary the color, fonts, and styles of your headers
You can create a hierarchy by using a different font or color for your headers and sub-headers. This also helps give your page design more variety.
In this example, they use different fonts and colors for each level of header. This helps make the distinction between main and sub-headers more noticeable.
Your main design goal should be to create a white paper that’s engaging to readers and easy to navigate. When you are working with this much text, it’s important to make it easy to skim through.
19. Dedicate pages to particularly important points
The primary goal of your white paper should be to educate readers. But you also want to strike a balance between being informative and entertaining.
If there is a central point that you want readers to remember, you may want to dedicate an entire page to that one point and an accompanying image to help drive the message home.
Pages like this should be used sparingly. That being said, they can deliver some real impact to readers.
Take this white paper example that dedicates a page to an evocative quote and photo:
20. Allow for plenty of white space on your pages
Unlike one-page reports where you have to fit a lot of information into a small space, white papers allow for more freedom to spread the information out. That will allow you to create page designs with plenty of white space.
In the design world, white space is the empty space around design elements on the page. Leaving some room for your text and images to breathe will help your design look less cluttered.
Check out how this example uses plenty of white space on nearly every page. The result is an organized and modern white paper design.
21. Break chapters or sections into separate columns
Dividing your page into columns is a good way to organize your information and save space on the page. For example, in the white paper above, the Overview and the beginning of Chapter 1 are organized neatly into their own columns.
This makes it easy to jump from one point to the next, without getting lost.
22. Include a question on the front page of your white paper
Speaking directly to your readers can really grab their attention. Asking a question can get them to want to actually read your white paper.
In this white paper example, a simple question to the reader introduces what the report will cover. The designers even bolded it so it was the first thing readers would see!
Now they could have just said “We are going to cover Topic X” on the cover. But that doesn’t place their white paper in the perspective of the person it’s meant to help — the reader.
On the other hand, when you address a common problem people in your niche face, that will pique their interest.
23. Vary your page layouts to keep readers engaged
When people look at the same thing over and over again, it can cause visual fatigue. Their eyes glaze over and their attention drifts.
Varying your page layout will help keep readers engaged by going against their expectations. When the eyes have something new to look at, it’s easier to stay engaged.
This white paper template uses a few different page layouts. One page may have a featured image, another a large quote, and the next only includes written content. This white paper layout is fresh and interesting.
Use these white paper examples to create a design that reflects your brand
Use these examples of white papers as springboards for your own unique and brand-appropriate designs. Knowing how to write a white paper that considers your audience every step of the way will help you develop the perfect response to their questions and make your designs accessible .
FAQs about white papers
What is a white paper.
In the business world, a white paper (or whitepaper) is an in-depth informational report that explains a complex or technical concept in addition to providing a persuasive solution to a problem.
For example, here’s what a technical white paper looks like:
Unlike ebooks , which may address a broader scope of topics, white papers have a singular focus. They’re designed to solve a specific problem for readers and build brand trust in the process.
White papers are also research-based and widely considered to be a valuable resource. In fact, Equinet reports that a whopping 75% of B2B would share information about themselves and their company in exchange for a white paper.
What is the format of a white paper?
White papers can be formatted in any number of ways, but depending on your industry, you may want to consider formatting your white paper for printing on standard printers. In that case, it’s best to stick to a letter-sized page, whether in portrait (8.5×11) or landscape (11×8.5).
These documents also are best in the PDF file format; this is the easiest way both to share them online and to have them printed.
Why should you create a white paper?
White papers can be extremely valuable documents to educate your stakeholders, clients, and top-of-funnel traffic — when the white papers are actually interesting. According to the Demand Gen 2018 Survey Report , 71% of B2B buyers used white papers in the last 12 months to research purchasing decisions.
How long is a white paper?
Typically, white papers are around 3 to 20 pages long. But some white papers can be longer. A white paper should be long enough to cover the concept or problem at hand. Since this usually includes case studies or new research, plus explanations and analyses, a good rule of thumb is writing white papers to provide enough evidence to back up your claims.
How to write a white paper that people will actually read?
If it doesn’t have an appealing design, your white paper probably isn’t going to work as well as you want it to. As with any type of content — from writing blog posts to making presentations to crafting ebooks —a lot of your white paper’s success comes down to the design.
Take this eye-catching hiring strategy white paper example; it uses dramatic images, colors, layouts, and icons to elevate its content to another level.
How to format a white paper with design in mind:
- Make sure your cover page immediately informs readers what your white paper is about.
- Summarize key takeaways at the start after writing your white papers.
- Don’t forget to think about your readers’ experience. Use clear page numbers to make it easier to scan your white paper.
- Visualize your data to make your white paper more engaging.
- Use consistent brand colors and fonts throughout your white paper format. This will make your design look more polished and professional.
- Use high-quality photos with a consistent style.
- Keep your target users in mind throughout the design process. If you’re using images of other people make sure they resemble your target users.
- Emphasize section headers in your white paper with icons.
- Break up walls of text with visuals like infographics and charts.
- Use a glossary to outline the specific topics you aim to address.
- Incorporate calls to action throughout your white paper design.
- Format your white paper to allow for plenty of white space. This will prevent your white paper design from looking cluttered.
- Switch up your page layouts to keep readers interested.
This article is also available in Spanish Más de 20 Ejemplos de White Paper Increíbles [Guía de Diseño + Plantillas] and Portuguese White paper: mais de 20 exemplos cativantes [guia de design + modelos]
You might also be interested in some of these helpful design guides:
What is a White Paper? 15+ White Paper Examples to Get Started
How to Write a White Paper (Tips & Templates)
How to Visualize Data In Your White Papers
How to Create a Marketing Plan For Success (+ Marketing Plan Templates)
55+ Customizable Annual Report Templates, Examples & Tips
White Paper Structure White papers generally have the following sections: Title — You'll want an attention-grabbing title that clearly communicate the problem you are solving and is appropriate for your target audience. Even for Product Knowledge white papers, it's not a good idea to include the product name in the title. Your title should be benefit, not feature , oriented.
The abstract or executive summary — You may be tempted to put your conclusion at the end, but a white paper needs to grab the reader immediately. Include direct, pithy statements of your position to engage the reader. Although this section provides a short summary of what the paper is about, you need to provide enough detail to satisfy a busy executive while encouraging the reader to continue on to the meat of the paper..
Introduction — Define the issue and provide background discussion while building credibility . Find common ground with your audience and hook them in.
Problem Definition — Don't start selling yet. Thoroughly and completely identify the business problem your technology solves. This section should be entirely from the perspective of the target audience. High-Level Solution — Describe relevant technologies at a high level, including any competing technologies (which you will rebut later). Support your arguments with tables, charts, and graphics. Quote industry experts as needed to bolster your positions. You are educating your target audience on the current state of the art, as well as where your solution fits.
Solution Details — Having thoroughly explained the problem and the general approach to solving it, it is finally time to describe your solution in more detail. You can start selling know, but avoid grandiose claims ; the soft approach works better in white papers. Be sure to show how your solution is vastly superior to the competition. Remember your audience and use appropriate language and level of detail. This is the heart of your white paper and you'll probably want to use case studies or customer testimonials to support your arguments. Business benefits — This section is the soul of your white paper , where you need to grab the reader where he or she lives and provide plenty of assurances that your solution will work for them. Discuss return on investment (ROI), usability, adherence to standards, and speed of implementation. Show you understand your readers' pain and can relieve it. Customer quotes again may be helpful. Summary — A quick summary emphasizes both the benefits of your solution as well as the risks to readers who decide not to use your product or service. Many readers may skip the entire document and read this section only, so write this section as if it were an entirely standalone document summarizing the main selling points about your solution. Conclude with the most important point that you want the reader to remember.
Call to action — You'd be surprised how many white papers either leave this most important section out or fumble it at the end. Emphatically tell readers what you want them to do and how to do it . We're not talking about simply dropping in a contact person's name and telephone number as well as Website, email, and snail mail addresses. We prefer white papers that end with offers — free trial version, free assessment, free gift certificate if you call today, that sort of thing. The White Paper Process Wondering what's involved in getting your white paper written and how to get started?
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Purpose of writing abstract for a research paper, steps of writing abstract for a research paper, what to include in abstract writing, take help when needed, how to write an abstract for a research paper: a comprehensive guide.
- Read in 07 mins
Writing an abstract for a research paper is an essential skill every student or researcher must master. An abstract is a summary of a research paper, usually not more than 250 words. It is the first section of a research paper that readers come across; thus, it plays an essential role in building the first impression.
Writing an abstract can be a very challenging task, especially for beginners. However, with the right guidance, anyone can write an excellent abstract that captures the essence of their research paper. This comprehensive guide will give you everything you need to know to write an impressive abstract for your research paper.
A research paper is often a long document with loads of technical explanations. So, something must summarize the context of the full paper so the readers do not have to read the entire content at once. An abstract serves this purpose. And to help researchers and companies write quality abstracts, many abstract writing services are now coming up.
The main purpose of an abstract is to highlight the most important points mentioned in the research paper so that the readers can get the gist just by reading the abstract. This blog will discuss how you can write a quality abstract. But before we jump into the process, it's important to understand some key points about the abstract itself!
An abstract serves the key purpose of:
- Helping the reader get a preliminary glimpse of the research paper. Hence, they can decide whether they should continue to read the full paper or not.
- Giving interested readers an insight into the analysis, experiments, and arguments used in the paper.
- Enabling the readers to remember or memorize the key points of the research.
- Facilitating the SEO of the research paper published online. The title and the abstract are often used to index the page, and hence, can help the readers to locate the paper easily over the internet.
From the above discussion, it is clear that an abstract plays a crucial role in enabling the readers to read the paper, highlighting the key points mentioned in it, and making it searchable over the internet. You can understand this with a sample example of an abstract for a research paper given below:
Research Paper Sample
A research paper sample with the topic, "The effects of climate change on the growth of agricultural production in South America," can be looking at the region's current trends in climate change and its potential impacts on the agricultural sector.
It might also examine the potential for relief plans to reduce the impacts of climate change on agricultural production. The paper will conclude with policy recommendations for adapting to the effects of climate change in the region.
To maximize the various related benefits, one must follow all the rules of writing an abstract. We will now discuss the step-by-step process of writing a good abstract.
The abstract writing process comprises three steps or three parts in general. First of all, we should decide what we need to include in our abstract. Secondly, we must decide on the verb tense in our abstract. And finally, we need to write a meaningful abstract highlighting the context, objective, method, result, and conclusion drawn from the research. We will now discuss each of these steps one by one.
Step 01: Content of an Abstract
An abstract should summarize the entire content of the research paper. So, deciding what should be added to it and what should be left out is important. To simplify the task, we have listed some do's and don'ts of this step.
Aspects of a typical abstract:
- It always contains the context of the research. The context is the background or the topic of study based on which we are conducting the research.
- The statement of problems highlights the issues which play an instrumental role in this research.
- If necessary, one can also mention some previous research done in the domain.
- We should clearly describe the research's main purpose, objectives, or goals.
- We should mention the research methodology briefly. It typically consists of the theorems and analytics used to derive the results.
- We should mention the result of the research.
- In the end, we should mention the conclusion drawn from the research.
Remember that we only get one line in the abstract to accommodate these points. Hence, it's important to write the abstract very thoughtfully with grammatical accuracy. If needed, one should take the help of professional abstract writing services providers.
Need for Grammatical Accuracy in Writing Abstract for Research Paper
Grammatical accuracy is essential for writing an abstract for any research paper. It refers to proper grammar, punctuation, and syntax in writing. A well-written abstract with grammatical accuracy can enhance credibility and readability among the audience.
It also helps to convey the intended message clearly and concisely to the readers. Moreover, online tools like grammarly can help identify and correct errors.
Step 02: Forms of Verbs and Tenses
We should be very careful while choosing the verb forms and tenses of the abstract. We often use different verb forms and tenses for different research paper sections. However, we must pack all this content in an abstract in a paragraph or two.
So, what's the way out? Usually, we decide the tense of the abstract depending on the research topic. For example, a social science or humanities abstract usually has all the past or present tense content.
But, a science abstract may contain two different tenses. Usually, we use past tense to write about a previous research and present tense to describe the current research.
Again, deciding the appropriate tense involves careful consideration of the content, context, and objective of the research. So, one should take expert advice from abstract writing services providers when necessary.
Read Also: What are Professional Proofreading Services ?
Step 03: Writing the Abstract
Before we start writing, we should decide when to write the abstract. Going serially, the abstract forms the beginning of the research paper. So, many writers write it in the very beginning. But is it an effective process to follow? The answer is a big NO!
Writing the abstract before the ultimate paper can lead to a lack of concentration and direction. The abstract should be written after the paper is completed when the writer adequately understands the central points and arguments. It allows the abstract to summarize the main points of the paper accurately.
For instance, if the abstract is written before the paper is finished, it may not accurately reflect the content of the paper, which can lead to confusion and miscommunication among readers.
Robust technical writing services can assist you better in writing intriguing abstract for research papers. The most appropriate time to write the abstract is at the research paper's end. In this way, one can efficiently summarize the entire paper without hassle.
Read Also: What are Professional Proofreading Services?
The format of your abstract will vary depending on the field of study in which you are working. However, the majority of all abstracts cover the following categories:
- Motive for writing: How significant is the study? What makes the larger work appealing to a reader?
- Issue: What issue is this work trying to solve? What is the project's scope? What is the main thesis, claim, or argument?
- Methodology: A scientific work's abstract might mention specific approaches or techniques that were applied to the main investigation. Other abstracts could explain the different types of data used in the study.
- Results: Specific information indicating the results of a project may be included in an abstract of a piece of research. The findings may be covered in more detail in other abstracts.
- Effects: How does this research promote our understanding of the subject? Are there any theoretical or practical implications from your research or any repercussions for upcoming studies?
Writing a quality abstract demands professional expertise. The researchers and companies must consult an expert in Abstract Writing for a research paper whenever they need help. If you are also looking for a quality abstract writing services provider, Acadecraft will definitely be the right choice!
Our experienced abstract writing experts write precise, accurate, and effective abstracts that make the research papers all the more attractive! We cover subjects across all domains and provide abstract writing in multiple languages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary has extensive experience of over 5 years in writing on a wide range of topics, including healthcare, technology, science, and business. She is highly knowledgeable and skilled in researching and crafting accurate, well-structured, and engaging content. Mary is a reliable and professional writer who is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure her clients are satisfied with her work. She is committed to delivering quality content on time and within budget.
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#1: How to write a paper abstract?
March 11, 2019 by Tress Academic
Are you struggeling with writing the abstract of your research paper?
Let us show you in 10 steps how to write a really good paper abstract that will help you get published and likely generate a bigger audience for your work.
A good abstract is an invitation to read your paper
The abstract of your paper will be found by lots of researchers in online databases. They might come across your abstract through a database search, or through using keywords in their search. They will scan your abstract, and if it is convincing and well-written, they might download and start reading your paper.
But, think about it, how often have you downloaded a paper after you read a really poor, confusing and irrelevant paper abstract? We guess… not too often. Why would you start reading a paper if the abstract is already poor?
Therefore, if you want your paper to be published, found, and read by many of your peers, to let them know the good research you are doing, you should craft a well-written abstract! Let us show you how you can develop an abstract that readers will like and that will help you to promote your work.
What is an abstract?
There is a common misunderstanding about abstracts: The abstract is not a teaser of a paper, where you start to tell some interesting bits about the research that is to come in the paper, but you stop when it really gets exciting, to tempt the reader.
The abstract is not like the trailer of a good movie: Once you see the trailer, you think “this is cool” and you decide to see the movie to see how the story develops. Once you watch the movie, most of the trailer scenes come up in the first five minutes, but the story has not yet enfolded.
The abstract is also not an outline for a paper that you are going to write, where you briefly sketch the content that should be covered in your paper. This is not what an abstract should be used for.
An abstract is the short summary of a paper published in an international peer-reviewed journal. Abstract and summary can be used synonymously in papers. The abstract summarises the entire content of the paper, not only some parts.
After reading the abstract, your readers should have a very clear idea what they can expect to read in the paper. Yes, the information in the paper will be far more detailed and specific but the research question, how it has been addressed and what has been found should already be clear to the reader after reading the abstract.
In a paper, the abstract appears on the front page. It also appears as an isolated text in publishers’ search databases. This is where your peers, the potential readers of your paper, will most likely first find it.
Why is the abstract important?
Your paper abstract serves two main purposes:
Purpose 1: It plays a key role when other researchers look for literature on a specific topic. It informs them about the content and the benefits of your paper. Based on the abstract, a researcher might determine the relevance of a paper and might decide to read the paper.A good abstract on a topic someone is interested in extends them an invitation to read the entire paper!
Purpose 2: Your abstract has also an important function in the peer-review process. Once your paper is submitted to the journal to be judged by its editors and reviewers, they will first look at the abstract of the paper to get a first impression of your topic and its relevance. When an editor decides to pass it on to a reviewer, this reviewer will also see your abstract first. They will use the abstract to help them decide to accept or decline the review invitation.
A well-written abstract may make a reviewer like your paper that much more. Getting a review invitation with a poor abstract creates no appetite to review a paper. If the reviewer decides to review anyway he or she might be biased from the start and look merely for confirmation that the rest of the paper follows the quality of the abstract. You find more information on how reviewers look at your paper in our blog post #9: “What reviewers of your paper first look at.”
When to write the abstract?
The abstract is often the first thing readers start with and it comes on the first page. But please, do not write it as the first section of your paper. Write the abstract only once the other paper sections are completed. You can only summarise what you have already written.
If you write the abstract at the beginning, you risk writing statements that are not included in the paper. As a consequence, you will have to rewrite your abstract later.
How long does it take to write an abstract?
If the paper sections are well-written and you follow the steps outlined below, it should not take you longer than 15-20 minutes to write a very informative abstract.
How long should an abstract be ?
Most abstracts are between 150 and 300 words. Seldom will you find abstracts of more than 500 words in papers. For conferences, abstracts can sometimes be longer, and labelled as extended abstracts (up to 1,000 words).
Most journals have a standard maximum length that they consider appropriate for abstracts. You can find it in the journal guidelines for authors. You can also look at the length of other abstracts within the same journal. Do not substantially exceed the maximum length.
10 steps for how to write the abstract
If you have already written your paper, writing a good abstract that satisfies the demands specified above is NOT difficult. The good news is, you don’t need to create any new content. You need only to summarise what you have already said somewhere else in the paper.
As with any book summary, a paper abstract should summarise all text sections. Regardless what your main paper sections are, they all should be recognisable in your abstract.
Let’s assume you’re writing an abstract for a standard research paper, consisting of the five typical paper sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusion. OK, let’s get started and create an abstract for your paper by following the 10 easy steps outlined below.
You can also download our free checklist “How to write a paper abstract” to guide you in the process of crafting your abstract.
Step 1: Define section headings
Write the main section headings of your paper on a sheet of paper (e.g. if you have a classical research paper, write down the headings: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion). They are the backbone elements of your abstract and ensure that you summarise all paper sections.
Step 2: Summarise Introduction
Look at your Introduction section again. Imagine you need to explain to somebody in one to two sentences what you have written in your Introduction. You cannot go into much detail. Write one sentence about the overall problem, the background of your research, and tell the reader why it is important. In your second sentence, state the paper objective (the research question that your paper addresses). The reader needs to understand what the research aim of your paper is. There’s no need to report the literature review here.
Step 3: Summarise Methods
Now, screen the Methods section of your paper. What are the key method steps that you have undertaken to achieve the objective stated above? Summarise these steps again in one to two sentences, no more. You do not need to tell your readers the specific details of your methods. It is most important for the reader to understand which methods you used. Numbers, percentages, sample sizes and other specifications can typically be left out unless they represent a very unique feature of your paper and therefore should be stated.
Step 4: Summarise Results
Next, review your Results section. What is the main finding of your study? Describe it in one to two sentences. Make sure that you respond to the research questions that you stated above. The reader wants to know what the outcome of your study is. Again, use numbers and details only very sparsely. If your result can be expressed in one key figure, state it, otherwise describe in words. Do not present many small details and results that may confuse the reader.
Step 5: Summarise Discussion
Briefly browse through your Discussion section. What are the main results and aspects you are discussing? Draft one sentence where you mention the three most important ones. If there is one striking aspect that results from your findings then mention it as well. In the abstract, the discussion of single aspects can be stated within the same sentence as the result.
Step 6: Summarise Conclusion
Read your Conclusion section again. What is the main take-home message that you want to tell your readers? Place this message at the end of the abstract. You can even copy it from the conclusion section, you do not have to reinvent the wheel by creating totally new sentences. In the abstract, discussion and conclusion can be merged but make sure readers find a concluding statement in your abstract. Otherwise, they would assume there is nothing to conclude from your paper.
Step 7: Edit language, style and length
Now that you have a draft version of your abstract, you may want to edit it to improve clarity for your readers. One aspect to review is the tense form you chose. We recommend you write the abstract in the past tense, as it is a summary of a paper that reports on an activity that took place in the past. You are mainly referring to your own work here and therefore, past tense is appropriate.
A second aspect to look at is style. Avoid sentences that are too long and complicated. Try to use simple and easily understandable phrases and reduce the use of too many relative clauses. Avoid an extensive use of passive voice. It is your abstract of your paper reporting on your work, and therefore, you can use personal pronouns such as “I” and “we”.
A third aspect to look at is length. It is a good idea to keep your abstract short. Even if the journal has no specific word limit for the length of the abstract, stick to a maximum of 300 words. A longer abstract takes more time to read and might be a reason why yours is skipped. If the journal has a word limit of 150-200 words or even less, you might need to modify the steps outlined above and summarise each paper section in one sentence only.
Step 8: Use key phrases and key words
In an abstract every sentence and every word needs to be well chosen. You do not have a lot of space to explain things here. You must make sure that every sentence has a clear function in your abstract. You do not need transition sentences to bridge different parts of the paper.
It is helpful to use standard phrases like:
- “Our aim with this paper was …” for the Introduction.
- “We analysed/measured …” for the Methods.
- “We found that …” for the Results.
- “We discussed …” for the Discussion.
- “In conclusion …” for the Conclusion.
Then your readers will always understand which section of the paper your are talking about.
Another aspect to consider in your abstract is your choice of words. Potential readers will look in databases and search keywords of topics they are interested in. To ensure that your abstract comes up in a database search, make sure that you use relevant and common keywords that describe your paper content well.
Step 9: Reorganise and structure the text
Journals have different types of abstracts that they want you to write. They define their preference in the guidelines for authors which you can also identify from the published abstracts within the journal.
A common type is the informative abstract: You summarise all paper sections as described in the steps above and include all sentences into one paragraph, without section headings.
The alternative is the structured abstract: You keep the headers of the main paper section and summarise the content of these sections briefly below each of the headers. A structured abstract consists of several short paragraphs.
Step 10: Avoid References, sources and abbreviations
Usually, abstracts should be written without mentioning references or sources in the text. As the abstract is read in isolation from the paper, it would not help readers if you provide references in the text because the full reference cannot be seen.
Also, keep the use of abbreviations to a minimum. Only use abbreviations when you are certain they are common knowledge to your audience and cannot be misunderstood.
Your abstract is an important element of your journal paper as it summarises the main paper content. It plays a vital role in helping people to find your paper and in deciding to read it. Write your abstract after you finish all manuscript sections and keep it short. Readers want to get an overview of your paper as quickly as possible and do not want to read a lengthy text.
Make sure to summarise all paper sections. Do not hold back important information but do not get lost in details either. Keep in mind a reader from your field whom you want to briefly describe your research to, and what is the good stuff that you found. Follow the 10 steps outlined above and you will end up with a well-crafted abstract that invites them to read your whole paper!
If you want more help with writing a great journal paper, please sign-up to our Paper Writing Academy.
- Checklist: How to write a paper abstract
- Expert Guide 5 Strategies to Avoid Initial Paper Rejection
- SMART ACADEMICS Blog post #5: How to get started with writing papers?
- SMART ACADEMICS blog post #9: What reviewers of your paper first look at.
- SMART ACADEMICS blog post #50: Mastering the literature review during the Corona lockdown
- SMART ACADEMICS blog post #91: Find the right journal for your paper following these 8 steps
- SMART ACADEMICS blog post #105: The perfect paper—and how to create yours!
Do you want to write a journal paper? If so, please sign up to receive our free guides.
© 2019 tressacademic.com
#PublishingPapers, #WritingPapers, #JournalPaper, #PaperAbstract
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How to Write an Abstract
Last Updated: May 6, 2021 Approved
This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 60 testimonials and 86% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,888,082 times.
If you need to write an abstract for an academic or scientific paper, don't panic! Your abstract is simply a short, stand-alone summary of the work or paper that others can use as an overview.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source An abstract describes what you do in your essay, whether it’s a scientific experiment or a literary analysis paper. It should help your reader understand the paper and help people searching for this paper decide whether it suits their purposes prior to reading. To write an abstract, finish your paper first, then type a summary that identifies the purpose, problem, methods, results, and conclusion of your work. After you get the details down, all that's left is to format it correctly. Since an abstract is only a summary of the work you've already done, it's easy to accomplish!
Getting Your Abstract Started
- A thesis and an abstract are entirely different things. The thesis of a paper introduces the main idea or question, while the abstract works to review the entirety of the paper, including the methods and results.
- Even if you think that you know what your paper is going to be about, always save the abstract for last. You will be able to give a much more accurate summary if you do just that - summarize what you've already written.
- Is there a maximum or minimum length?
- Are there style requirements?
- Are you writing for an instructor or a publication?
- Will other academics in your field read this abstract?
- Should it be accessible to a lay reader or somebody from another field?
- Descriptive abstracts explain the purpose, goal, and methods of your research but leave out the results section. These are typically only 100-200 words.
- Informative abstracts are like a condensed version of your paper, giving an overview of everything in your research including the results. These are much longer than descriptive abstracts, and can be anywhere from a single paragraph to a whole page long.  X Research source
- The basic information included in both styles of abstract is the same, with the main difference being that the results are only included in an informative abstract, and an informative abstract is much longer than a descriptive one.
- A critical abstract is not often used, but it may be required in some courses. A critical abstract accomplishes the same goals as the other types of abstract, but will also relate the study or work being discussed to the writer’s own research. It may critique the research design or methods.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
Writing Your Abstract
- Why did you decide to do this study or project?
- How did you conduct your research?
- What did you find?
- Why is this research and your findings important?
- Why should someone read your entire essay?
- What problem is your research trying to better understand or solve?
- What is the scope of your study - a general problem, or something specific?
- What is your main claim or argument?
- Discuss your own research including the variables and your approach.
- Describe the evidence you have to support your claim
- Give an overview of your most important sources.
- What answer did you reach from your research or study?
- Was your hypothesis or argument supported?
- What are the general findings?
- What are the implications of your work?
- Are your results general or very specific?
Formatting Your Abstract
- Many journals have specific style guides for abstracts. If you’ve been given a set of rules or guidelines, follow them to the letter.  X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
- Avoid using direct acronyms or abbreviations in the abstract, as these will need to be explained in order to make sense to the reader. That uses up precious writing room, and should generally be avoided.
- If your topic is about something well-known enough, you can reference the names of people or places that your paper focuses on.
- Don’t include tables, figures, sources, or long quotations in your abstract. These take up too much room and usually aren’t what your readers want from an abstract anyway.  X Research source
- For example, if you’re writing a paper on the cultural differences in perceptions of schizophrenia, be sure to use words like “schizophrenia,” “cross-cultural,” “culture-bound,” “mental illness,” and “societal acceptance.” These might be search terms people use when looking for a paper on your subject.
- Make sure to avoid jargon. This specialized vocabulary may not be understood by general readers in your area and can cause confusion.  X Research source
- Consulting with your professor, a colleague in your field, or a tutor or writing center consultant can be very helpful. If you have these resources available to you, use them!
- Asking for assistance can also let you know about any conventions in your field. For example, it is very common to use the passive voice (“experiments were performed”) in the sciences. However, in the humanities active voice is usually preferred.
Sample Abstracts and Outline
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Abstracts are typically a paragraph or two and should be no more than 10% of the length of the full essay. Look at other abstracts in similar publications for an idea of how yours should go.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Consider carefully how technical the paper or the abstract should be. It is often reasonable to assume that your readers have some understanding of your field and the specific language it entails, but anything you can do to make the abstract more easily readable is a good thing. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/abstracts/
- ↑ http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/presentations_abstracts_examples.html
- ↑ http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/656/1/
- ↑ https://www.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html
- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/656/1/
- ↑ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136027/
- ↑ http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/presentations_abstracts.html
About This Article
To write an abstract, start with a short paragraph that explains the purpose of your paper and what it's about. Then, write a paragraph explaining any arguments or claims you make in your paper. Follow that with a third paragraph that details the research methods you used and any evidence you found for your claims. Finally, conclude your abstract with a brief section that tells readers why your findings are important. To learn how to properly format your abstract, read the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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