What is an Abstract and How To Write One?

Definition and Purpose

It is the “Executive Summary” or synopsis of your Extended Essay (EE)

It gives the examiner an overview of the facts that will be laid out in full in your essay and should entice him/her to read it

 IB Requirements

The minimum requirements for the abstract are for it to state clearly:

· the research question

· the scope of the investigation

· the conclusion(s) of the extended essay.

The abstract should be typed or word processed on one side of a sheet of paper, and placed immediately after the title page (IB Handbook)


Assessment Criteria Or How Your Abstract Will Be Marked!!!

Criteria J: Abstract

(Objective 5)

The requirements for the abstract are for it to state clearly the research question that was investigated, how the investigation was undertaken and the conclusion(s) of the essay.

0 The abstract exceeds 300 words or one or more of the required elements of an abstract (listed above) is missing.
1 The abstract contains the elements listed above but they are not all clearly stated.
2 The abstract clearly states all the elements listed above.

(IB Handbook)

Every student is capable of achieving 3 points for their abstract.


It’s short and to the point!  It must meet the word count limitation

It must make sense all by itself

Even though it is the first thing read by the examiner, it is the last thing you should write

Think of the criteria above and below as you write your abstract.


Why should the reader care about the topic of your EE and the results/conclusions you found?

Problem statement

What problem are you trying to solve?


How did you go about solving the problem or answering the question?

What is the extent of your work?  Did you compare/contrast the work of two
historians or authors or genre?  Did you use particular methodologies or variables?

If the abstract describes a science experiment don’t forget to include a brief description of the design of the experiment; the hypothesis it will test and what
literature are you drawing on?


What’s the answer?


What are the implications of your answer/result?



Have a look at abstracts contained on the DVD ’50 Excellent Extended Essays’.  It is
located in the IB Section of the library.

Science Abstract

This study’s objective was to determine the strangeness measurements for red, green, and blue quarks. The Britt-Cushman method for quark analysis exploded a
quarkstream in a He gas cloud. Results indicate that both red and green quarks
had a strangeness that differed by less than 0.453 x 10-17 Zabes/m2 for all
measurements. Blue quarks remained immeasurable, since their particle traces
bent into 7-tuple space. This study’s conclusions indicate that red and green
quarks can be used interchangeably in all He stream applications, and further
studies must be done to measure the strangeness of blue quarks.

(Source: http://www.rpi.edu/web/writingcenter/abstracts.html)


English Abstract

This abstract is somewhat ‘technical’ in the language it uses.  However, do you
think it contains the criteria listed above?

There’s Something About Harry:
Representation of Females in J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series

The “Harry Potter” series—like all children’s literature—reflects the ideologies of the society of its time, including attitudes about women’s roles. The object of my research is to examine (1) the evolution of the traditional female characters Rowling draws from; (2) the ways in which Rowling’s use of female archetypes in her works acts as a retrograding agent; and (3) the reasons why traditional representations of women continue to appeal to the general audience. Even though late 20th – early 21st-century  society encourages female empowerment and gender equality (as demonstrated in  recent movements in children’s literature which have attempted to construct  bolder, more contemporary female figures, such as the “Girl Power”
and “Feminist Fairy Tale” movements of the late 1990s), Rowling has
met critical, popular, and commercial success by reverting to traditional,
stereotypical characterizations of women. Thus far, I have traced the origin of
many of Rowling’s female characters and have done preliminary research into the
psychology of children’s reading habits. Through a close analysis of popular
children’s literature, I have discovered ways in which female characters have
evolved over time to suit the ideas of society in and for which they were
written. Through further research, I hope to discover how authors of children’s
literature can create modern female characters that appeal to the young reader
with equal success as traditional representations.

(Source: http://urc.ucdavis.edu/howtowriteanabstract.html)


The “How to Write an Abstract for the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference” programme from the UC Davis URC is a wonderful guide and contains examples of other absracts.


December, John. “What is an Abstract?”. The Writing Centre @ Rensselaer.  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 13th June 2011. http://www.rpi.edu/web/writingcenter/abstracts.html

“How to Write an Abstract for the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference” UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference. University of California. 13th June 2011. http://undergraduateresearch.ucdavis.edu/urcConf/write.html

International Baccalaureate Organisation. Diploma Programme Extended Essay Guide. First Examinations 2009.  International Baccalaureate Organisation 2007

Koopman, Philip. “How To Write An Abstract”. October 1997. Carnegie Mellon University. 13th June 2011. http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html