Learn how to plan and write an abstract for a technical report by condensing a long report into a shorter version. Judy explains the differences between descriptive and informative abstracts. In addition, the video explains how to use the table of contents to include important facts and the overall conclusions and recommendation.
- [Instructor] Abstract, even the word sounds technical. This is sometimes called a synopsis or even an executive summary. Even though differences do exist, they serve the same general purpose, to condense a long report into a shorter version. Abstracts are generally divided into two categories, descriptive and informative. The descriptive ones are usually only a few sentences. The informative ones, the ones we'll discuss, are standalone documents with all the key points included in a concise way.
It is one of the, if not the most important parts of the entire report. It is generally identified as the first read part. It's one of the prefatory parts, coming before the report's introduction. To write effectively requires an ability to synthesize all the key points of the report and you can synthesize those points only if you completely understand them. If the primary or the secondary readers just want an overview, they'll read the abstract.
In fact, the higher level the reader, the less detail he will want and may request to receive only the abstract. His subordinates will analyze the details, but even they will probably ready the abstract first. The salient facts and the overall conclusions and recommendations must be included and not just a copy and paste from the report. The abstract should be limited to one page. That page limitation alone, should emphasize the need to condense all the crucial information into a concise but complete report, the abstract.
Most technical report writers agree, visuals should not be used nor should any reference be made to the visuals in the report. Every word has to count. If the abstract condenses the entire report, then obviously, it can't be written until the entire report is complete. No new information should be added but every key report point has to be included. One way to help achieve this is to use the final outline, your table of contents, to guide you in the key areas to include.
It will follow the introduction, body, conclusion structure and will strictly follow the report's organization. Transition must also be included to connect smoothly, the different sections. So other than following the report's outline, what else can you do to write an effective abstract? Even though the abstract is part of the big report, the writing process must still be followed. First, plan. Yes, you have the outline and you know what's in the report, but maybe re-read the report and highlight or mark the main ideas.
Be sure that you don't just copy exact key sentences from the report. Remember, you are synthesizing. Maybe ask these questions and annotate the answers. Why should the reader care about the problem and the results? What is the problem statement and the purpose of this technical report? What problem were you trying to solve? What's the scope of the investigation and the resulting analysis? What steps did you follow to collect your research? What important variables were considered? What's the result of the investigation? What exact evidence, statistics, for example, is included? What's the final conclusion and will follow-up be necessary? Once you've found the answers to questions such as these and other important points in your report, then you're ready to draft and then revise.
Is each sentence strong, connected, clear, mechanically correct? Despite the fact that an abstract is brief, for some readers, it may be the report. A miniature, standalone version. In that total writing process, be sure to save enough time to prepare the abstract. That one page may take a disproportionate amount of your total writing time but a well-written abstract is critical.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Identify the purpose and main point of a report.
- Determine which questions should be asked before writing a technical report.
- Recall the six ethical principles identified by the Society of Technical Writers.
- List three groups of readers that could be the audience for a technical report.
- Examine the technical audience.
- Explain when it is appropriate to use generic headings.
- Recognize the best approach for writing a first draft.
- Name three areas of a report that should be assessed during the revision process.
- Review the best strategies for keeping your writing concise.