Abstract and introduction are terms commonly associated with research writing. Due to the association between these two terms, people are very likely to confuse them with each other. While abstract and introduction are similar in certain respects, they still have features that considerably distinguish one from the other.
One of the notable similarities between abstract and introduction is that they appear at the beginning of a research paper. Normally, the abstract is presented before the introduction but it is very observable that the two can be found at the beginning of given academic papers.
What Is an Abstract?
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An abstract is an outline that incorporates the purpose of a given academic paper as well as the findings/conclusions found in the paper. The abstract is presented at the beginning of the academic paper and it summarizes certain essential features of the paper. The abstract is expected to be very concise and this is why it often contains very few paragraphs.
Generally, abstracts in academic writing may be categorized under two headings –descriptive abstracts and informative abstracts. An informative abstract may appear more detailed than a descriptive abstract. Therefore, the informative abstract necessarily summarizes the purpose, scope, method, findings, conclusions and recommendations contained in an academic paper.
Alternatively known as “limited abstract”, the descriptive abstract may set out to only describe the purpose, method and scope contained in the academic paper.
What Is an Introduction?
An introduction may be defined as the prefatory part or section of an academic or literary work. It can be found at the beginning of any written work. Care is usually given to the introduction writing so that the introduction is able to hold readers’ attention and stimulate the readers to explore the rest of a book, paper or other literary work.
In scholarly works –most especially research papers –the introduction (section) is specifically crafted in such a way that it spells out the background, problem statement, aims/objectives and essential subsections pertaining to a scholarly work. One way or the other, the introduction may be perceived as summarizing the main part of a written/scholarly work in order to tilt readers’ attention towards the main and other parts of the work.
The introduction (section) of a typical research paper may also introduce relevant constructs, concepts or variables and provide succinct definitions that suit the purpose of the given research. Essentially, the writing of the introduction of any given academic/literary work may be subject to the peculiarities of that work.
Having found out the fundamental similarity between abstract and introduction as well as what each of the two terms means, it is necessary to shift attention to the differences between them.
What Are the Major Differences between Abstract and Introduction?
- An introduction introduces readers to the main part of a written work while an abstract only summarizes the main part (or certain key features) of the work
- Abstracts are comparatively shorter in length. Introductions (especially in academic writing) are expected to be detailed and so, they are usually greater in length
- Abstracts are more commonly restricted to academic works while introductions can be found outside the academic parlance
- Introductions rarely stand alone: they are often merged with the main text of a literary/academic work. Abstracts, on the other hand, can (and often) stand alone
Both abstract and introduction can form parts of a scholarly work. However, the introduction is usually broader in scope and can be found in any kind of written work. In summary, an abstract is a summary of a particular academic work while an introduction sets the stage for any written work.