An abstract is a brief (generally 250-500 words) summary of a written document.  It should stand alone and allow readers to quickly determine the purpose of the longer paper.  The URC requests abstracts for two different types of documents, proposals and reports.

An abstract for a proposal should include a clear statement of the research question to be addressed in the project.  It should also explain, briefly, why this question is of interest to the reader and explain how you expect to go about answering the question.  That might include the type of data you plan to collect, the analysis method(s) you plan to use, and perhaps references you plan to consult.  Finally, it should include the results you hope to achieve-not the specific answer, but the type of information.

An abstract for a report should include most of the information above, but should focus specifically on what you found out--the answer you found for your research question.  In some cases, the answer may be "I still don't know."  In that case, you should address why you didn't find an answer and perhaps an idea of what you would change about your project so that you can find an answer.  You should include the variables you controlled, the extent of your work (how many cases, for how long, etc.), any exceptions to the results you are reporting.  You might also include information on the next phase of an on-going project.

In all cases, you should discuss the abstract with your faculty mentor.  Each discipline has different guidelines for abstracts.  Each conference or publication has different restrictions on the number of words to include.  In general, footnotes or references are not included in abstracts.  A good rule of thumb is to include one sentence about the research question, two sentences about the methodology, and three sentences about the results.