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APA Format: Abstracts

This information is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition, 2010.


An abstract is a “brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article” (p. 25). (In some fields of study this is called an executive summary.) Based on the abstract, readers often decide whether or not to read the entire paper. The abstract must be brief (usually 250 words or fewer), but include all main points of the paper. Its organization generally mirrors the organization of the paper (to check, compare the abstract to the paper headings.)


  • The abstract is on page 2, on a separate page, after the title page, and before the paper.

    • Title the page Abstract in uppercase and lowercase letters, centered, at the top of the page (below the running head and page number).
    • Type the abstract in a single paragraph (double-spaced) in block format (no indenting).
      • Do not cite references in the abstract, with one exception: If your study continues or replicates previous research, you should note this in the abstract, and cite the author’s last name and the year of the original report.
      • Use active voice verbs whenever possible (but avoid personal pronouns, such as I or we).

   Active voice:  Laboratory technicians tabulated the results of the experiment.

   Passive voice: The results of the experiment were tabulated by laboratory technicians.

  • Use present tense verbs when describing conclusions and results that are currently applicable; use past tense verbs to describe primary research you conducted (e.g., the variables you manipulated or the outcomes you measured.)



ANXIETY                                                                                                                                                   2


The nursing profession recognizes the phenomenon of anxiety as a nursing diagnosis and has studied it in depth. Anxiety is defined as a vague subjective feeling of apprehension stemming from an unknown threat to an individual. Anxiety is divided into four stages: mild, moderate, severe, and panic. Sister Callista Roy’s theory of adaptation approaches anxiety holistically, stressing the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. Martha Rogers’ theory of energy fields explains anxiety as a phenomenon that is capable of being transmitted between persons.


To keep the abstract concise:

  • Use digits for all numbers 10 and above, except those that begin a sentence. (Consider rewording a sentence that begins with a number.)

  • Use abbreviations (e.g., CDC for Centers for Disease Control), but remember that all abbreviations that need to be explained in the text must also be explained when used for  the first time in the abstract.

Consult the Publication Manual pp. 26-27 for detailed guidelines on abstracts for specific types of papers:

  • Empirical study

  • Literature review

  • Theory-oriented paper

  • Methodological paper

  • Case study