References and Appendices
The AbstractThe aim of the abstract is to provide a summary of the whole report, that is a summary of the introduction, the method, the results and the discussion. It should be around 150 to 200 words long, not any more. It is perhaps the hardest part of the report to get right and takes considerable practice.
There are various suggestion on how to write the abstract. A good tactic is to be fairly even-handed about the summary of each section, covering the four main sections equally. An example of the first few lines covering the introduction could be:
The effectiveness of mnemonic strategies in aiding memory is widely acknowledged, however little is known about the relative effectiveness of different mnemonics. This paper describes a study which attempts to compare two different mnemonics' ability to enhance verbal memory.
These few lines "set the scene " for the summary and state the question that the report is interested in. The next section to be covered is the method:
Three groups of participants were given a simple verbal memory task. Two of the groups were told to use different memory strategies: the first group, Counting Mnemonic; the second, Method of Loci; the third group was not told to use any strategy.
As can be seen this is a very brief coverage of the method, outlining the design (including the IV and the DV) and saying very little about the procedure. After this the results can be described:
It was found that the number of words recalled was greater in the mnemonic conditions than in the no strategy condition, however no difference was found between the two mnemonic conditions.
Here we can see the basics details of what was found, outlined clearly. The abstract should end with a summary of the discussion:
The results are discussed in relation to different models of verbal memory and future directions for research are suggested.
The main thrust of the discussion is covered outlining the main issues dealt with; how the results relate to other's results and theories and suggestions for future research.
As can be seen a good abstract's virtues are its concise and comprehensive nature. The example given is not a complete blueprint for an abstract. You may have different issues to summarize from the discussion but the example does show you the general format.
Common ErrorsA mistake that most student make is that they provide too much information for some section of the report and too little for others. For example students usually provide little information about the introduction, too much about the method and results, and next to nothing about the discussion. It is important to summarize the whole report.