Student researchers gathered in the CHC Events Hall Tuesday evening to learn how to write a key component of their Undergraduate Research Conference application: the abstract. Abstracts for the conference are due on February 19.
“Writing an abstract is in some ways an art,” Deepika Marya, a writing coach for Commonwealth Honors College, told the audience. With only 250 words, it’s not easy to capture the scope of a research project but the Abstract Writing Workshop helped students figure out how to do just that.
All but one student attending the workshop had never written an abstract before so Marya provided a step-by-step guide for approaching the task. From the introduction to the conclusion, she gave students a break down of what ought to be included. Marya suggested students go through their proposals, results and other project materials, summarizing each important concept or conclusion. That way, they would not forget to include it.
The biggest question to answer in the abstract: what will your field learn from you research? Conference applications are read by faculty in students’ fields. They want to know why this work is unique and interesting—why this is important. Marya said finding that angle and including it in the abstract guides the reviewers directly to the answer they are looking for, giving the application its best change at being accepted.
Marya also emphasized the importance of taking ownership of the research, something undergraduates often struggle with. “This is your work, claim it!” she urged students. This means using phrases such as “in my project I…” or “our team examined…” Research students ought to be proud of the academic endeavor they’ve taken on.
Her final advice to students at the workshop? Do not write fewer than 240 words, “this is your project, how could you not have enough to say?”