How To Write An Abstract For A Literature Review

How to Write an Abstract for a Literature Review, Writing Guide

What is a literature review?

A literature review can be described as an evaluative account of information that is related to a given topic area. It represents, summarizes, evaluates and clarifies the subject under research. It is intended at providing a theoretical ground for the study as well as assists the writer to establish the nature of their research.  The review should convey important knowledge that has been developed in a particular area of study and at the same time explore any existing weaknesses and strengths. When writing a literature review, any material which is irrelevant should be discarded, and all works featured in the review must have been read and evaluated.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a short statement which describes a larger piece of work. It provides brief information regarding the purpose, scope, background, contents of the work and the conclusion. It enables the readers to decide whether or not the entire paper is worth reading. It should contain phrases and keywords that permit for easy searching. There are two main forms of abstracts: informative and descriptive. However, there is also a third type of abstract known as critical although it is rarely used. In most cases, you will find out that the components of an abstract vary depending on the discipline.

How to write an abstract for a literature review

Writing an abstract will require that you understand the contents of your larger paper. Pick information from specific sections of your review. The information in your abstract should give your readers a summary of what your copy is all about. You can start by copying and pasting some few sentences from different areas of your paper and then rewrite to ensure that they are well articulated.

How long should it be?

Before you start writing your abstract, refer to the instructions provided for guidance concerning the length requirements of your literature review. Alternatively, you can ask your instructor for advice. Note that informative abstracts will require a minimum of 250 words whereas descriptive abstracts will need between 100 and 120 words.

What to include?

The format of the abstract mainly differs depending on your field of specialization. Despite the differences, all abstracts share a range of mandatory elements as described below:

Your reasons for writing

This should include the importance of your research as well as why the reader might be interested in your project work.


Your abstract should highlight the problem that your work is addressing, the project’s scope, and your paper’s main argument.


Give a brief description of the approaches and methods you used in your study. You can also outline the evidence you employed in your research process.


In case you’re majoring in a science discipline such as engineering or medicine, ensure that you include specific data which should indicate the findings of your project. In other disciplines such as humanities and social sciences, you can describe the results in a more general manner.


Provide a short description of how the paper was concluded.

Also, give the main keywords used in your work and use a clear and concise language which should not differ from the language used in your literature review. Most importantly, do not add any information not included in the original work and avoid defining terms.

Since the abstract part is a concise summary of your literature review, it is not advisable for you to include any citation. In fact, it is perceived by most scholars as a researcher’s perspective on the entire work that is aimed at providing the readers with a mental picture regarding what the larger work is all about.

Example of abstract for a literature review

Below is a sample abstract for a literature review of “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle” by Kenneth Andrews:

This paper explores the effects of civil group movements through a multi-faceted review of the Mississippi Humanitarian Organization between 1960 and 1980. Through examining this significant historical case, I elucidate the course by which civil movements alter social structures as well as the constraints that they encounter in their quest to advocate for human rights. The period examined includes advancements in African-Americans political power, the gains in voting rights, the rise and fall in national anti-poverty initiatives, the materialization of white-flight schools and desegregation in public schools. This paper challenges the claim that lobby and interest groups are inconsequential. It examines in detail a number of federal agencies, economic elites, courts, and political parties and highlights their roles as agents that drive institutional changes. The Mississippi activist movement created independent structures that tackled challenges relating to injustices and inequities. This gave it a lasting legacy not only in Mississippi but also in most of the American states.

Keywords: Mississippi, movement, inequality, African-American, human rights, poverty.