If you are about to write your first academic paper, you may be confused about the difference between abstract and introduction. These are two vital parts of academic writing that play different roles. The abstract usually comes first before the introduction. In this article, you will learn the purpose of an abstract and the purpose of introduction.

Abstract vs Introduction

An abstract is a brief or concise summary of the content of an academic paper. The purpose of an abstract is to provide insight into the reason for the research, thesis statement, and conclusion. It is a vital part of a paper that helps the reader determine if the paper is worth reading or not.

There are typically three types of abstracts in research writing. These are indicative abstracts, informative abstracts, and evaluative abstracts. While other types of abstracts are short, informative abstracts are usually longer and more detailed. The abstract appears before the paper, but it is better to complete the research first before working on the abstract.

The purpose of introduction is to build up the reader’s anticipation ahead of the research. How to introduce a research paper depends on the topic and purpose of the paper. However, one thing all introductions have in common is that they provide background information about the subject. While it is similar to the abstract, there are multiple critical differences between both.

Difference between abstract and introduction

Is an abstract the same as an introduction? The short answer is no. Below are some specific differences between both.

Differences in length

An abstract is typically shorter than an introduction. For regular academic papers, the abstract length is traditionally between 100 and 300 words. However, the length of an introduction ranges between 350 and 500 words for academic papers.

Differences in language

Since abstracts are meant to give simple summaries, they tend to contain straightforward grammar rather than complex terms. For introduction, you can use more complex vocabulary. While anybody can read and understand the purpose of an abstract, only people familiar with the topic can understand the purpose of introduction in academic papers.

Differences in information

The type of information provided in an abstract is slightly different from the information found in an introduction. Most abstracts do not offer detailed background information about the subject. However, introductions provide accurate background data. Also, introductions may contain citations, while abstracts do not.

Differences in position

The purpose of an abstract is to provide a summary of the content, while the introduction is meant to prepare you for what to expect in the paper. In every research paper, an abstract comes first before an introduction. This is the gold standard for placing an abstract irrespective of the subject matter. The only exception is when an abstract is not required for the subject matter.

Results and no results

One of the vital characteristics of an abstract is that it contains the result of the study. This is typically a single sentence about what you found in your research. However, you do not need to state the conclusion of your findings in the introduction. Simply offer some background information about your research and back it up with some facts.

Does a research paper need an abstract

Not all research papers need abstracts, and the abstract will be listed as one of the requirements in cases where they are necessary. On the other hand, every research paper must have an introduction. You cannot simply dive into your points without warming the reader up about what they should expect from the topic.


Now you know that an abstract and introduction are two different essential parts of most academic papers, you can get started. Remember to finish your research and writing before you start working on either your abstract or introduction. Make sure that you stick to the requirements for your field of study.

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