How to Write an Abstract or Synopsis
I. The Heading
- At the top of the page give the article's full citation.
EXAMPLE: Rousseas, Stephen. "Can the U.S. Financial System Survive the Revolution?" Challenge, Vol 32, no. 2 (March-April, 1989), pp. 39-43.
- Don't forget to put your name at the top.
II. The First Paragraph.
- First sentence. Statement of theme or argument. One or two sentences that convey a sense of the overall argument. This might be a conclusion, an important theoretical implication, or a policy suggestion.
EXAMPLE: Highly leveraged debt combined with bank deregulation and financial innovation has rendered the U.S. financial system increasingly unstable and vulnerable to recession.
- The remainder of the first paragraph is an overview of the argument itself.
EXAMPLE: Deregulation weakened both commercial banks and S&Ls by allowing them to enter more risky markets at a time when two major sources of high-risk borrowing, LDC debt and leveraged buy-outs, were booming. Financial innovation loosened much of the remaining regulatory system, and frustrated monetary policy. A recession, whether of exogenous or domestic origin, would leave in shambles a financial system that is heavily exposed to bad LDC debt and unsecured "junk-bond" lending.
- Summarize the argument; do not attempt to summarize each paragraph.
III.The Second and Third Paragraphs.
"Flesh-out" the argument presented in the first paragraph. In the example, points that might be mentioned are: Deregulation resulted in fewer banks; ill-conceived monetary policy; financial deregulation and innovation tend to trigger and reinforce each other; leveraged buy-outs. DO NOT LIST these points. Write them in prose.
IV. Miscellaneous writing tips.
Economy of style is in order. Try to express an idea in as few words as possible, without doing it violence.
Avoid using the first person ("I" and "We"), second person ("you"), and phrases like "the author believes..."
Avoid the passive voice. The phrase "the monetary base was increased by open market actions" (passive voice) can be shortened to "open market actions increased the monetary base" (active voice).
Use gender-neutral pronouns. Do not use "he" or "man" when referring to people in general or to unspecified individuals. Instead use, for example, "people," "him or her," or "S/he."