Siirry pääsisältöön

Osallistavan ja tutkivan kehittämisen opas: Writing the English Abstract

Vuoden 2016 versio


  • thesis: opinnäyte
  • investigation, study: tutkimus
  • case study: tapaustutkimus
  • survey: kyselytutkimus
  • questionnaire: kyselylomake
  • participant: osallistuja
  • guidebook, leaflet: opas(kirjanen)
  • a set of instuctions: ohjeistus(kirjanen)
  • parish: seurakunta
  • municipality: kunta
  • interview: haastattelu
  • transcribe the interview: litteroida haastattelu
  • transcript: litteroitu teksti(pätkä)
  • production: produktio
  • empirical: empiirinen
  • theoretical: teoreettinen
  • hypothetical: hypoteettinen
  • biased: vääristynyt
  • generalizable: yleistettävissä oleva
  • observer’s paradox: havainnoijan paradox
  • paradoxical: ristiriitainen
  • counterfactual: totuudenvastainen
  • indicative: jonkun osoittava
  • significant: merkittävä
  • vindicate/prove: osoittaa oikeaksi
  • disprove: osoittaa vääräksi
  • rebut: torjua (väite)
  • prosessi: process
  • portfolio: portfolio
  • development work: kehitystyö
  • hanke: project
  • working life development: työelämän kehittäminen
  • representative of working life: työelämän edustaja
  • reflection: reflektio, pohdinta
  • literature survey: kirjallisuuskatsaus
  • review: katsaus, arvio
  • functional: toiminnallinen
  • functional thesis: toiminnallinen opinnäytetyö
  • operational environment: toimintaympäristö
  • research-oriented: tutkimuspainotteinen
  • development-oriented: kehittämispainotteinen
  • output: tuotos, tuote
  • outcome: tulos, lopputulema, “hedelmä”

Writing the English abstract

Juhani Toivanen

Your report, thesis or article in a journal or a book must begin with an abstract; usually the abstract is in Finnish and English, possibly also in Swedish. The abstract precedes the actual text of your thesis or article (or other form of production), and the maximum length is one page or less. In journals and conference proceedings, the length is usually determined quite specifically; it is typically between 150 and 200 words.

The abstract should sell your thesis or article (or other proof of learnedness); it should convince someone browsing databases that your text is worth reading in its entirety. The abstract must be informative, crisp, down to the point and succinct. Within the given word limit, the abstract must summarize your work efficiently.

The abstract must read without the thesis report; it has to function on its own. Note that the abstract is not the same thing as the introduction. The abstract is written (or finished) after the writing of the thesis report.

The abstract contains the following identity information above the actual body text.     

Author(s) of the the


Semester and year of graduation

Name of university

Degree programme, option and degree title

An example is the following (see the appendix for degree programmes, options and degree titles):

Meikäläinen, Matti & Teikäläinen, Teija. Work satisfaction and special diaconal work – experiences of the Keskimaa Institute nursing staff. Spring 2015. 56 p. Two appendices.  Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, Degree Programme in Nursing, Option in Diaconal Nursing, Nurse (UAS).

The content of the abstract varies according to whether the thesis is a research report or another form of carrying out the thesis work, for example, a product/project. The following aspects may be included:

  • The aim of the thesis and working life relevance
  • Material/data in a research-based thesis
  • Background and social/operational environment in development-oriented thesis or functional thesis
  • Methods and/or the process of the product/project
  • Main results and/or evaluation of the product/project
  • Conclusion
  • Keywords

-> linking the thesis with information retrieval and literature databases

-> helping information seekers to find the thesis

-> YSO keywords

The following instructions may be useful.

1. Use the passive voice. Do not write In this thesis I studied; instead, write In this thesis … was studied. You can also write This thesis studied/investigated….

2. Do not use s-genetives in a row. Do not write the informants’ answers’ main content; instead, write the main content of the informants’ answers.  

3. The definite article is usually appropriate when referring to your informants, research methods, research, etc.

4. The past tense is used when describing what was studied, how the study was carried out or how the production was accomplished. As for the conclusions, the present tense can be used. In the conclusion, regarding further research avenues, the future tense is, of course, appropriate.

5. Do not use abbreviations; preferably do not use acronyms. If you must include them, explain them, too.  As regards the KIKY agreement and the SOTE reform… -> As regards the Competitiveness Agreement (KIKY) and the Social and Health Services (SOTE) Reform

6. Do not hyphenate. WORD will do it for you if needed.

7. Avoid colloquial expressions (kids -> children; freaked out -> puzzled, overwhelmed, etc).

8. If you use non-English words in the text (as data examples, for example), use italics, e.g. the Mahis project.

9. Do not translate Finnish terms unless they have obvious or official translation equivalents in English, e.g. the Mahis project.

10. Use the language check tool in WORD. Do not rely on Google Translate or other translation software; they do not produce a publication-ready translation. Readability index tools and other digital tools can be useful for advanced language revision purposes (see below).

11. Have someone read you text and give you constructive criticism.

12. Read abstract in theses and published work in your field.

The abstract contains, depending on the nature of the work, all or some of the following.  Useful thesis-related vocabulary and phraseology is presented below. Note that these are not sub-headings in the abstract; they just describe things that may be included the abstract.


- the aim of this thesis is to

  • investigate…
  • study…
  • explore…
  • find out…
  • to shed light on the question of…
  • to fathom evidence…
  • to produce a set of instructions for…
  • produce a guidebook/a leaflet for…
  • come up with a production…
  • to realize an event for…

- the taking-off point of this thesis is to…

- this thesis aims to….

- the thesis work arose from the social observation that…

- the question of children’s position in this situation was behind the development work idea to…

- a development work proposal in the social work with immigrants was the basis of…

- the thesis work idea centered around the development needs in early childhood education…


  • the material/data consisted of…
  • the material was collected…
  • the material was obtained/gained/gleaned/garnered (hankittiin, saatiin)
  • the basis of the material was…
  • the background for the thesis was the project to develop…
  • to produce a guidebook for the disabled concerning services in…was the starting point for the thesis


  • a production was created…
  • a project was planned, carried out and evaluated
  • a development work project in working life was carried out
  • a development-oriented project was initiated
  • a new business idea in the social services was created and implemented
  • an event was arranged in which…
  • a guidebook was compiled, a leaflet was compiled
  • a set of instructions was created
  • an introductory leaflet for… was accomplished
  • the material was analyzed
    • with content analysis (sisällönanalyysi)
    • quantitatively: kvantitatiivisesti
    • qualitatively: kvalitatiivisesti
    • statistically: tilastollisesti
    • with the SPSS
    • as a case study
    • sanastoa


  • the major/main result (päätulos) was that…
  • the most significant result… (tärkein tulos)
  • the major results can be summarized as follows… (yhteenvetona päätuloksista…)
  • the major output was…
  • the major outcome was…
  • as a major output, a product/a business strategy/a development process was created…
  • to evaluate the compiled guidebook with a set of instructions, it can be said that…
  • this work is in line with earlier research in that…
  • this works supports views presented in earlier research…
  • this research/work/production questions earlier work in that…


  • the conclusion is that…
  • the major conclusion is that…
  • it can be concluded that…
  • the conclusion seems to be that…
  • in conclusion it can be said that…
  • the results suggest that…
  • the achieved product and its evaluation suggest that…
  • when reflecting on the process, it can be said that…
  • in conclusion, the development work strategy seems to have improved…
  • the community event arranged turned out to be…
  • the guidebook proved to be useful to the extent that…
  • the business idea and its implementation are, when looked back upon, well-functioning and a viable business can…
  • further research is needed to…
  • more research is needed to…
  • this work suggests that further research is necessary to find out…



 The writer of the English abstract should remember to try to make the English terms in the text as precise and appropriate as the Finnish ones. Simply to translate a term from Finnish into English may not be enough. The writer should check that the English term makes sense in the English language on its own; there is otherwise the danger that the term is a vague expression in the target language. Terms like KIKY-sopimus and SOTE-uudistus are such cases: it may be necessary to explain them to some extent instead of just coming up with a translation.

Language technology is progressing very rapidly today. Thus the writer of almost any text, but particularly the writer of a formal text, has access to may programmes and algorithms checking, evaluating and also improving the text. Readability indexes indicate the readability and fluency of the text and point how they could be improved. The writer of the English abstract should keep an eye on this development; the future language checking applications will be structured and field-specific and they can automatically suggest the appropriate term or phrase in the particular field. Therefore, vague translations and inappropriate terms may be something the technology will take care of. Still, the thinking and creative writing tasks remain.

APPENDIX: degree programmes, options and degree titles

Degree Programme in Nursing
- Option in Nursing (degree title: Nurse)
- Option in Diaconal Nursing (degree title: Nurse)
- Option in Health Care (degree title: Public Health Nurse)

Degree Programme in Social Services (Degree title: Bachelor of Social Services)

Option in Social Services and Education - Option in Christian Youth Work
- Option in Diaconal Social Work

Degree Programme in Sign Language Interpretation (Degree title: Sign Language Interpreter)

Degree Programme in Community Interpretation (Degree title: Community Interpreter)