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APA Style for Capstone Writers: Abstracts for the Capstone


An abstract is "a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of the paper" (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 38). This summary is intended to share the topic, argument, and conclusions of a research study, similar to the text on the back cover of a book. An abstract is often the first piece of the study a potential reader will encounter, so it is important to make the abstract clear, concise, and inclusive of the relevant, key information pertaining to the study.


An abstract is a single paragraph preceded by the heading "Abstract," centered and in plain type (unbolded). The abstract should begin on the next line and should not begin with an indented line. The abstract should be double spaced, 12-point type, like all narrative in the capstone.

Walden capstone abstracts should be written in the past tense (as the study is complete) and should not exceed one page in length.

Walden Abstract Formatting Requirements:

  • Writers should not use the first person.
    • Avoid “I” in favor of the passive voice ONLY in the abstract.
  • Numbers in the abstract follow regular APA 7, Section 6.33 rules. (This is a change from APA 6 where numerals appeared in the abstract, even for numbers less than 10.)
  • No citations should be included.
    • Instead of writing “The theoretical framework for this study was transformational leadership (Bass, 1985),” write “The theoretical framework for this study was Bass’s transformational leadership…”
  • Seriation (e.g., a, b, c) can be used to clarify and visually mark lists.
    • Note: This is often used when presenting the main findings of the study.
    • Example: “The resulting themes were (a) [Theme 1], (b) [Theme 2], and (c) [Theme 3].”
  • Include a discussion of social change implications.


Per APA (2020), an abstract should be "dense with information" (p. 73). A good abstract is accurate, nonevaluative, coherent and readable, concise (APA, 2020, pp. 73-74). The specific information included in the Walden capstone abstract may vary by degree type and program. In general, Walden Writing Center editors advise that Walden abstracts include the following types of information:

  • Opening statement on the state of research on the topic and general introduction of the problem
    Example: “[Topic] has been an area of study among scholars since…”
    Example: “According to recent studies…” 
  • Identification of the problem and why it is relevant
    Example: “[Topic, variable, or concept] leads to [additional outcome].” 
  • Summary findings from existing research and what is missing (i.e., the gap)
    Example: “Researchers have demonstrated that… but have not established…” 
  • Purpose of the study
    Example: “The purpose of this qualitative single case study was to…”
    Note: This is often a good place to mention participants/population; sample size, and inclusion criteria.
    Example: “Using a cross-sectional, correlational design, a survey was administered to 90 managers…” 
  • Theoretical or conceptual framework
    Example: “[Theory or mode’] approach was used to analyze/explore…” 
  • Method and research design
    Example: “Using [method/design], surveys from [sample] were analyzed using [mode of analysis]…” 
  • Results.
    Example: “The results of these analyzes indicated…”
    Note: Writers should choose a few key findings to highlight here as the “hook” (main message/finding) of the study. 
  • Social change implications
    Example: “[Specific population] may benefit from the results of this study through…” 

Note: This is merely a set of suggested items/topics to be mentioned in the abstract, not a set of requirements. This list does not necessarily mean that there must be one sentence on each item. Often, students can combine sentences to improve the flow. Our suggestion is for students to begin writing the abstract by focusing on these ideas and then revising for flow. Additional information can also be added for clarification or further details and explanation, provided that the abstract does not exceed one page.

Additional note: This suggested list is designed for the presentation of a standard research design (execution of original research). Some of the items may not apply to some programs or capstone types. We suggest students include what is relevant and simply skip over items that are not related to the capstone.

Additional Abstract Resources