Normally completed after your paper is complete, an abstract is a summary of your entire paper. Just like your outline, it may be a required part of the style of paper you are writing. Instead of being written once you have your research, this is written once you have completed a draft of your paper. It is a summary of your own words, not a plan of your structure.
For the student, this can be the most difficult portion of your paper, just like for a writer where the synopsis is the true pain. You have to sit there and try to consider what to include in your summary that both shows each point and be short enough to span only one half page paragraph.
The best way to go at this is to read through your paper and write down a summary of each of your paragraphs except your introductory and conclusion. Now take those summaries and turn the into one sentence each, and be sure that you include a reference of what sort of sources you use for each point. From there read that and read through your outline and ask yourself, do they both explain my paper between them? Does the flow of your abstract follow what your outline see as important?
Before anything else take a deep breath. I say that because it may take you a while to be okay with what you have for your abstract.
Want to keep up with newer posts? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter.