I was slightly confused with differentiating Abstract and Introduction writing for a research paper. What is the difference between these sections? They seem to be similar.

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An abstract should cover the whole paper. It reports what the paper is for, what you did and the conclusion. E.g.

This paper explores the hypothesis that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. The experiment classifies new tricks as tricks the dog hasn't learned before. Six dogs were used in the trial. Three old, three not old. Two tricks were used. One the dogs knew and one the dogs did not. The results show that old dogs can learn new tricks.

The introduction should give the rationale for your paper. It will cite references to back up the reasoning behind your hypotheses, define what you mean, and explain what you hope to find out.

For centuries philosophers have posited that old dogs can't learn new tricks (Surname, 1788). However, it has been claimed that this stance is not backed up by scientific research (Smith, 1998; Jones, 2001) and is actually based on an old wives tale (Doe, 1967). Two issues arise from trying to accurately tell if old dogs can learn new tricks: what is an old dog and what is a new trick...

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    The end of the introduction also briefly describes each section of the paper. "In section 2 we describe and justify the methodology used. In section 3 we present the results we obtained. In section 4 we discuss the possible interpretations of the results. Lastly, in section 5 we conclude by wildly extrapolating our dog results to humans, and then we summarize for those too lazy to read the rest of the paper." – dmm Dec 19 '14 at 15:42

The writing of the abstract and introduction of a paper is a very difficult task because if you have 1000 readers most of them read these parts and your paper evaluation strongly depends on these parts too.

In abstract, you should give an overall view of the paper including the importance and necessity of the paper topic (the first line of the abstract), the previous works and difficulties on this topic( second and third lines), the big picture of your novelty in this paper (fourth and fifth lines), and verifying your results (the final part of the abstract).

For Introduction, you should provide an extended abstract here. Write a paragraph to explain the ingredients of the abstract as I explained. The important fact in this part is to write everything with a valid reference for it. Also in the paragraph containing "the previous works and difficulties on this topic", you should carefully review and categorize the benchmark techniques in the topic of the paper and specify exactly the subtopic of your work. Also for your novelty and contribution, you should clearly state your approach with benefits versus the earlier works.

Also, you don't to refer works in the abstract (exception if your work is directly related to the earlier published works) but you should mention important and benchmark works on the paper topic in the introduction section.

Friendly speaking, you should mention the recent works in your introduction and also some published ones in the target publication for submitting!

To see good examples, you can see most published works on highly valued journals.

Abstract

An abstract can be defined as a summary of the information in a document.

  • It should not exceed 250 words
  • It should be written in one paragraph.
  • It should be written in the past tense as it refers to work done.
  • Long words should be followed by its abbreviation which would be used through out the abstract and paper.
  • It should not cite any references (except in rare cases)
  • It should never give any information or conclusion that is not stated in the paper
  • Must be accurate with respect to figures quoted in the main text.

Introduction

  • It should present the nature and scope of the problem investigated
  • Review the pertinent literature
  • State the method of investigation
  • State the principal results of the investigation
  • State the principal conclusion(s) suggested by the results

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