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Formatting Information — An introduction to typesetting with LATEX

Chapter 2: Basic structures

Section 2.4: Abstracts and summaries

In reports and articles it is usual for the author to provide an Summary or Abstract, which describes the content and explains its importance. Abstracts in articles are usually only a couple of paragraphs long. Summaries in reports or theses can run to several pages, depending on the length and complexity of the document or the readership it’s aimed at.

\title{Practical Typesetting}
\author{Peter Flynn}
\date{January 2022}
This document presents the basic concepts of typesetting 
in a form usable by non-specialists. It is aimed at those 
who find themselves (willingly or unwillingly) asked to 
undertake work previously sent out to a professional 
printer, and who are concerned that the quality of work 
(and thus their corporate æsthetic) does not suffer. 

In both cases (reports and articles) the Abstract or Summary is OPTIONAL (that is, LATEX doesn’t force you to have one), but it’s rare to omit it because readers want and expect it, and it’s used by web indexing engines to let people find your work. In practice, of course, you go back and type the Abstract or Summary after having written the rest of the document, but for the sake of the example we’ll jump the gun and type it now.

You add the abstract environment after the \maketitle command, and type your Abstract or Summary in it, leaving a blank line between paragraphs if there’s more than one (see § 2.7 below for this convention).

In business and technical documents, the Abstract is often called a Management Summary, or Executive Summary, or Business Preview, or some similar phrase. LATEX lets you change the name associated with the abstract environment to any other suitable text. The heading associated with the abstract environment is called the \abstractname, and you can use the \renewcommand command in your Preamble to give it a new value:


This does not change the name of the environment, only its heading: you still use \begin{abstract} and \end{abstract}.

Exercise 2.4 — Using an Abstract or Summary

  1. Add the \renewcommand as shown above to your Preamble (call it something other than Summary if you prefer).

    (The Preamble is at the start of your document, in between the \documentclass line and the \begin{document}: see the sidebar ‘The Preamble’ above).)

  2. Add an abstract environment after the \maketitle and type in a paragraph or two of text.

  3. Typeset the document.

Notice how the name of the command you are renewing (in this example, the \abstractname) goes in the first set of curly braces, and the new value you want it to have goes in the second set of curly braces (this is an example of a command with two arguments).

  1. A few publishers’ journal style packages ask for the Abstract to be typed before the \maketitle because they do special formatting with it along with the title block.