I think it is safe to say that the goal of both authors and journal editors is to publish papers that our peers will read and cite in their work. I believe that the abstract is the second most important part of the paper in achieving that, with the title being the most important (see my Tips on Titling Your Paper).
So here are my guidelines on how to write an acceptable abstract for Tourism Geographies, much of which I think would apply to any academic paper that you write that requires an abstract.
1. The abstract as a mini-version of the entire paper. Tourism Geographies gives you 300 words to do this (twice what many journals allow). Use those words to clearly cover:
- the objectives or purpose of the research;
- the theoretical context that the research is set within;
- the methodology (I consider this the least important part of the abstract -- people can read this in the paper); and
- the findings and global significance (these are the most important part of the abstract!).
You need to provide sufficient information in the abstract so that people who read it can determine whether if your paper warrants being fully read and cite it as a reference. Even if they do not read the entire paper, perhaps due to download issues, they can still cite it if the abstract is complete enough. This is your goal.
2. Again the abstract is a mini-version of the paper, it is not a description of the paper (which is the approach that many people use). Therefore, use declarative (not descriptive) sentences. Avoid using the words: "This paper..." or "The paper...".
3. The abstract should be written in present tense, not future tense -- so do not say "We will..." or "The policy implications will be discussed...". You need to say what you did and what the results were, not what you will do in the paper. (In other words, avoid using the world "will" in your paper.)
4. Limit the use of first person ("I" and "We") in your abstract. You can use it once (or twice?) in an abstract if it makes a lot of sense to do so. You should not be focusing on yourself, but rather on the research. This is true for scholarly papers in general. In Tourism Geographies, we allow first person usage to a degree in qualitative papers. However, it can be overdone, which can make the author(s) sound either egotistical or amateurish (IMO).
5. For place-based articles, the places referred to in the article should be mentioned in the abstract (some people do not do this). They should also be listed among the keywords to make your paper more visible in online search results.
Here are some examples of abstracts that follow the guidelines above:
If you have any questions about this, just let me know as I am happy to help any author who submits their paper to Tourism Geographies to improve their title, abstract and keywords.
Optional: You might also want to see my blog on "How to Title Your Journal Article".