An effective abstract is your first opportunity to hone your message.
An abstract is a succinct description of your work. It should ...
Explain why your work is important -
set the context and pre-empt the question "So what?"
Describe the objective(s) of your work.
What are you adding to current knowledge?
Briefly explain the methods.
Unless the research is about methods, this should not be a major
focus of your abstract (or your poster).
Succinctly state results, conclusions,
and recommendations. This is
what most people want to know.
Do not say
"We present the results of our study and recommendations for action"
- tell them what you found and recommend!
We do not recommend including an abstract on your poster.
It is redundant, because a poster is already a succinct description of your work.
Writing a good abstract, however, is an important part of having your work accepted
for presentation at a conference.
An abstract can also serve as an outline for your poster, which can
be thought of as an illustrated abstract.
Here are some resources from the American Society of Agronomy
(with permission) to help you write more effective abstracts (and papers, in fact).
Checklist and Sample Abstract:
that focuses on the qualities of a good abstract. You might have
to adapt this to your field, but the overall philosophy holds regardless of field.
Be a Better Author:
a 2-page piece that deals with abstracts and writing in general. (From the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of Agronomy Journal.)