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Writing an Effective Abstract


Seven Key Elements. Clear Focus. Does the abstract make clear what work needed to be done, what problem needed to be solved? Method(s). What method(s) were applied to ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing an Effective Abstract

Writing an Effective Abstract
  • RC Arora
  • Research Summer School
  • July 10, 2015

Why it is important
  • It is the first section that is read by journal
  • Can make or break if your manuscript is sent for
  • It is the first section that is examined by
  • May be the section that is read
  • It is the only accessible as access to full-text
    articles is often restricted
  • Think about when you are screening for a
    systematic review
  • Use key words from the document

Seven Key Elements
  • Clear Focus
  • Does the abstract make clear what work needed to
    be done, what problem needed to be solved?
  • Method(s). 
  • What method(s) were applied to address the
    problem? Why these particular methods?
  • Importance.
  • Why should we care about this research?
  • Context. How does this work fit in with other
    work in the field?
  • Results. 
  • What, specifically, are the results? What
    evidence is given to convince us of those
  • Unique Contribution.
  • What does this work report that is new?
  • Possible Applications. 
  • In what ways might this work be useful, either
    theoretically or practically?

Hit em Hard
  • Title should reflect main findings in the paper
  • Dont be cute
  • 1-3 sentences must inform the reader about why
    you have undertaken this research
  • And why they should care
  • Most journals impose a strict word count limit
  • Identify the major objectives and conclusions

Clearly state your hypothesis
Keywords in the Methods Section
  • Summarize the basic design of your study
  • Briefly state the key techniques used
  • Excessive detail is unnecessary
  • For clinical studies
  • population studied
  • sample size
  • patient groups
  • dosages
  • study duration

  • One hundred consecutive consenting male
    inpatients in a state of moderately severe,
    uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal at screening
    were randomized to receive either lorazepam (8
    mg/day) or chlordiazepoxide (80 mg/day) with
    dosing down-titrated to zero in a fixed-dose
    schedule across 8 treatment days.
  • http//www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19371497

The results subsection is likely the most
important part of your abstract
  • Identify the major results
  • Should be the longest part of your abstract
  • Maximize the amount of detail you include here

  • significant differences in body weight were
    observed between the animals in groups A and B
  • the average body weight loss of the animals in
    group A was greater than that of the animals in
    group B (20.40.3 g vs. 8.40.6 g plt0.01)

Assemble into a single paragraph
  • Consider a table or figure if allowed
  • Consider not ever using a table or figure

  • Last 1-2 sentences of your abstract
  • Theoretical or practical implications of your
  • Describes how your work has advanced the field
  • Be concise and avoid overstatements
  • Only as a last resort
  • requires further study

  • Do not repeat or rephrase the title
  • Omit excessive background information
  • Literature review/citations
  • Overly detailed description of routine methods
  • unless this is the focus of your study
  • Undefined abbreviations or acronyms
  • Trade names
  • Results or interpretations that are not discussed
    in the text

Final Checks
  • Check that all of the information you have
    included here agrees with the information in the
    main body of your paper
  • Emphasize the different points in proportion to
    the emphasis they receive in the body of the

Example of a Reviewer Score Card
  • Problem Statement 
  • Was the problem stated clearly? Was the problem
    defined within manageable boundaries?
  • Research Design 
  • Was there a comparison group? Was the comparison
    group developed randomly or in some other
    fashion? Were biases identified and dealt with?
    Was the reliability of measured variables
    addressed? Were all the outcomes of interest
    addressed? Were methods of data analysis
  • Quality of Abstract 
  • Were the purpose, general design, results, and
    conclusions accurately and concisely presented?
  • Originality 
  • Did the study employ unique techniques or
    methods? Did it use accepted methodologies and
    techniques in a new way? Was the research
    hypothesis novel or unique?

Example of a Rating Scale
  • Exceptional Excellent in every way. Equal in
    quality to the best nationally presented and/or
    published papers.
  • Solid Above average. Adequate for presentation
    at state/regional meetings could use additional
    work to qualify for national presentation.
  • Good Satisfactory or average presentation.
    Additional work would be needed to be presented
    at regional (smaller) meetings.
  • Marginal Meets minimum expectations, but would
    need considerable additional work to correct
  • Poor Did not meet minimum expectations. Not of
    publishable or presentable quality

Tips and Tricks
  • Most important sentences in each section
    (introduction, methods, results, and
  • Remove extra words and phrases
  • Check your target journals style guide to
    examine their abstract guidelines
  • Give the abstract to a colleague

  • A tool to communicate your research succinctly
    while highlighting its most important facet
  • Revise so that the abstract conveys only the
    essential information
  • Writing an effective abstract will improve the
    chances of
  • Your manuscript being accepted
  • People to reading it
  • Increase its impact

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