How to write a scientific abstract

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Transcript How to write a scientific abstract

How to write a
scientific abstract
Anne E. Carey
Interim director, Undergraduate Research Office
August 2, 2011
When do you write an
Professional meeting
Conference paper
Journal article
Grant proposal
Why care about writing
A good abstract will repay you with increased
impact on the world by enticing people to read
your publications or come to your poster.
Make sure that all the components of a good
abstract are included in the next one you write.
Writing a good abstract is hard work.
Helps you learn to read others’ abstracts
Getting started
Questions to ask yourself before you start
writing your abstract…
What’s the problem?
Why hasn’t it been done before?
Why and how could you do it now?
What was the purpose of the research?
Parts of an abstract
1. Introduction
2. Background
3. Why you are doing your research
4. How you did your research
5. Findings
6. Implications
1. Introduction
Set the stage for why your work is important
Was the research difficult?
Does it have major implications?
Make sure you make the work interesting to the
Brief introduction to your work
Usually one to two sentences
2. Background
What have others done?
What has not yet been done?
Identify gaps in the field
Which are the important gaps?
The hook that draws the reader in
3. Why your research
How were your data collected, compiled,
generated, analyzed?
What gaps are you filling?
Is the problem urgent?
What new method or tools became available that
you used?
What method from another field are you applying to
your field?
4. Methods
List, tabulate, mention
Avoid detail here (unless your work is about
methods development)
5. Findings
What’s the answer?
What did you learn (or invent or create)?
Give quantitative results (if you have them)
Avoid hand-waving words (very, small,
Use hedge words if you need them (might, could,
may, seem)
Don’t give results that could be mis-interpreted or
don’t actually exist yet
6. Implications
Relate back to the gaps in the field identified in
step 2
What are the larger implications of your findings?
How does it add to the body of knowledge?
Is your work going to change the world?
Are your results general, generalizable, or
specific to certain cases?
Follow the rules (formatting, language, etc)
Word limit (different for different kinds of purposes)
typically 150–200 words
sometimes it’s character count (with or without
spaces matters)
Graphs and figures (are they allowed?)
References (sometimes allowed, sometimes not)
Remember you are writing for a general audience
Plan ahead (know what the deadline is!)
Good abstracts are not written at the last minute
Start writing early and revise multiple times
Write short sentences
Avoid abbreviations
Define acronyms except for very standard ones
(e.g., DNA)
Other considerations
Title should…
summarize the abstract
convince the reader to read the whole abstract
because it will be interesting, informative, important,
relevant or innovative
be catchy
presenter is usually first author
include affiliations, email, phone numbers
Other sources
American Psychological Association
American Chemical Society Style Guide
Modern Language Association