Writing an abstract for a scientific article

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Writing an abstract for a scientific article

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Abstracts of scientific papers are sometimes poorly written, often lack important information, and occasionally convey a biased picture.

This paper provides detailed suggestions, with examples, for writing the background, methods, results, and conclusions sections of a good abstract.

The primary target of this paper is the young researcher; however, authors with all levels of experience may find useful ideas in the paper. Earlier articles offered suggestions on how to write a good case report,[ 1 ] and how to read, write, or review a paper on randomized controlled trials.

Although the primary target of this paper is the young researcher, it is likely that authors with all levels of experience will find at least a few ideas that may be useful in their future efforts. The abstract of a paper is the only part of the paper that is published in conference proceedings.

The abstract is the only part of the paper that a potential referee sees when he is invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract is the only part of the paper that readers see when they search through electronic databases such as PubMed. Finally, most readers writing an abstract for a scientific article acknowledge, with a chuckle, that when they leaf through the hard copy of a journal, they look at only the titles of the contained papers.

If a title interests them, they glance through the abstract of that paper. Only a dedicated reader will peruse the contents of the paper, and then, most often only the introduction and discussion sections. Only a reader with a very specific interest in the subject of the paper, and a need to understand it thoroughly, will read the entire paper.

Thus, for the vast majority of readers, the paper does not exist beyond its abstract. For the referees, and the few readers who wish to read beyond the abstract, the abstract sets the tone for the rest of the paper.

It is therefore the duty of the author to ensure that the abstract is properly representative of the entire paper. For this, the abstract must have some general qualities. These are listed in Table 1. The usual sections defined in a structured abstract are the Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusions; other headings with similar meanings may be used eg, Introduction in place of Background or Findings in place of Results.

Some journals include additional sections, such as Objectives between Background and Methods and Limitations at the end of the abstract. In the rest of this paper, issues related to the contents of each section will be examined in turn.

Background This section should be the shortest part of the abstract and should very briefly outline the following information: What is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question What is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine or what the paper seeks to present In most cases, the background can be framed in just 2—3 sentences, with each sentence describing a different aspect of the information referred to above; sometimes, even a single sentence may suffice.

writing an abstract for a scientific article

The purpose of the background, as the word itself indicates, is to provide the reader with a background to the study, and hence to smoothly lead into a description of the methods employed in the investigation. Some authors publish papers the abstracts of which contain a lengthy background section.

There are some situations, perhaps, where this may be justified. In most cases, however, a longer background section means that less space remains for the presentation of the results.

This is unfortunate because the reader is interested in the paper because of its findings, and not because of its background. A wide variety of acceptably composed backgrounds is provided in Table 2 ; most of these have been adapted from actual papers.

Note that, in the interest of brevity, unnecessary content is avoided. Table 2 Open in a separate window Methods The methods section is usually the second-longest section in the abstract. It should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how.

Table 3 lists important questions to which the methods section should provide brief answers. Table 3 Open in a separate window Carelessly written methods sections lack information about important issues such as sample size, numbers of patients in different groups, doses of medications, and duration of the study.

Readers have only to flip through the pages of a randomly selected journal to realize how common such carelessness is. Table 4 presents examples of the contents of accept-ably written methods sections, modified from actual publications.

Table 4 Open in a separate window Results The results section is the most important part of the abstract and nothing should compromise its range and quality. This is because readers who peruse an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore be the longest part of the abstract and should contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.

Examples of acceptably written abstracts are presented in Table 6 ; one of these has been modified from an actual publication.The abstract needs to stand alone from the article and tell the most important parts of the scientific story up front.

Introduction. The purpose of the introduction is to explain how the study sought to create knowledge that is new and useful. Aug 23,  · Expert Reviewed. How to Write an Abstract.

Three Parts: Getting Your Abstract Started Writing Your Abstract Formatting Your Abstract Community Q&A If you need to write an abstract for an academic or scientific paper, don't panic!

Your abstract is simply a short, stand-alone summary of the work or paper that others can use as an overview. An abstract describes what you do in your essay, 83%(92). Here’s the abstract for a paper (that I haven’t written) on how to write an abstract: How to Write an Abstract.

The first sentence of an abstract should clearly introduce the topic of the paper so that readers can relate it to other work they are familiar with. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa.

However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not.

writing an abstract for a scientific article

Practical Abstract Examples. Getting into college is a huge achievement; still, it comes with some strings attached. In particular, students will have to write all sorts of new academic assignments, and follow some totally new formatting requirements.

How to Write an Abstract for a Scientific Article Posted on July 13, by jphmpdirect One comment Dr. Justin B. Moore is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation