Writing Scientific Abstracts
Dr. Meagan Kittle AutryENG 626October 1, 2014
The magic abstract formula
“Big picture” problem or topic that is debated in your fieldGap in the literature on this topicYour project filling the gapThe specific material you examine in the paper/presentationYour results and/or original argumentA strong concluding sentence
CARS (Create a Research Space), anyone??
#1: Big picture problem or topic
Open with a general statement of the problem or debated topic in your field, including significanceThis should be a statement that many people in your field would know and/or agree withExample:“The question of ____ has been widely debated in the field of ______, with scholars currently focusing on ________.Example:“_______ is a critical site of exploration in the field of ______, as understanding how ______ works will improve our ability to mitigate climate change.”
#2: Gap in the literature on the topic
State the gap, but also the reason why the gap is important to addressUse contrastive turns here to highlight that you are statin the gap,eg. However, but, little is known, etc.References are not generally expected, but check with conference/journal to see if requiredExample:“However, we do not yet know ________.”Example:“Despite this long line of research, little is known about _______.”
#3: Your project that fills the gap
Tell your audience exactly what your project is doing, framed in a way that makes it clear how you are filling in this gap of knowledgeExample:“In this project, we examine the ________.”Example:“This study explores the reasons why _______, expanding our knowledge of ________.”
#4: The specific methods use and the material you examine
Describe your material, methods, sites, theories, etc. brieflyThis may be 1-3 sentences, depending on the length requirementExample:“_____ were randomized to determine _____ over the course of ____ days. Double-blind assessments of symptoms were obtained during treatments. Data were analyzed using _______.”
#5: Your results and main argument
Give away the goods: Tell the readers exactly what you foundCan also take several sentences to describe (this is the most important part for readers!)Example:“We found that _______.”Example:“In the complete analysis, mean improvement levels were ______. The most important factors proved to be _____, ______, and _____, with _____ having a statistical significance of ______.”
#6: Strong conclusion detailing implications or significance
End by giving your readers the reason why they need to hear your presentation or read your paperExplain the significance of your work for the field (the “payoff”)Example:“In conclusion, the benefits of _____ for _____ are apparent within the first week of treatment.”Example:“The prevalence of ____ in ____ is substantially higher than general population estimates, indicating __________.”
Writing your abstract
Start by filling out all of your required six sectionsThen edit for conciseness – cut out wordy sections, eliminate unnecessary words, replace lengthier phrases with single wordsPhrases to avoid in abstracts:“It is commonly acknowledged that ______”“We propose that ______”Use the Google Doc from last week’s workshop!
Abstracts in your field
Search online for your field’s main conference or one of the more prestigious conferencesStep 1: What requirements are there for abstracts? Do they seem to fit the just-described model?Step 2: Find actual abstracts that were accepted into the conference. Do they tend to follow the model? Which ones don’t?