Writing the Abstract
Today’s agenda:Consider thestructureand functionofthe abstract.Tips for writing theabstract.A bit about “keywords.”Examineabstractsinpublished papers.Examine and edit abstracts in “mock” papers.In-classwork on abstracts.
The abstract is not a part of the paper at all!Theabstract is not just another section of your paper. It is often read in isolation, especially because many journals release the abstract free of charge, but not the body of the paper.Therefore, it mustcontain allthe elements of the whole paper, inproper order,but inminiature.
Some rules for abstracts:Keep it short—typicallyno more than a page, double-spaced. Many journals set word limits (e.g., 300 words). One paragraph.No citations—the reader cannot see the references.Begin with the corequestion, goal, or hypothesis.State the hypothesis concisely.Describe the methods in brief.Provide the key results, with some detail (e.g., mean values).Give the reader the interpretation so he/she can get the whole story.
Somejournals require a specific format that listsparts of the abstract ina series ofmini-paragraphs:Journalof Biogeography,30:1297–1310BiodiversityandBiogeographyof theIslandsof the Kuril ArchipelagoAbstractAim:Based on seven consecutive seasons of biotic survey and inventory of the terrestrial and freshwater plants and animals of the 30 major islands of the Kuril Archipelago, a description of the biodiversity and an analysis of the biogeography of this previously little known part of the world are provided.Study site:The Kuril Archipelago, a natural laboratory for investigations into the origin, subsequent evolution, and long-term maintenance of insular populations, forms the eastern boundary of the Okhotsk Sea, extending 1200 km between Hokkaido, Japan, and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. A chain of more than 56 islands, the system is only slightly smaller than the Hawaiian Islands, covering an area of 15,600km2and providing2,409km of coastline.
Some journals require a specific format that lists parts of the abstract in a series ofmini-paragraphs:Methods:Collections of whole specimens of plants and animals, as well as tissue samples for future molecular studies, were made by teams of scientists from Russia, Japan, and the USA, averaging 34 people for each of the seven annual summer expeditions (1994–2000). Floral and faunal similarities between islands were evaluated by using Sorensen's coefficient of similarity. The similarity matrix resulting from pair-wise calculations was then subjected to UPGMA cluster analysis.Results:Despite the relatively small geographical area of all islands combined, the Kuril Island biota is characterized by unusually high taxonomic diversity, yet endemism is very low. An example of a non-relict biota, it originated from two primary sources: a southern source, the Asian mainland by way of Sakhalin and Hokkaido, and a northern source by way of Kamchatka. The contribution of the southern source biota to the species diversity of theKurilswas considerably greater than the northern one.Main conclusion:TheBussolStrait, lying betweenUrupandSimushirin the centralKurils, is the most significantbiogeographicalboundary within the Archipelago. Of lesser importance are two transitional zones, the DeVriesStrait or“MiyabeLine,”which passes between Iturup andUrupin the southernKurils, and the fourth Kuril Strait, betweenOnekotanandParamushirin the northernKurils.
Some journals require a specific format that lists parts of the abstract in a series ofmini-paragraphs:This list of five items provides a good outline of what should appear in an abstract:Aim (question, goal, or hypothesis):Study site(s):Methods (materials):Results:Main conclusion:
Most journals require a list of “Keywords”
Journal of Biogeography, 30:1297–1310Biodiversity and Biogeography of the Islands of the Kuril ArchipelagoAbstractKeywords:Biodiversity,biogeography,vascular plants,mollusks, insects,fishes,mammals, Hokkaido, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Kuril Islands, Russian Far East.IntroductionTheKuril Archipelago is a chain of more than 56 islands, only slightly smaller than the HawaiianIslands. . . .
In-class activity:Let’s examinethe abstractsin your published papersto compare formats, checking to see if the authors were successful in conveying the essence of the paper, level of detail, etc.And then let’s do the same with “mock” papers.
In-class activity:Now, write a draft of an abstractfor your own paper.Then, in15 or 20minutes, pass it to another student who will edit it for you. Peer-editing can be a great way to improve your own writing. Do the best you can.
In-class activity:Now, take a look at the edits and do your best to improve your abstract, then pass itto another student who will edit it foryou again.Try to put everything you have learned into this editing. It is both a huge help to the other student and also a benefit to yourself.
Assignment:Begin the process of putting the parts of your paper together.Readthe book, Chapter 7 (pages 167–195).