SAAPHI Abstract Writing Guide

30 Oct

 

Definition

 The writer should think of an abstract as a “marketing document”, in that its primary purpose is to summarize work that has been proposed or completed and capture the reader’s interest. It is a short document, typically comprised of 100 – 500 words that should be written in a concise manner. The components of the abstract will vary according to discipline. Further, a poorly written abstract discourages readers from taking the time to read through the document in its entirety.

There are many types of abstracts, including those used in journal publications, conference abstracts, as well as a prospectus or research proposal. Abstracts in journal publications usually precede the entire text of a peer-reviewed journal. This type of abstract is often readily available and is listed in search databases such as PUBMED, Medline, Ovid, Medscape, etc. Another type of abstract is a conference abstract. This abstract is used to propose paper topics, poster presentations, panel sessions, or oral presentations at a professional conference.

 

Beginning the Writing Process

When responding to a Call for Abstracts or Call for Papers, the writer should initially consider the intended audience and the submission guidelines. The intended audience is likely a review committee that may have to review many submissions and, for this reason, you have to ensure that your abstract will be able to stand out. However, do not forget your secondary audience. The secondary audience consists of those who will attend or are considering attending the conference. You want to be sure that, upon approval, your abstract will be enticing enough for them to join your presentation.

Next, decide upon a Problem Statement that will clearly explain the importance of the proposed research topic. This statement, which may be reflected in the title, should form the basis of the overall abstract and inform the reader of the information in the larger work. The statement should specify what practical, scientific, or theoretical gap your research is fulfilling. In other words, the problem statement should define the scope of the project.

General Components of an Abstract

Always review the specific guidelines of a particular journal or professional organization as abstract components may vary by discipline. The most basic “structured” abstract will likely consist of the following components:

Introduction/Objectives

This section should begin with an opening statement that contains 1 – 2 sentences and clearly explains the overarching purpose of the study, project, or program as well as the specific aims.

 Methodology

Specific models and approaches should be addressed. In addition, the writer should provide an overview of the methods used to gather data, develop and execute a project, or operate a program. In the most simplistic terms, explain what you did and how you did it. Include details about how the data was collected and analyzed.

Results

Concisely summarize your main findings or outcomes. An abstract may include specific data or discuss critical findings in a more general way. Be sure to clearly state what was discovered, learned, or created.

Conclusions

The conclusion should consist of a brief discussion that imparts the significance of the results and discusses what they mean? Describe the implications, including for the problem or topic that was initially identified in the Introduction? Inform the reader as to how the research adds to the body of knowledge on a topic.

Additional headings may include:

  • Background
  • Specific Aims
  • Design
  • Participants
  • Intervention (Method)
  • Interpretation

Again, be sure to check what are specified in the formal Call for Abstracts/Papers.

Additional Tips

 State the topic within the first sentence, no later than the second sentence of the abstract.

  • Limit the length of the title to no more than 12 words (or what is stated in the guidelines).
  • Avoid using the first person “I” or “we” when possible.
  • Write in the past tense.
  • Choose active verbs instead of passive ones (ex: “the study tested” instead of “In the study we tested”).
  • Avoid jargon, trade names, acronyms, abbreviations, & symbols in your abstract, because your explanation of these names will take up valuable room/words.
  • Check your spelling and grammar, and be sure to provide logical connections/transitions between information in the abstract.
  • Review and edit!
  • Identify and include at least 5 key words to accompany the abstract.
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