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Introduction to Scholarly Communication: Abstracts

Intended for graduate students, this guide provides essential information for graduate students to maximize the impact of their scholarly endeavors.

Action Items

Writing an Abstract

  • Preferably, write the abstract after you’ve finished writing the paper
  • Use formal grammar.
  • Outline your research project.
  • Learn format expectations of publication source.
  • Determine if you will use a descriptive or informative format.
  • Use clear and concise language.
  • Edit out any unnecessary words.
  • Spell out abbreviations.

Quality Criteria for Abstracts

  • Are they
    • Well-written?
    • Informative?
    • Descriptive?
    • Concise?
    • Precise?
    • Giving a clear understanding of the contents of the article?

Works Cited

What is an abstract?

  • Stand alone information about the contents of a report, presentation, or article
  • An overview of what is included in the article

The Functions of an Abstract

  • Attention grabbing section to convince others to read your work
  • In other words, an “elevator pitch” or quick introduction to the paper.
  • Enables researchers to quickly evaluate the relevance of an article to their own work. 
Why Create an Abstract? 
Journals mandate creation of abstracts
  • Journals submit abstracts to databases or databases harvest abstracts from journal sites
  • Databases add additional fields including controlled vocabulary, database structure fields
  • Databases then OCR each word of resulting file and add the abstract to the database index, which allows it to be searched. 
  • Other researchers find the abstract in the database and cite your work. 

Types of Abstracts

  • Descriptive – “summarizes the purpose, scope, and methods used to arrive at the reported findings” Alred 2006
    • Descriptive abstracts give only bare bones information required to transmit an understanding of the contents of the article.
  • Informative – Includes everything listed above. Additionally includes “results, conclusions, and any recommendations” Alred 2006
    • Informative abstracts give context as well as fundamental information. 
  • Structured abstract - Editors proscribe 5-7 sections that must be included.
    • Includes same sections as descriptive/informative abstracts.
    • Can include additional sections including keywords, design, population, setting, participants, intervention6
    • Check with publication venue for guidelines.

Guidelines for Abstracts

Expectations for abstracts change from publication to publication.
  • IEEE publications: “The abstract should be limited to 50-200 words and should concisely state what was done, how it was done, principal results, and their significance. The abstract will appear later in various abstracts journals and should contain the most critical information of the paper.” IEEE 2011
  • ACM publications: Provide templates of full papers, with no specific instruction regarding abstract format.
  • American Society for Engineering Education publications:
    • 1. Format: The document will be in a one-column format with left justification. There must be a 1 inch margin on the left, right, and bottom.
    • 2. Font: Times New Roman typeface is required, 12 point, skipping one line between paragraphs.
    • 3. Length: Abstracts should generally be between 250 - 500 words.” ASEE 2011

If your article is not accepted at one journal, you may have to re-write that abstract for a second journal. 

Subject Guide

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