/ How to write an abstract

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itsThere on 09 Mar 2013
Dear ukc, I have to write my first abstact. Please could anyone help me out by posting some examples of their own, or any tips they may have. I have been looking on google ect but i thought i would get a nice range of subjects from people on here. I have lots of time to write it, any examples to help me get an idea of what it should be like would be very helpful.

I cant copy them because, A) that would be an easy way to fail and B) it wont be on the same subject. Just in case anyone asks.

Thanks
Mike Peacock on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere: Ok, to start off here is my only abstract to date:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022169412010219

I'd say you want to introduce the subject and why it matters, give some results (ideally quote some numbers), and give a concluding remark. Remember to explain any acronyms. Writing abstracts can be tricky - you only have a limited word count to explain the work and hopefully make people want to read the paper.
remus - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere: Loads of examples here: http://arxiv.org/

In short, you want to summarise your paper in a paragraph. Start with the problem you looked at, then how you approached it and finally what your results were. As long as you include all of the above in a way that doesn't assault the english language you can't go too far wrong.
Doug on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere: if its for a paper, its the last part I write, if its for a conference I usually write something quite vague as I probably don't know exactly what I'll want to say till I actually put the presentation together (often a day or two before I speak).

If you tell us which sort of abstract we might be able to be more useful
itsThere on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to Doug: Its more of a design project, with my thesis being a technical write up of my end design and limitations.
Tim Chappell - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere:

Abstract of what? In what subject?

Assuming you're talking about an abstract for a journal paper in some academic subject, the point of the abstract is to make it clear what you're talking about in a short pithy summary. Like you, er, didn't in your post ;-)

When I write an abstract it's usually more or less the opening paragraph of the paper, verbatim, but that's in philosophy so I have no idea whether it applies to whatever you're doing.

I'm baffled by the idea that abstracts might be things you can copy from one paper to another--in any academic subject.
IainRUK - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere: Its really really hard..

What you did..
How you did it..
What your findings were..
very very brief discussion and importance of the results..

Below.. which I reckon was my best paper.

Maximum Shell Size, Growth Rate, and Maturation Age Correlate With Longevity in Bivalve Molluscs

Bivalve molluscs are newly discovered models of successful aging, and this invertebrate group includes Arctica islandica, with the longest metazoan life span. Despite an increasing biogerontological focus on bivalves, their life history traits in relation to maximum age are not as comprehensively understood as those in vertebrate model aging organisms. We explore the allometric scaling of longevity and the relationship between development schedules (time to maturity and growth rate) and longevity in the Bivalvia. Using a traditional nonphylogenetic approach and the phylogenetically inde- pendent contrasts method, the relationship among these life history parameters is analyzed. It is demonstrated that in bivalves, maximum shell size, development, and growth rates all associate with longevity. Our findings support the observations of life history patterns in mammals and fish. This is the first investigation into the relationship among longevity, size, and development schedules throughout this group, and the results strengthened by the control for phylo- genetic independence.
Pompey - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere:

ditto much of what's above. It's just a brief summary of what you did, how you did it, key findings, conclusions. read as many as you can in your subject area to get a feel for what sort of info goes in them. I should have a couple stored on work computer, I'll have a look on Monday :)
In reply to itsThere: Here's one I made earlier...
ABSTRACT
AIM: To assess whether there is a difference in patient knowledge of paracetamol dose, availability in over the counter (OTC) medications and clinical effects in overdose between toxicology patients and matched medical/surgical admissions. DESIGN AND SETTING: Knowledge of toxicology and matched patients was assessed using a questionnaire over a three
month period. PATIENTS: 55 toxicology patients and 62 age- and sex- matched medical/surgical patients in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. METHODS: 6-item questionnaire administered by investigator. Statistical comparison examined differences between groups of knowledge of: paracetamol standard dose, availability in OTC medications, clinical effects in overdose, and
overall score. RESULTS: There is no statistically significant evidence (CI 95%: for all results, p>0.05) for differences between toxicology and matched patients in knowledge of standard dose, availability in OTC medications, clinical effects in overdose or score overall. Knowledge in both groups is better of paracetamolís clinical effects in overdose and standard dose than of its content in OTC medications. CONCLUSIONS: Toxicology patients are not a distinct patient group in terms of levels of knowledge of paracetamol, its availability OTC, standard dose and clinical
effects. Patient knowledge of paracetamol is poorer regarding availability in OTC than of standard dose and clinical effects in overdose.
IainRUK - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to Mike Peacock: I wouldn't quote numbers.. but style differs so much.. an MSc student handed in her thesis.. I panned it.. yet her supervisor wrote much of it.. but it was just not the style I was used to.. figure legends were very much part of the results and also discussion.. just way too much information for me. They should stand alone, but not discuss results for me..

But we're all different.

The big thing is be willing to argue your approach. I know some academics who are so so set on style, immoveable and will reject papers for stylistic reasons. At times I think editors need to be stronger, they look to reject papers too much, and use reviews as an excuse to..

I had one paper rejected as the results (first time the subject was investigated) went against common thought, yet I designed the experiment to test a theory which was proposed by others and my data supported it..

The reviewer provided no data.. no anecdotal info.. yet his review was accepted..
IainRUK - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:
> (In reply to itsThere) Here's one I made earlier...
> ABSTRACT
> AIM: To assess whether there is a difference in patient knowledge of paracetamol dose, availability in over the counter (OTC) medications and clinical effects in overdose between toxicology patients and matched medical/surgical admissions. DESIGN AND SETTING: Knowledge of toxicology and matched patients was assessed using a questionnaire over a three
> month period. PATIENTS: 55 toxicology patients and 62 age- and sex- matched medical/surgical patients in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. METHODS: 6-item questionnaire administered by investigator. Statistical comparison examined differences between groups of knowledge of: paracetamol standard dose, availability in OTC medications, clinical effects in overdose, and
> overall score. RESULTS: There is no statistically significant evidence (CI 95%: for all results, p>0.05) for differences between toxicology and matched patients in knowledge of standard dose, availability in OTC medications, clinical effects in overdose or score overall. Knowledge in both groups is better of paracetamolís clinical effects in overdose and standard dose than of its content in OTC medications. CONCLUSIONS: Toxicology patients are not a distinct patient group in terms of levels of knowledge of paracetamol, its availability OTC, standard dose and clinical
> effects. Patient knowledge of paracetamol is poorer regarding availability in OTC than of standard dose and clinical effects in overdose.

Aye.. it depends on the journal..

Many do want subheadings in the abstract.. others it a big no no..
wbo - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere: You might want to Google a scrutiny of the abstract by Landes tho' his example is very brief
IainRUK - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to wbo:
> (In reply to itsThere) You might want to Google a scrutiny of the abstract by Landes tho' his example is very brief

Supposedly one of the hall mark PhD theses was from Sheffield.. think it was 35 pages..

Think mine was 280...
itsThere on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell: I thought i would get a good range of subjects from people on here, i wanted that becuase it would give me a good set of very very different examples. Even if i didnt understand the work, i would still be able too see the structure/style.

I talked about plagiarism in my post because i though posting on an anonymous forum was slightly suspect, even though it would be idiotic to try and copy a persons work. I still thought it should be mentioned.

Thanks for the examples.
Mike Peacock on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
>
>
> The big thing is be willing to argue your approach. I know some academics who are so so set on style, immoveable and will reject papers for stylistic reasons. At times I think editors need to be stronger, they look to reject papers too much, and use reviews as an excuse to..
>

True, but I suppose there are too many papers submitted generally, so if they can be rejected (even on dodgy grounds) then it often happens anyway.
IainRUK - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to Mike Peacock: This is why I think paper is finished..

Just go online.. why have a limit to what is good science?
freerangecat - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere:

Most things have already been said, but all I can add is that the abstract is meant to stand alone from your paper/thesis - ideally don't put any references in, but if you do then put the full reference info not a ref. number.

I'm not brave enough to give you an example that I've written, particularly now I work in journal publishing!

Cat
freerangecat - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to Mike Peacock) This is why I think paper is finished..
>
> Just go online.. why have a limit to what is good science?

I'm going to try not to get drawn into this, but papers are rejected for a number of reasons, not always because they contain poor science. Sometimes they just aren't right for the journal (impact, novelty, scope etc). There's generally a home for good science somewhere, but not necessarily where the author initially submits it.
another_alex - on 09 Mar 2013
In reply to itsThere:

Some guidelines like this http://www.sfu.ca/~jcnesbit/HowToWriteAbstract.htm or http://www.uq.edu.au/student-services/phdwriting/phlink08.html may help.
But different subject disciplines have very different conventions so ideally you want to be looking at what people are doing in your subject - does your university library keep copies of previous thesis you could look through?
andic - on 10 Mar 2013
IainRUK - on 10 Mar 2013
In reply to freerangecat: Sometimes..

Not always..

I think it's a horrendously corrupt system at present.. but not sure how it can improve..

I reviewed a paper, rejected as it was shite.. my review was ignored as the guy was a world leader.. I emailed the editor..

My review wasn't taken into consideration as one of his cronies had said it was good..

They invited a response so I published a comment in the same journal.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17451000.2011.618189

In the end, science was right, but it was corrupt in the first place. We're seeing measles epidemic for the same reason. Publishing off reputation..
Doug on 10 Mar 2013
In reply to IainRUK: And you had another paper published :-)

I still have a draft paper somewhere where the well known author we criticised (based on my field data from my PhD) demanded a ridiculous number of changes & caveats. With a change of job & field, I never did resubmit the paper & probably never will as its now quite dated.

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