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Abstracts and abstract writing


Writing abstracts.  http://writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/abstract/


Articles: Web pages about abstracts and abstract writing

From  http://www.earthresearch.com/writing-abstract.shtml

"Down to Earth" Research Advice

Written for you by Dr J. Mark Tippett, www.earthresearch.com


Abstract facts

  • Abstracts are found at the beginning of journal articles, research papers, reports, theses, and dissertations.
  • An abstract is a complete but concise and informative account of your work, i.e., a condensation that makes sense without reference to the full document. It is not merely a descriptive guide to the paper’s content, it is an abbreviated version of the paper (except for very long review-style papers or monographs, in which descriptive abstracts may be used).
  • The purposes of writing an abstract are: 1. To enable readers to quickly and accurately identify the substance of your work and to decide its relevance to their own interests. 2. To advertise your work (to encourage readers to obtain and read the full article, and to be available on searchable online abstract databases).
  • An abstract is not a summary. A summary appears at the end of a piece of work, and is a restatement of the important findings and conclusions. Unlike the abstract, the summary does not include condensations of any other portions including the background, purpose, or methods of the study.
  • With the phenomenon of information overload, many researchers will read only the abstract of your paper.
  • With the advent of abstract databases, many readers will see your abstract separately from the rest of the paper. Therefore, writing an excellent abstract is vital to encourage readers to obtain the full paper, read it, and cite it.
  • The essential elements of the structure of an abstract are the background, the problem, the methods, the results, and the implications.

Abstract writing

The length of the abstract should be restricted to the limit set by the journal or relevant academic regulation, often about 250 words (say about 15 sentences). The abstract consists of 5 linked parts – background, problem, methods, results, and implications. The proportion of the abstract taken by each part varies considerably. You need to get the attention of the reader with the abstract – make them interested in your work.

Background: Briefly set up the background and context to the study, its rationale and significance. Within this background, you need to couch the problem…

Problem: Here you need to identify the particular research problem under investigation, the purpose of the study, and any specific research objectives or hypotheses.

Methods: Outline the approach you took and the methods you used to investigate the problem. Describe the extent of the study, what you did or measured, and how you did it. Specify the location of the study and when it was performed.

Results: give any important data. Be specific, not vague. Quantify if possible; avoid terms such as "most" or "some" if you have the specific numbers. State the major interpretations and findings, how the findings relate to the original research problem, and any limitations/caveats on the results.

Implications: Finish by stating the contribution of the work and its implications. There may be implications for associated problems, or for previous studies, e.g., reinterpretation of a previous model may be necessary in the light of your findings. Do your results have general or specific application or relevance?

The structure for an abstract described above is appropriate for articles, papers, theses etc. Abstracts for meetings, conferences, and conference proceedings are sometimes more speculative/descriptive in nature and may not follow this structure.

In order to become good at writing abstracts, you need to read and examine others’ abstracts, and practice writing your own. You can read abstracts in journals and theses, and by accessing abstract databases (e.g., Science Citation Index). When reading an abstract, peruse it properly to judge if it is informative and well-written. You will be able to identify both good and bad abstracts. When writing your own, give yourself time to produce revised drafts and try to read it as someone reading it for the first time, i.e., as your audience.

Abstract tips

  • Make your own work sound interesting and exciting, after all, if you can’t, who can?
  • Avoid long-winded, complex sentences.
  • Avoid excessive use of jargon.
  • Keep within the specified word limit, otherwise someone else may chop it down for you.
  • Ensure the abstract contains all your key words (for the searchable databases).
  • Short abstracts (100-300 words, for articles and papers) should usually be a single unified paragraph; longer abstracts for theses and reports may be paragraphed.

Thesis/dissertation abstracts – some comments

The abstract for a thesis or dissertation may or may not be paragraphed depending on the requirements specified. Most institutions will have their own "house rules" as to the length of the abstract, but could vary from 300-1000 words. The abstract should stand alone and be able to be understood without reference to citations, footnotes, or other parts of the thesis.

The abstract is by far the most important page in your thesis. Not only does it summarize the whole work, but also it is usually the first part the examiner will read. As with most things in life, first impressions are very, very important! Indeed, the examiner may already have a grade in mind for your thesis having read only the abstract. Despite this, many students write the abstract in a great hurry. Although the abstract must necessarily be written at the end of the research write-up, great care should be given to its construction, for the reasons stated above. The best way to write a good abstract is to revise it several times.

From  http://www.cs.sjsu.edu/100w/html/abstract_writing.html

How to make your information available to more readers

You can make your research or technical publications more widely usable, by adding an abstract in English when you publish in a language other than English.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of a published document such as an article, book, thesis or report.

Why have an abstract?

An abstract makes it possible for readers to quickly find out the content of a document, so they can decide whether they need to consult the full text.

The abstract is the only version of the paper most international readers will ever read, especially if your work is written in a language other than English. As English is the international language of science, providing an abstract in English will give your work a much higher profile outside your own country and make it much more accessible to international workers in the same field.

Who should write abstracts?

For English abstracts included in otherwise non-English publications, anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the subject and a good command of English can write the abstract: the author or editor, or another colleague.

Where are abstracts used?

There is an increasing trend for journals published in a language other than English to include abstracts in English. This makes the information available to many more people, not only in English-speaking countries. Other documents such as books, theses and reports also benefit by the inclusion of an abstract in English.

Abstracts services

An even more important reason to write abstracts in English is to help the editors of abstracts services or journals to understand the work and write abstracts for it. While some abstracts services are able to write their own abstracts in English of material in other languages, most information that is not in English does not become accessible through an abstracts system.


How to write abstracts

For an abstract to be useful, it must be carefully written: otherwise readers are left without important information, and abstract services will find it difficult to summarize the work in their publications.

The remainder of this guide contains suggestions on what kind of documents should have abstracts written for them, and how to go about preparing useful abstracts.


What kind of information should be abstracted?

Abstracts are most useful when they are written for material that reports something new. This will be either new research findings (for example in a scientific journal, theses or perhaps the proceedings of a conference), or presents or reviews material in a new way (for instance in a technical journal, book, report, or bulletin).

Writing abstracts: the informative approach

Most abstracts are written to give readers a good idea of the content of the paper. These detailed abstracts usually follow a similar order to a scientific paper:

  • A brief statement of the purpose of the study, unless it is obvious from the title or the main content of the abstract.
    Basic information on the organisms, materials and locations used.
    Selected details of the experimental methods, including the duration of the study, the treatments, methods and equipment used.
    The key results, with a description of them and some of the main figures and their statistical significance.
    Finish with a brief note on the significance of the results.
  • Writing abstracts: a descriptive approach

    Sometimes a different style of abstract is needed; describing the publication itself, often in some detail, rather than reporting particular findings. This is particularly useful for the following types of publication:

    • Books, book chapters and review articles which do not report original research.
      Surveys where there is too much data to report except in general terms.
      Preliminary research articles that are not complete enough to warrant a detailed abstract.
  • In this case the abstract does not contain a lot of detailed results, but describes the nature, scope and content of the document.

    Writing abstracts: the style

    Whichever type of abstract is written, there is a certain style of writing which helps to make things more clear to the reader. Here are a few suggestions for preparing useful abstracts:

    • Decide on the type of abstract (informative or descriptive), and follow the suggestions given above.
    • Do not repeat information given in the title.
    • Do not include in the abstract any facts or ideas that are not in the text.
    • Use direct, straightforward English.
    • For informative abstracts, include enough data to support the conclusions (but do not include the recommendation).
    • Use the past tense when describing what was done.
    • Avoid jargon (it does not translate internationally and across multi-level audiences).
    • Use scientific names and terminology not jargon.


  • From  http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/abstracts.html


    by John December and Susan Katz

    What is an abstract?
    An abstract is a stand-alone statement that briefly conveys the essential information of a paper, article, document or book; presents the objective, methods, results, and conclusions of a research project; has a brief, non-repetitive style.

    Although an abstract appears as the first section of a paper, it should be written last. You need to have completed all other sections before you can select and summarize the essential information from those sections.

    Many abstracts are published without the complete paper itself in abstract journals or in online databases. Thus, an abstract might serve as the only means by which a researcher determines what information a paper contains. Moreover, a researcher might make a decision whether to read the paper or not based on the abstract alone. Because of this need for self-contained compactness, an abstract must convey the essential results of a paper.

    Many publications have a required style for abstracts; the "Guidelines for Authors" provided by the publisher will provide specific instructions. This document describes general guidelines.

    What goes in an abstract?
    In doing any research, a researcher has an objective, uses methods, obtains results, and draws conclusions. In writing the paper to describe the research, an author might discuss background information, review relevant literature, and detail procedures and methodologies. However, an abstract of the paper should:

    • describe the objective, methods, results, and conclusions;
    • omit background information, a literature review, and detailed description of methods;
    • avoid reference to other literatures.

    What is the style of an abstract?
    The style of an abstract should be concise and clear. Readers do not expect the abstract to have the same sentence structure flow of a paper. Rather, the abstract's wording should be very direct. For example, the following abstract is a self-contained description of an imaginary physics project. The key elements of an abstract are in boldface, and its style conforms to the suggestions above.


    This study's objective was to determine the strangeness measurements for red, green, and blue quarks. The Britt-Cushman method for quark analysis exploded a quarkstream in a He gas cloud. Results indicate that both red and green quarks had a strangeness that differed by less than 0.453 x 10-17 Zabes/m2 for all measurements. Blue quarks remained immeasurable, since their particle traces bent into 7-tuple space. This study's conclusions indicate that red and green quarks can be used interchangeably in all He stream applications, and further studies must be done to measure the strangeness of blue quarks.

    How do you write an abstract?
    Writing an abstract involves boiling down the essence of a whole paper into a single paragraph that conveys as much new information as possible. One way of writing an effective abstract is to start with a draft of the complete paper and do the following:

    1. Highlight the objective and the conclusions that are in the paper's introduction and the discussion.
    2. Bracket information in the methods section of the paper that contains keyword information.
    3. Highlight the results from the discussion or results section of the paper.
    4. Compile the above highlighted and bracketed information into a single paragraph.
    5. Condense the bracketed information into the key words and phrases that identify but do not explain the methods used.
    6. Delete extra words and phrases.
    7. Delete any background information.
    8. Rephrase the first sentence so that it starts off with the new information contained in the paper, rather than with the general topic. One way of doing this is to begin the first sentence with the phrase "this paper" or "this study."
    9. Revise the paragraph so that the abstract conveys the essential information.

    For further information: Wilkinson, Antoinette Miele. The Scientist's Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations. 1991.

    From  http://www.washington.edu/oue/summer_institute/writing.html

    Abstract Writing Workshop

    What are Abstracts?

    An abstract is a concise summary of a larger document – thesis, essay, book, research report, journal publication, etc. – that highlights major points covered in the work, concisely describes the content and scope of the writing, identifies the methodology used, and identifies the findings, conclusions, or intended results.

    Why are Abstracts so Important?

    For research purposes, an abstract makes it possible for readers to quickly determine the content of a work and decide if the full text should be consulted. With published materials such as journal articles, abstracts are also important tools in an electronic search, based on key words from the body of the text and highlighted in an abstract. For the purposes of the Undergraduate Research Symposium, a well-written abstract helps others, who may not be studying in your discipline, understand the purpose and value of your work; it should be comprehensible on a basic level to the educated non-expert.

    Qualities of a Good Abstract:

    • Uses one or more well-developed paragraphs that are coherent, concise, unified, and able to stand alone;
    • uses an introduction/body/conclusion structure which presents the work’s purpose, methods, results, and conclusions (preferably in that order);
    • strictly follows the chronology of the work;
    • provides logical connections/transitions between the information included;
    • adds no new information, but simply offers a summary;
    • is understandable to a wide audience

    Steps for Writing Effective Abstracts:

    I. Reread or review the research you have completed or are currently working on.

    • Look for the following main parts of the work: purpose (thesis), methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations.
    • Use the headings, outline heads, and table of contents to guide your abstract writing.

    II. After you’ve finished rereading your work, write a rough draft without looking back through your work.

    A. Make the abstract easy to read.

    • Use the past tense when describing what was done. However, where appropriate use active verbs rather than passive verbs.
    • Use short sentences, but vary sentence structure to avoid choppiness.
    • Use complete sentences. Don’t omit articles or other small words in order to save space.
    • Avoid jargon.
      Jargon is the special vocabulary of a trade or profession used for communicating within that specific field. Jargon should be reserved for a specific, technical audience.
      An example of jargon: The VDTs in composition were down last week.
      Revised for general audience: The video display terminals were down last week.
    • For science based work, use scientific names instead of local names.
    • Use the same tone and emphasis used in the original.
    • Generally, an abstract is easier to read when the thesis or purpose statement is first or at least, near the beginning of the abstract.

    B. Be Concise!

    • Don’t just copy key sentences from your work; you will end up putting in too much or too little information.
    • Don’t rely on the way material was phrased in your larger work; summarize the information in a new way.
    • Avoid repeating information given in the title.
    • Give the information only once.
    • Use standard abbreviations.
    • Be exact and unambiguous.

    III. Revise your rough draft!

    • Correct weaknesses in organization.
    • Improve transitions.
    • Drop unnecessary information.
    • Add important information you may have left out.
    • Eliminate wordiness.
    • Fix errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    * Print your final copy before submitting it, and read it again (and aloud) to catch any errors you missed.

    Important Points to Remember:

    • Do not comment or evaluate the work/research experience. An abstract is not a review or opinion piece.
    • For the Undergraduate Research Symposium application, your abstract should be no longer than 300 words and no more than one paragraph.

    Works Consulted: LEO Writing Abstracts, ©1995, ‘96, ‘97, ’98 The Write Place; Writer’s Workshop, University of Illinois, Urbana, adapted by Kitty O. Locker, 1997.

    Additional Resources:

    General Writing:
    Easy Writer: A Pocket Guide, Andrea Lunsford & Robert Connors (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).
    Stunk’s The Elements of Style:
    Garbl’s Writing Center: http://www.bartleby.com/141/
    The Writer’s Workshop: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/cws/wworkshop/index.htm
    Diane Hacker, Research & Documentation: http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/hacker/resdoc/
    Writing Abstracts:  http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/bizwrite/abstracts.html

    Sample Abstracts:

    From Academic Journals:

    Title: The Black Dandyism of George Walker: A Case Study of Genealogical Method
    by Barbara L. Webb Source: The Drama Review, 2001

    Abstract: Most scholarly and popular discussions of African American performance at the turn of the 20th century focus on the limitations of the minstrelsy "trap" that confined these performers to interpretations of existing stereotypes. 1 Such assessments discount the possibilities for agency within these "minstrelsy- derived entertainments," including those that proceeded from minstrelsy's traditions of satire and parody, and the related intrinsic threat of a joke failing to remain a joke. In a recent issue of TDR, Michele Wallace called for an increased acceptance and interrogation of black participation in minstrelsy and an appreciation of black performers' accomplishments in this field (2000:144-45). I hope this essay contributes to just such a project.

    George Walker's performance of the black dandy constituted a refusal to echo minstrel caricatures by causing the standard "joke" of the well-dressed, suave black man to fail, to be reclaimed by its object. An investigation of the resources available to Walker to perform such a sleight of hand turns up a possible kinship link with an unlikely relative: the European and Euro-American dandies who provided much of the inspiration for the initial minstrel joke. My contention is that Walker reclaimed the dandies' point of view from the minstrels, rearticulating it from within an African American context. The theoretical impetus for this line of inquiry is Cities of the Dead (1996), Joseph Roach's provocative, controversial study of circum-Atlantic performance.

    Format: First paragraph of introductory information followed by clear thesis or claim, method, re-statement of the thesis/purpose, and conclusion.

    Title: The Wild Ways and Paths of Pleasure: Access to British Waterfalls, 1500-2000
    by Brian J. Hudson Source: Landscape Research, 26.4; 285-303.

    Abstract: In Britain the rise of tourism, largely associated with the Romantic taste for landscape, encouraged travel to relatively inaccessible areas. Among travelers in search of the picturesque and the sublime, waterfalls were particularly popular, but these were commonly difficult and dangerous places to visit. The impact of tourism on the evolution of the landscape at waterfall sites over a period during which people traveled to tourist centres on horseback, by coach, by rail and by motor vehicle is examined. Drawing on topographical, travel and tourist literature from the sixteenth century to 2000, together with extensive field observation, the evolution from the 'natural' to the designed landscape, created to meet the needs of, and to attract, visitors, is considered. It is demonstrated how, while facilitating visits to natural attractions such as waterfalls, improved access and the provision of amenities have changed valued landscapes and, hence, the visitor's experience of them.

    Format: Clear, brief introduction followed directly by the thesis/statement of purpose, the methodology, and the conclusion/findings.

    Title: The Scratch Orchestra and Visual Arts
    by Michael Parsons. Source: The Drama Review, 2001

    Abstract: The Scratch Orchestra, formed in London in 1969 by Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton, included visual and performance artists as well as musicians and other participants from diverse backgrounds, many of them without formal training. This article deals primarily with the earlier phase of the orchestra's activity, between 1969 and 1971. It describes the influence of the work of John Cage and Fluxus artists, involving the dissolution of boundaries between sonic and visual elements in performance and the use of everyday materials and activities as artistic resources. It assesses the conflicting impulses of discipline and spontaneity in the work of the Scratch Orchestra and in the parallel activity of the Portsmouth Sinfonia and other related groups. The emergence in the early 1970s of more controlled forms of compositional activity, in reaction against anarchic and libertarian aspects of the Scratch Orchestra's ethos, is also discussed.

    Format: Single introductory statement immediately followed by the thesis/purpose and the methodology as well as some additional sub-theses considered.

    Title: Freedom and Recognition in Hegel and Habermas
    by K. Baynes. Source: Philosophy & Social Criticism, 28.1, 1-17.

    Abstract: Contrary to some popular interpretations, I argue that Hegel and Habermas share many basic assumptions in their respective accounts of freedom. In particular, both respond to weaknesses in Kant's idea of freedom as acting from (certain kinds of) reasons by explicating this idea with reference to specific social practices or 'forms of recognition' that in turn express suppositions and expectations that actors adopt with respect to one another. I illustrate this common strategy in each and suggest that it may offer an alternative to Rawls's 'political' account of public reason.

    Format: Primary thesis clearly stated at the beginning of the abstract, followed by a further break down of that thesis, the method, and the conclusion.

    Title: Francis Bacon’s Concept of Objectivity and the Idols of the Mind
    by Perez Zagorin. Source: The British Journal for the History of Science (2001), 34: 379-393.

    Abstract: This paper examines the concept of objectivity traceable in Francis Bacon's natural philosophy. After some historical background on this concept, it considers the question of whether it is not an anachronism to attribute such a concept to Bacon, since the word ‘objectivity’ is a later coinage and does not appear anywhere in his writings. The essay gives reasons for answering this question in the negative, and then criticizes the accounts given of Bacon's understanding of objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Julie Robin Solomon. It argues that this understanding is most directly and fully expressed in his discussion of the idols of the mind. In this connection, the paper notes Bacon's critical attitude to sixteenth-century skepticism and its relevance to the idea of objectivity implicit in his comments on the idols. In conclusion, the paper argues that Bacon was not a pure empiricist and describes the place assigned to theories and hypotheses in his natural philosophy.

    Format: Purpose is stated at the beginning, followed immediately by the method, and conclusions/findings. *Slightly different format that distinguishes the purpose of the study from the thesis - purpose is expressed at the beginning, the methods for exploring the purpose follows. The author then states the conclusion, which is also the argument or thesis of the work.

    Title: Automatic and Intentional Processes in Children’s Recognition Memory: The Reversed Misinformation Effect
    by Robyn Holliday and Brett Hayes. Source: Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Abstract: This study investigated the contribution of automatic and intentional memory processes to 5- and 6-year-old children's suggestible responses in a reversed misinformation paradigm. The temporal order of the conventional eyewitness paradigm was altered such that children were initially presented with a pre-event narrative containing misinformation that was either read to them or was self-generated in response to semantic and linguistic cues, and the following day were presented with a witnessed event in the form of a picture story. Children then completed a standard forced-choice recognition memory test under two instruction conditions. In the inclusion condition children were reminded about the presentations of the pre-event narrative and the original story and asked to choose the witnessed event item. In the exclusion condition children were instructed to exclude pre-event suggestions. Suggestibility effects were found with the magnitude of such effects differentially affected by the encoding of misleading suggestions and test instructions. In the exclusion condition, children were more likely to correctly reject suggestions that were self-generated. Both automaticity and intentional recollection contributed to children's suggestible responding.

    Format: Thesis/purpose stated at the beginning, followed by the method and the results/findings.

    Title: Surface Micromachined Force Gauges: Uncertainty and Reliability
    by Jonathan Wittwer, Troy Gomm, and Larry Howell. Source: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. Published 11 December 2001.

    Abstract: Surface micromachining of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), like all other fabrication processes, has inherent variation that leads to uncertain material and dimensional parameters. By considering the effects of these variations during the design of micro force gauges, the gauge uncertainty and reliability can be estimated. Without the means of calibrating micro gauges, these effects are often significant when compared to experimental repeatability. The general force gauge model described in this paper can be used to measure a wide range of forces, and simple design changes can lead to improved accuracy in measurement. A method of probabilistic design is described that is not limited to small beam deflections.

    Format: Introduction followed by thesis/purpose and the findings.

    The Scholarly Abstract: Some Thoughts
    Sarah C. Stroup, HUM 498

    In general, it is good to keep in mind that the abstract functions as a kind of 'advertisement' for your intellectual 'product'. As such, you want to present the 'potential consumer' (your readers-the organizers for a conference or conference panel, the editorial board of a journal or publishing house, the applications committee for a fellowship or scholarly grant) with as inviting, approachable, and convincing a product as possible. Abstract style and form will vary according to author, subject, and field-below are a few very general, highly structural guidelines that have worked in the past for me-and my students-in the field of Classics. You should not feel that you have to 'copy' or duplicate this structure but should rather use it as a template upon which to create an abstract form suited to your own style and needs.

    Suggested Rough Template:

    1. Start strong. Your first paragraph, first sentence, should be clear, exciting, thought-provoking, and compelling. In short, your first sentence should make your readers want to read the rest of your abstract, not scratch their heads and knock back a shot of scotch.
    2. So, you've got a good first sentence. Congratulations. Now, follow it up with a sharp first paragraph. In many situations, your readers will need to get through a huge number of abstracts in a very short time, and it is the dirty truth that some abstracts are never read past the first paragraph. Do not try to "impress" your readers with massive abstractions of thought or fancy theoretical phraseology. Stick to the facts. (1) Make a general-but not crazily general-claim [first sentence]: make it cool, sexy, even-but not cute. (2) Give some background to your topic and argument, and the most relevant work that has been done in the recent past [but don't flood your reader with citations-just one or two, to show that you've done your background work and are qualified to proceed]. (3) Now, explain what it is that others haven't done-and what you plan to [but be polite! You don't know who your readers are or where their allegiances lie!]. In other words, show your readers that you have a point, a contribution to make to the field as a whole. (4) Finally, give a one or two sentence summary of what you do in your paper / project. This can be very difficult-but work with it, because most good projects actually can be summarized in one or two powerful sentences.
    3. Cool. So, now you have a strong first paragraph. Next paragraph: tell your readers, very clearly, just precisely what you are going to do in your project. For the short-ish article-type paper, I really like the 'I'm going to discuss three particular things" format, but it's up to you. Then, talk about the first point. Again, a citation here or there is fine, but don't overdo it-you are emphasizing your research here, not others'. Describe the point, analyze according to your own approach, interpret the outcome.
    4. Look! You are already on to your third paragraph. Go to your second point (as outlined in paragraph #2). See how easy this is?
    5. Fourth paragraph already? This is child's play. You're on to your 'third' point, and you know the drill: lather, rinse, repeat. You've laid out for your readers precisely how many main points you are going to cover, and you've given them enough road-signs to follow your progress. They know you are nearing the end, they feel confident that you've thought the thing through, they see where you're going. The sale is almost clinched. Now for...
    6. The Final paragraph. Sum up what it is you do in your project / paper / article / whatever. You've already shown your reader how you got from A to B to C to D, so now say a little something about the project as a whole and-if it is something really ambitious-you might make a few enticing suggestions about how your work will fit into the ongoing debate on X or, alternatively, how it might find broader application in other fields.

    General Remarks:

    1. The writing of an abstract should not be an exercise in abstract writing. Get it? Stick to simple language and formal, but approachable, style: do not use words or phrases or syntactical structures you'd be unlikely to use in casual scholarly conversation.
    2. Abstracts have titles. Nice titles. Catchy titles. But (ideally) not abstract, cutesy, or annoying titles.
    3. You are writing for the educated generalist, not the specialist. Give enough general background to your topic to allow your reader to "jump on board" your research project without feeling confused or annoyed. Don't make your readers feel they need to research your topic to be convinced by the quality of your proposal.
    4. Avoid phrases such as 'I hope to,' 'I expect to,' 'I might.' You want to be as positive and self-assured in your language as possible. Instead of things such as 'I hope to look at,' just say 'I analyze.' Fewer words, more impressive.
    5. Short sentences are more powerful.
    6. Avoid excessive use of the future tense in describing your work, e.g. 'I will argue,' 'I will analyze.' This makes it sound to your readers that you've not really done any of this quite yet-which may be the case to a certain degree, but you don't want to advertise it!
    7. Avoid personal and biographical references, e.g. 'I've always loved Hegel,' 'Structuralism gives me a rash' as well as references to uncertainties or dead-ends in your work 'I really have no idea where I am going to go with this part,' or 'I thought I might use Derrida for this, but then I realized that he is an idiot.' These sorts of comments have no place in an abstract.
    8. Not so much with the (irrelevant or slangy) parenthetical comments, unnecessary italicization to point out that something is really important, or enthusiastic punctuation!. In fact, not so much with the idiom or casualism at all. And especially not so much with the made-up word, such as 'casualism,' unless you are coining a term for the specific purpose of your project. If this is what you are doing-and I don't actually recommend it for an abstract-you need to make clear both the purpose of your neologism and its intended meaning.
    9. Footnotes do not belong in abstracts. Keep citations brief, current, and relevant: the (Name: Date) format is a word-saving one I like to use. Again, give your readers enough information to find the source, but not so much that they wonder whether or not you've really read it.
    10. Get rid of as many excess words as you can. Drop 'em like mad. Drop 'em hotcakes, like hot potatoes, like something really, really hot. Drop 'em like there's no tomorrow, like dropping's going out of style, like your life depended on it. No, but seriously: words are fun and all, and it might be really neat to impress your readers with your death-defying acts of polysyllabic adverbial splendor, if they cared. But they don't. An abstract is not about fancy words or acrobatic theoretical daring-do. It is about conveying an idea quickly and convincingly, and this is your only goal. In addition, many abstracts will have a word-count limit (hint: you do not include your title in the word count!) and you must train yourself to 'weed' your prose of unnecessary verbiage.
    11. Finally-spell check. And proofread. The two are not the same, eh?, as spell check will allow money arrows to slip by unnoticed simply because they are 'spelled' correctly. So, first spell check, and then proofread. And then, proofread again. Check for grammatical errors or basic infelicities of style. Then, proofread again. And then, have a friend proofread for you. And then, ask her to describe the thrust of your abstract, back to you, in her own words. If your friend is awake and sober, and still cannot manage to do this, then go back to step (1) above and start anew.

    From  http://writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/abstract/

    For the more friendly CSU version, go to  http://writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/abstract/

    Introduction: Writing Abstracts

    Abstracts are formal summaries writers prepare of their completed work. Abstracts are important tools for readers, especially as they try to keep up with an explosion of information in print and on the Internet.

    Definition of Abstract

    Abstracts, like all summaries, cover the main points of a piece of writing. Unlike executive summaries written for non-specialist audiences, abstracts use the same level of technical language and expertise found in the article itself. And unlike general summaries which can be adapted in many ways to meet various readers' and writers' needs, abstracts are typically 150 to 250 words and follow set patterns.

    Because readers use abstracts for set purposes, these purposes further define abstracts.

    Purposes for Abstracts

    Abstracts typically serve five main goals:

    • Help readers decide if they should read an entire article
    • Help readers and researchers remember key findings on a topic
    • Help readers understand a text by acting as a pre-reading outline of key points
    • Index articles for quick recovery and cross-referencing
    • Allow supervisors to review technical work without becoming bogged down in details

    Deciding Whether to Read an Entire Article

    Readers use abstracts to see if a piece of writing interests them or relates to a topic they’re working on. Rather than tracking down hundreds of articles, readers rely on abstracts to decide quickly if an article is pertinent. Equally important, readers use abstracts to help them gauge the sophistication or complexity of a piece of writing. If the abstract is too technical or too simplistic, readers know that the article will also be too technical or too simplistic.

    Remembering Key Findings

    Even after reading an article, readers often keep abstracts to remind them of which sources support conclusions. Because abstracts include complete bibliographic citations, they are helpful when readers begin writing up their research and citing sources.

    Understanding a Text

    Like other pre-reading strategies, reading an abstract before reading an article helps readers anticipate what’s coming in the text itself. Using an abstract to get an overview of the text makes reading the text easier and more efficient.

    Indexing Articles

    Even before computers made indexing easier, abstracts helped librarians and researchers find information more easily. With so many indexes now available electronically, abstracts with their keywords are even more important because readers can review hundreds of abstracts quickly to find the ones most useful for their research. Moreover, cross-referencing through abstracts opens up new areas of research that readers might not have known about when they started researching a topic.

    Reviewing Employees' Technical Work

    Although many managers and supervisors will prefer the less technical executive summary, some managers need to keep abreast of technical work. Research shows that only 15% of managers read the complete text of reports or articles. Most managers, then, rely on the executive summary or abstract as the clearest overview of employees’ work.

    Types of Abstracts

    Although you'll see two types of abstracts—informative and descriptive—most writers now provide informative abstracts of their work.

    Descriptive Abstract

    A descriptive abstract outlines the topics covered in a piece of writing so the reader can decide whether to read the entire document. In many ways, the descriptive abstract is like a table of contents in paragraph form. Unlike reading an informative abstract, reading a descriptive abstract cannot substitute for reading the document because it does not capture the content of the piece. Nor does a descriptive abstract fulfill the other main goals of abstracts as well as informative abstracts do. For all these reasons, descriptive abstracts are less and less common. Check with your instructor or the editor of the journal to which you are submitting a paper for details on the appropriate type of abstract for your audience.

    Sample Descriptive Abstract

    "Bonanza Creek LTER [Long Term Ecological Research] 1997 Annual Progress Report"

    We continue to document all major climatic variables in the uplands and floodplains at Bonanza Creek. In addition, we have documented the successional changes in microclimate in 9 successional upland and floodplain stands at Bonanza Creek (BNZ) and in four elevational locations at Caribou-Poker Creek (CPCRW). A sun photometer is operated cooperatively with NASA to estimate high-latitude atmospheric extinction coefficients for remote-sensing images. Electronic data are collected monthly and loaded into a database which produces monthly summaries. The data are checked for errors, documented, and placed on-line on the BNZ Web page. Climate data for the entire state have been summarized for the period of station records and krieged to produce maps of climate zones for Alaska based on growing-season and annual temperature and precipitation.

    (accessed January 26, 1998)

    Informative Abstract

    An informative abstract provides detail about the substance of a piece of writing because readers will sometimes rely on the abstract alone for information. Informative abstracts typically follow this format:

    1. Identifying information (bibliographic citation or other identification of the document)
    2. Concise restatement of the main point, including the initial problem or other background
    3. Methodology (for experimental work) and key findings
    4. Major conclusions

    Informative abstracts usually appear in indexes like Dissertation Abstracts International; however, your instructor may ask you to write one as a cover sheet to a paper as well.

    Sample Informative Abstract based on Non-experimental Work

    Environmental Impact Statement. Federal Register: December 11, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 238). "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Revision of Special Regulations for the Gray Wolf." Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.


    On November 22, 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published special rules to establish nonessential experimental populations of gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. The nonessential experimental population areas include all of Wyoming, most of Idaho, and much of central and southern Montana. A close reading of the special regulations indicates that, unintentionally, the language reads as though wolf control measures apply only outside of the experimental population area. This proposed revision is intended to amend language in the special regulations so that it clearly applies within the Yellowstone nonessential experimental population area and the central Idaho nonessential experimental population area. This proposed change will not affect any of the assumptions and earlier analysis made in the environmental impact statement or other portions of the special rules. (accessed January 26, 1998)

    Sample Informative Abstract based on Experimental Work

    Palmquist, M., & Young, R. (1992). The Notion of Giftedness and Student Expectations About Writing. Written Communication, 9(1), 137-168.

    Research reported by Daly, Miller, and their colleagues suggests that writing apprehension is related to a number of factors we do not yet fully understand. This study suggests that included among those factors should be the belief that writing ability is a gift. Giftedness, as it is referred to in the study, is roughly equivalent to the Romantic notion of original genius. Results from a survey of 247 postsecondary students enrolled in introductory writing courses at two institutions indicate that higher levels of belief in giftedness are correlated with higher levels of writing apprehension, lower self-assessments of writing ability, lower levels of confidence in achieving proficiency in certain writing activities and genres, and lower self-assessments of prior experience with writing instructors. Significant differences in levels of belief in giftedness were also found among students who differed in their perceptions of the most important purpose for writing, with students who identified "to express your own feelings about something" as the most important purpose for writing having the highest mean level of belief in giftedness. Although the validity of the notion that writing ability is a special gift is not directly addressed, the results suggest that belief in giftedness may have deleterious effects on student writers.

    A More Detailed Comparison of Descriptive vs. Informative

    The typical distinction between descriptive and informative is that the descriptive abstract is like a table of contents whereas the informative abstract lays out the content of the document. To show the differences as clearly as possible, we compare a shortened Table of Contents for a 100-page legal argument presented by the FDA and an informative abstract of the judge's decision in the case.

    Table of Contents of the Argument

    Court Brief (edited Table of Contents) Filed Dec. 2, 1996, by the Department of Justice in defense of FDA's determination of jurisdiction over cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products and its regulations restricting those products to protect children and adolescents. http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/tocnts.htm Statement of the matter before the court; statement of material facts

    1. The health effects of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
    2. The basis for the assertion of jurisdiction
      1. The evidence that nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco "affect[s] the structure or any function of the body"
      2. The evidence that the pharmacological effects of nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "intended"
      3. The evidence that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are "combination products"
    1. The rule
      1. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco as combination products
      2. The regulatory goal
      3. Youth access restrictions
      4. Advertising and promotion restrictions

    Questions Presented


    Congress has not precluded FDA from regulating cigarettes and smokeless tobacco under the FDCA.

    1. "Customarily marketed" cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are not exempt from regulation under the FDCA
      1. Standard of review: Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
      2. Chevron, step one
      3. Chevron, step two: FDA's application of the FDCA to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is "based on a permissible construction of the statute"
    1. The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act, and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act do not foreclose FDA from regulating cigarettes and smokeless tobacco under the FDCA
      1. No statute, or combination of statutes, can override the FDCA in the absence of express preclusion or other clearly expressed Congressional intent
      2. Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act
      3. Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act
      4. Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act
    1. The separation of powers doctrine does not prohibit FDA's regulation of tobacco products

    Nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is a drug, and cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are drug delivery devices under the FDCA.

    1. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco fall squarely within the Act's drug and device definitions
      1. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco "affect the structure or any function of the body"
      2. Nicotine's effects are intended by the manufacturers
    1. FDA's application of the medical device provisions to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco does not affect FDA's jurisdiction over these products
      1. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are combination drug/device products and may be regulated under the Act's device authorities
      2. FDA's application of device provisions to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is reasonable

    The restrictions imposed by FDA on advertising and other promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are fully consistent with the first amendment.

    1. The agency's regulations must be judged pursuant to the Supreme Court's Central Hudson standard
      1. The Central Hudson standard and the proper First Amendment analysis
      2. Recent rulings by the Supreme Court in 44 Liquormart, and by the Fourth Circuit in Anheuser-Busch and Penn Advertising
      3. In applying the Central Hudson test, the Court's decision should be based on the record created by the Agency, and the reasonable determinations made by FDA are not to be disregarded
    1. The government's interest here is plainly substantial
    2. FDA has demonstrated that advertising affects tobacco use by minors, to the detriment of the public health, and that the agency's restrictions on advertising of these products should alleviate that problem to a material degree
    3. FDA's advertising restrictions are narrowly tailored
      1. The restrictions are designed to preserve the flow of information to lawful consumers
      2. The availability of non-Speech related regulatory alternatives does not invalidate FDA's regulations
      3. Each of FDA's individual advertising restrictions is narrowly tailored


    (accessed January 26, 1998)

    Informative Abstract of the Decision

    Summary of Federal District Court’s Ruling on FDA’s Jurisdiction Over, and Regulation of, Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco

    May 2, 1997


    On April 25, 1997, Judge William Osteen of the Federal District Court in Greensboro, North Carolina, ruled that FDA has jurisdiction under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to regulate nicotine-containing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The Court held that "tobacco products fit within the FDCA’s definitions of ‘drug’ and ‘device,’" and that FDA can regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products as drug delivery devices under the combination product and restricted device provisions of the Act.

    With respect to the tobacco rule, the Court upheld all restrictions involving youth access and labeling, including two access provisions that went into effect Feb. 28: (1) the prohibition on sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents under 18, and (2) the requirement that retailers check photo identification of customers who are under 27 years of age.

    The Court also upheld additional access and labeling restrictions originally scheduled to go into effect Aug. 28, 1997, including a prohibition on self-service displays and the placement of vending machines where children have access to them. The Court also upheld the ban on distribution of free samples, the sale of so-called kiddie packs of less than 20 cigarettes, and the sale of individual cigarettes. However, the Court delayed implementation of the provisions that have not yet gone into effect pending further action by the Court.

    The Court invalidated on statutory grounds FDA’s restrictions on the advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Judge Osteen found that the statutory provision relied on by FDA, section 520(e) of the Act (21 U.S.C. 360j(e)), does not provide FDA with authority to regulate the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. Specifically, the Court found that the authority in that section to set "such other conditions" on the sale, distribution, or use of a restricted device does not encompass advertising restrictions. Because Judge Osteen based his ruling on the advertising provisions on purely statutory grounds, he declined to consider the First Amendment challenge to those parts of the rule. The government is appealing the advertising portion of the ruling.

    (accessed January 26, 1998)

    Bibliographic Citation or Identification

    As more and more databases are stored and accessed electronically, abstracts are more frequently reproduced apart from the entire article or document. In a large corporation or government entity, for instance, an abstract of a progress report might be circulated and stored in a dozen offices or on multiple computers even though the report itself is filed in only one location. Clear identification is crucial so that readers who want to review the entire text can locate it from the information given with the abstract.

    Depending on where your writing is printed and stored, you'll need to include different kinds of identifying information with your abstract:

    Bibliographic Citation

    If your writing will be printed and disseminated as a book, part of a book, or an article in a journal or magazine, give a full bibliographic citation that includes all the publication information so that readers can find print copies of the article (even if your abstract will appear in unrelated electronic databases). For example, an abstract for a journal article begins with this citation:

    Harris, L.D., & Wambeam, C.A. (1996). The Internet-Based Composition Classroom: A Study in Pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 13(3), 353-372.

    If you need more help with citation format, please see our Introduction to Documentation tutorial.

    Organizational Identification

    If your abstract is part of a corporate or government document that will not be printed or disseminated outside the organization, you need only include your name, the title of the document, its completion date, a project name (if you produced the document as part of the work on a larger project), and an authorization or organizational number (if there is one).

    If your abstract will be circulated outside your organization (for instance, if you work for a consulting company that writes reports for other companies), add to the information above: your company or organization name, the name of the organization that commissioned the document, a contract number (if there is one), a security classification (as appropriate for government documents), and key words to help in cataloguing your abstract.

    Internet Citation

    If you're "publishing" your own work on the World Wide Web or if your writing will appear on the Internet as part of a full-text electronic database, you can save readers time by citing the Internet address for the full text. Typically, writers note both print publication information and the URL (universal resource locator)--the http or www address--with the abstract.

    For example, one of the abstracts cited in this module has this citation that includes both bibliographic information and the Internet address:

    Environmental Impact Statement. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Revision of Special Regulations for the Gray Wolf." Federal Register: December 11, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 238). Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-SPECIES/1997/December/Day-11/e32440.htm

    For more information on how to document Internet sources, please visit our Documentation Styles page and from there link to the tutorial on the documentation style of your choice.

    Processes for Writing Abstracts

    Unless you work for an abstracting service, you'll usually write abstracts of your own finished work. This section explores some strategies for drafting your abstract. Strategies and advice on revising and editing are located in Key Issues in Preparing Abstracts. Choose a method below to see which would best suit your writing process:

    Cut and Paste Method

    Beginning with reading may seem odd since you wrote the paper, but it can frequently be the fastest way to write an abstract because it allows you to "lift" as much of the abstract from your original paper as possible.

    Guidelines for Cut and Paste Method

    1. As you read through your own paper, highlight or copy sentences which summarize the entire paper or individual sections or sub-points of your main argument.
    2. Write (or copy) a sentence that summarizes the main point.
    3. Add sentences that summarize sections (or write new sentences for sections that lack a concise summary sentence).
    4. If you're writing a descriptive abstract, you're ready to begin revising.
    5. If you're writing an informative abstract, look through your paper for details, particularly of key findings or major supporting arguments and major conclusions. Paste these into your abstract and proceed to editing for consistency and length--frequently in the original "cuts" you will still have more detail than is necessary in an abstract.

    Outlining Method

    Frequently, the best place to start writing an abstract is to first make an outline of the paper to serve as a rough draft of your abstract. The most efficient way to do this is to write what Kenneth Bruffee calls a descriptive or "backwards" outline.

    Backwards Outline Instructions

    1. Read through each paragraph of your paper and write one phrase or sentence that answers the question "what does this paragraph do?"
    2. Take your list of descriptions for each paragraph and look for connections: i.e., do these 3 or 5 paragraphs do something similar? What is it?
    3. When you've reduced your outline to 4 or 5 accurate generalizations, you most likely have a descriptive abstract.
    4. If you're writing an informative abstract, fill in key details about your content.

    Detailed Backwards Outline

    Because informative abstracts need more detail, the regular backwards outline may not be as useful a strategy for this type of abstract. Instead, do a backwards outline on the left-hand side of a piece of paper. Then, on the right-hand side, answer the question "what does this paragraph say?" for each paragraph in the paper. Then complete the steps below:

    1. Take your first column and generalize down to 4-5 sentences about what the paper does.
    2. Use these sentences as topic sentences for the paragraphs in your abstract.
    3. Now, go to your second column and choose appropriate content for each section you outlined in #2. In other words, use the right-hand column to fill in details about what your paper says on each point outlined in #2.

    Key Issues in Preparing Abstracts

    These are some of the key issues in writing an abstract:

    • Concise, Accurate Statement of the Main Idea
    • Organization of Subpoints
    • Use of Details
    • Revising and Editing

    Concise, Accurate Statement of the Main Idea

    Abstracts begin with a one-sentence summary of the main point of your paper and often introduce the problem the paper explores. Especially for papers based on research, the first sentence (or two) of the abstract announces the subject and scope of the research as well as the problem and your thesis. That's quite a bit of information to condense into a sentence or two, and so the concise statement of the main idea often takes careful revision.

    Choose from these options to read more about preparing a concise statement of the main idea:

    Condensing Information for Non-research Papers

    Most non-research papers can be summed up in a nutshell statement—a single sentence that boils down a paper to its essential main point and doesn't aim to capture details, supporting arguments, or types of proof.

    One-sentence Summaries for Different Types of Papers
    Each of these non-research papers summarizes its main point based on its overall purpose:

    This paper argues that the "saving democracy" rhetoric surrounding the Gulf War was merely a mask for the U.S.’s interest in keeping oil prices down. (From a political science paper whose purpose was to construct an argument.)

    Ethnography and ethnology are the preferred research methods of many anthropologists. (From an anthropology paper whose purpose was to inform others about a research methodology.)

    Condensing Information for Research Papers

    In addition to stating the main point of the paper, research-based papers often need to set up the context and scope of the research as well. Setting the context includes stating the subject of your work as well as the problem that prompted your research. You might also refer to major researchers who have already done work on your topic as a way of setting the context. Remember, too, that your abstract must always include the main point of your paper, so don't neglect that focus as you work on stating the problem and context. Click on theh following links to view examples of condensed statements in research papers:

    Beware of Focusing too Narrowly

    No one who has ever written a concise restatement of a complex point will claim that the work was easy or straightforward. Usually, a writer needs to work back and forth between revising the restatement and re-reading the paper to be sure the main idea is stated accurately and clearly. Having worked so hard on that point, though, don't assume that you don't need to revise other parts of your abstract. In this example, the writer restates only the main point and dismisses key information from the 15-page document that should be included in the abstract.

    Sample Abstract with Overly Narrow Focus

    Community Right-to-Know Notice. Federal Register: January 23, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 15). "Phosphoric Acid; Toxic Chemical Release Reporting." Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


    EPA is denying a petition to delete phosphoric acid from the reporting requirements under section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PPA). This action is based on EPA’s conclusion that phosphoric acid does not meet the deletion criteria of EPCRA section 313(d)(3). Specifically, EPA is denying this petition because EPA’s review of the petition and available information resulted in the conclusion that phosphoric acid meets the listing criterion in EPCRA section 313(d)(2)(C) in that the phosphates that result from the neutralization of phosphoric acid may cause algal blooms. Algal blooms result in deoxygenation of the water and other effects that may ultimately lead to a number of serious adverse effects on ecosystems, including fish kills and changes in the composition of animal and plant life.

    (accessed January 26, 1998)

    Continue at  http://writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/abstract/

    From  http://www.geology.ucdavis.edu/~gel109/labs/Abstracts.html

    Abstract and Conclusions Writing Advice

    This website was originally written by Dawn Sumner.  

    Writing a Good Abstract

    Abstracts can be difficult to write. They should contain only the most important information, and this information needs to be presented in a systematic, clear writing style. The following note, written by Ed Landis (USGS) in 1966, beautifully explains the purpose and content of a good abstract.


    A partial biography of the writer is given. The inadequate abstract is discussed. What should be covered by an abstract is described. Dictionary definitions of "abstract" are quoted. At the conclusion a revised abstract is presented.

    For many years I have been annoyed by the inadequate abstract. This became acute while I was serving as editor of the Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. In addition to returning manuscripts to authors for rewriting of abstracts, I also took 30 minutes in which to lower my ire by writing, "A Scrutiny of the Abstract". This little squib has had a fantastic distribution. If only my scientific outpourings would do as well! Now the editorial board of the Association has requested a revision. This is it.

    The inadequate abstract is illustrated at the top of the page. The passive voice is positively screaming at the reader! It is an outline, with each item in the outline expanded into a sentence. The reader is told what the paper is about, but not what it contributes. Such abstracts are merely overgrown titles. They are produced by writers who are either (1) beginners, (2) lazy, or (3) have not written the paper yet.

    To many writers the preparation of an abstract is an unwanted chore required at the last minute by an editor or insisted upon even before the paper has been written by a deadline-bedeviled program chairman. However, in terms of market reached, the abstract is the most important part of the paper. For every individual who reads or listens to your entire paper, from 10 to 500 will read the abstract.

    If you are presenting a paper before a learned society, the abstract alone may appear in a preconvention issue of the society journal as well as in the convention program; it may also be run by trade journals. The abstract which accompanies a published paper will most certainly reappear in abstract journals in various languages, and perhaps in company internal circulars as well. It is much better to please them than to antagonize this great audience. Papers written for oral presentation should be completed prior to the deadline for the abstract, so that the abstract can be prepared from the written paper and not from raw ideas gestating in the writer's mind.

    My dictionary describes an abstract as "a summary of a statement, document, speech, etc..." and that which concentrates itself the essential information of a paper or article. The definition I prefer has been set in italics. May all writers learn the art (it is not easy) of preparing an abstract containing the essential information in their compositions. With this goal in mind, I append an abstract that should be an improvement over the one appearing at the beginning of this discussion.


    The abstract is of utmost importance, for it is read by 10 to 500 times more people than hear or read the entire article. It should not be a mere recital of the subjects covered. Expressions such as "is discussed" and "is described" should never be included! The abstract should be a condensation and concentration of the essential information in the paper.

    Here are two examples of informative abstracts. The TA's and I can give you many more examples.

    From Geology 1996, v. 24, p. 835 (110 words)
    Newly discovered Paleogene deltaic sequence in Katawaz basin, Pakistan, and its tectonic implications

    Mazhar Qayyum, Alan R. Niem, and Robert D. Lawrence, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-5506


    In the Katawaz basin, Pakistan, the deltaic and turbidite facies of the Khojak Formation are the Paleogene analogue of the modern Indus River emptying into the Arabian Sea to form the Indus delta-fan system. Facies identified include upper continental slope to prodelta, distal to proximal distributary mouth bar, distributary channel, interdistributary bay, estuary, fluvial channel, natural levee, and flood plains of lower and upper delta plains. The proposed model is a fluvial-dominated, wave-modified delta that axially fed Khojak submarine-fan turbidites, exposed in the southwestern part of the basin. These sediments were eroded from the early Himalayan orogenic highlands and transported southwestward down the axis of the Katawaz remnant ocean basin.

    From GSA Annual Meeting Abstracts, 1998 at Error! Bookmark not defined. (314 words)

    Manuszak, Jeffrey M., Ridgway, K. D., and Lareau, B. N..

    The Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous Nutzotin basin is located within the collisional zone between the allochthonous Wrangellia composite terrane (WCT) and the former continental margin of western North America. Over 3,000 m of sedimentary strata within the basin have been uplifted and are well exposed in the eastern Alaska Range. New sedimentologic and stratigraphic data suggest to us that the Nutzotin basin formed as a flexural foredeep in response to the collision of the WCT and was filled primarily by submarine fan deposystems. Measured stratigraphic sections and lithofacies analysis show that the bulk of the sedimentary fill consists of an upward coarsening package defined by four facies associations. The lowest facies association (FA1) consists predominantly of black shales with minor thin limestones and limestone conglomerates. FA1 represents the initial sediment starved stage of basin formation. The limestone conglomerates are interpreted as being derived from Triassic limestones of the approaching WCT. The next stage of basin development is defined by interbedded mudstone and thin-bedded, normally-graded sandstones of FA2. We interpret FA2 as sandy low-density turbidite deposits of outer submarine fan environments. FA3 defines the uppermost part of the upward coarsening package and consists mainly of clast-supported conglomerates and massive to horizontally stratified sandstones. We interpret FA3 as gravelly and sandy high-density turbidite deposits of the proximal and middle parts of the submarine fan complex. Overlying FA3, are macrofauna-rich mudstones (FA4) which are interpreted as muddy shallow shelf deposits representing the last stage of deposition in the basin. Paleocurrent and compositional data indicate that the upward coarsening basin fill formed as a result of northward (transverse) and southeastward (axial) progradation of submarine fan deposystems away from the leading edge of WCT. The well-exposed stratigraphic architecture of the Nutzotin basin may provide a better understanding of basin development within collision zones and be a useful model for future petroleum exploration in frontier collisional basins of the western Pacific.

    Conclusions should contain similar information as that contained in the abstract. Commonly, the conclusions section is longer and includes more of the interpretational subtleties and a restatement of the scientific importance of the work. The reader reads the conclusions last; include the items you most want the reader to remember. For your GEL 109L paper, you want me to remember your great facies descriptions and process interpretations.


     • About journals • Abstracts • Styles •

    RSS Recent issues of Simulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal
    Peace and survival of life on Earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values.  Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed, and a lack of respect for the Earth's living things... .  It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past, which resulted from ignorance.  Today, however, we have access to more information, and it is essential that we re-examine ethically what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations.  Clearly this is a pivotal generation... .  Our marvels of science and technology are matched if not outweighed by many current tragedies, including human starvation in some parts of the world, and extinction of other life forms... .  We have the capability and responsibility.  We must act before it is too late.  Tenzin Gyatso the fourteenth Dalai Lama.