Release Date: April 29, 2012
Category: Manuscript Writing
The abstract is a condensed version of the manuscript, written for readers who may never read the entire article. Abstracts should entice readers to read the full text by emphasizing your most important findings. Your abstract is also one way that readers will find your article in search engine results. Keeping the abstract concise while covering the important information in an appealing way requires careful writing and revision.
Write the abstract last, after drafting the main text. Your abstract should present information in the order of Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusions (IMRAD). Before you begin writing, check your target journal’s instructions for any word limits, specified subsections, and other requirements. Knowing the requirements in advance will reduce the time you might otherwise spend shortening, reorganizing, or making other changes to meet specific journal requirements.
When drafting the abstract, focus on answering the following questions in the order listed:
As you write your abstract, remember that the abstract must stand on its own, apart from the rest of the manuscript. Readers who never read further than your abstract should still have a general understanding of what you studied, how you studied it, what you found, and what conclusions you drew. Always make sure that the abstract emphasizes your purpose and your most important findings.
Take care to avoid any of the following errors when writing your abstract:
Continuity means that your abstract follows a consistent “story” and moves smoothly from the background information through to the conclusions. To maintain a consistent message within the abstract and with the main text, use key words and phrases that appear in the title and your manuscript’s key words as you write the abstract.
Using word signals also helps maintain continuity as you move from one part of the abstract to another. Word signals are phrases that indicate what information you are discussing. For example, phrases like “To determine whether…” and “To understand how…” indicate that you are stating your research question.
Word signals for other parts of the abstract include the following:
You can also visually signal parts of the abstract by starting a new sentence.
As you work to revise and strengthen your abstract, take care to check for the same basic grammar and construction elements as when revising your main text.
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