This article will focus on simple but fundamental tips to help you master the art of abstract writing. Abstracts are important not only for the conference selection process; they are also essential for your future publication record. This is pertinent to you as a scientist in that a well-written abstract can boost the visibility of your research and the perception of your work for years to come.
Importance of an abstract:
- It helps to present complex information in a clear and concise manner
- It helps to condense detailed information into a shorter format for database searches
- It helps to provide a summary of your work for future publications and grant applications
Characteristics of a strong abstract:
- Informative (a brief overview of your research)
- Descriptive (including the research aim, objectives of your project, and the analytical methodologies applied)
- Critical (the key outcomes and limitations of your work should be described)
- Written in a formal language
- Contains no more than 1000 words (length is often dictated by conference requirements)
How to Write an Abstract – 4 Steps
When writing an abstract, one must be sure to convey just the right amount of information without going into wordy explanations. The order of your abstract is important, so choose an order that helps the reader link each aspect of your work in a logical order. The following are the four basic components that make up an abstract:
#1 – Introduction – “What is the subject?”
→ Write 1–2 introductory sentences that explain the topic, purpose, and research question(s). The background is needed, but it should not be more in-depth than the results.
#2 – Materials and methods – “How did you conduct the research and generate results?”
→ Write 1–2 sentences describing your research methods (this may also include the type of data analysis you are using).
#3 – Results – “Why is it important? What are your discoveries?”
→ Write 12 sentences describing the results or findings.
#4 – Discussion and further directions – “What is the take-home message of your project and its impact?”
→ Write 1–2 sentences containing your conclusions and recommendations. Your conclusions are your study’s contribution to the field.
Tips to Improve Your Abstract
Follow the guidelines
Before starting to write an abstract, check your conference guidelines, which will indicate the subsections to include or the word count that is allowed. Many guidelines may seem overly particular, but do not ignore even the most tedious requirements (e.g., font size, spacing, units of measurement, etc.) as your work will be critiqued on all of them. ACPI has some helpful details on this.
Tailor to the right audience
You should always think about your audience while writing your abstract. Who will read your abstract? How familiar will your audience be with field-specific technical jargon or acronyms that may appear in your abstract? For example, if the conference is focused on policy issues and you submit an abstract that highlights a clinical issue without relating it to policy, your work may not be selected for inclusion.
Make the title descriptive
Do not leave the audience guessing what your abstract is about. A simple and powerful title will make a good impression and encourage your audience to read the rest of your poster. The title is the first sentence that everyone will read. Do not make it too long or else it may bore or confuse the reader.
Do not include references unless required
This will help you remain within the word limit and make your abstract visually simpler to read.
Be professional and use formal language
Avoid confusion by using complete sentences, proper punctuation, and be selective regarding the main content.
State why your research is important
Describe the wider impact of your work. Why is the research being conducted in the first place?
Optimize your concluding statement
State the conclusion concisely but avoid overstatements.
State a take-home message
This is the most crucial part of your abstract as it may be the only thing people will remember about your entire project.
For more essential writing tips, check out “Perfecting Your Scientific Writing: Tips & Tricks.”