The Abstract is the home page for your manuscript. It's the only thing that many of your readers will pay attention to, so it's worth doing right. In this post, I explain how to write an Abstract that gives your manuscript the good impression it deserves.
The Abstract summarizes your entire research paper. It should clearly explain:
That’s a lot of information to cram into one paragraph. Let’s talk about how to fit it all in.
Stick to the point
There is no room in the Abstract for unnecessary details. You need to deal with each of the points outlined above in two or three sentences.
Start by telling your reader why your study is important. This is not the time for a lengthy literature review. Your job here is to say what gap exists in the current knowledge and how your study will help.
Next, clearly state your research question. This question is the focus of your study and should be answered in your manuscript.
In the next few sentences, explain your experimental approach so that your reader understands what you did. Keep it brief – if you find yourself listing buffer ingredients and giving incubation times, you have gone too far.
Now we come to the most important part of your Abstract – describing your findings. Stick to the main results and explain how they answer your research question. Avoid vague expressions: ‘one-year patient survival was significantly different between the two groups’ does not tell the reader much. Be specific: ‘one-year patient survival was higher in the treatment group than the placebo group (74% vs. 23%)’ is far more informative.
In the last few sentences, say what your conclusions are. Try to finish with a strong sentence that emphasizes what your study brings to the field. This will leave your reader with a lasting positive impression of your work.
What not to do
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when writing your Abstract:
Get the gist?
The Abstract is the most important section of your manuscript. The tips outlined in this article will help you to write an Abstract that grabs your readers’ attention and leaves a lasting good impression.
Get your message across with a focused Abstract
Claire Bacon is a former research scientist with professional qualifications in copy editing and medical editing. She edits manuscripts for non-native English-speaking scientists and works as a copy editor for a biomedical journal.
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