How to write an abstract
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How to Write an Abstract. a part of the CURO Resources series. The Abstract: Definition and Purpose . * A research abstract serves as a brief synopsis of the larger work. * And its purpose is to give the maximum amount of pertinent information in the minimum amount of space .

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How to write an abstract

How to Write an Abstract

a part of the CURO Resources series


The abstract definition and purpose

The Abstract: Definition and Purpose

* A research abstract serves as a brief synopsis of the larger work.

* And its purpose is to give the maximum amount of pertinent information in the minimum amount of space.


Qualities of an effective abstract

Qualities of an Effective Abstract:

Your abstract will:

  • 1. be concise

  • 2. be coherent. There should be a logical progression from sentence to sentence.

  • 3. add no new information but simply summarize.

  • 4. be intelligible to a wide audience.


Characteristics of an effective abstract

Characteristics of an Effective Abstract:

Your abstract will:

  • 1. be no more than 250 words.

  • 2. begin with 1-2 sentences of Introduction, usually specific information which grounds the information to follow.

  • 3. focus primarily on data, which will come from a combination of the Methods and Results. Basically, the summation of the data is given along with the technique used to obtain the data.

  • 4. end with 1-2 sentences of Discussion, explaining what the data’s significance.

  • 5. include (either at the very beginning or very end) a phrase/sentence talking about the Importanceof work being done and how it affects (i.e. advances or contributes to) the field of study and the world.


A comment about abstract length

A comment about abstract length

*When composing an abstract, your goal is to be concise.

*Focus on meeting the basic requirements of a quality abstract first and then address issues of length.

*You can meet all the basic requirements in less than 250 words.


Four component pieces

Four Component Pieces:

  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Methods-Results

  • 3. Discussion

  • 4. Importance

    Please note that this is not a required ordering

    of the pieces, but merely one logical ordering

    of an abstract.


Deconstructing an abstract handout example a

Deconstructing an abstract (handout “EXAMPLE A”):

Mori et al. Circadian clock protein KaiC forms ATP-dependent hexameric rings and binds DNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 99:17203-8.

KaiC from Synechococcuselongatus PCC 7942 (KaiC) is an essential circadian clock protein in cyanobacteria. Previous sequence analyses suggested its inclusion in the RecA/DnaBsuperfamily. A characteristic of the proteins of this superfamily is that they form homohexameric complexes that bind DNA. We show here that KaiC also forms ring complexes with a central pore that can be visualized by electron microscopy. A combination of analytical ultracentrifuation and chromatographic analyses demonstrates that these complexes are hexameric. The association of KaiC molecules into hexamers depends on the presence of ATP. The KaiC sequence does not include the obvious DNA-binding motifs found in RecA or DnaB. Nevertheless, KaiC binds forked DNA substrates. These data support the inclusion of KaiC into the RecA/DnaBsuperfamily and have important implications for enzymatic activity of KaiC in the circadian clock mechanism that regulates global changes in gene expression patterns.


1 introduction

1. Introduction

  • Introduction-general information about the issue or overall field of research is included here. What basics need to be provided to help the reader understand everything to follow?

    • KaiC from Synechococcuselongatus PCC 7942 (KaiC) is an essential circadian clock protein in cyanobacteria. (What is it?)

    • Previous sequence analyses suggested its inclusion in the RecA/DnaBsuperfamily. (Where does it belong?)

    • A characteristic of the proteins of this superfamily is that they form homohexameric complexes that bind DNA. (Defining characteristics?)

The example abstract begins with basic declarative sentences, which logically build upon one another. Notice that the information is specific to the work being done..


2 methods results

2. Methods-Results

  • The Results(the “what”) are presented with accompanying Methods (the “how”). Howdid you get your outcomes or conclusions?

    • We show here that KaiC also forms ring complexes with a central pore that can be visualized by electron microscopy.

    • A combination of analytical ultracentrifuation and chromatographic analyses demonstrates that these complexes are hexameric.

    • The association of KaiC molecules into hexamers depends on the presence of ATP.

    • The KaiC sequence does not include the obvious DNA-binding motifs found in RecA or DnaB. Nevertheless, KaiC binds forked DNA substrates.

  • Notice that specificexperimental details are omitted (e.g. the concentration of ATP, numerical values or amounts, etc.)


3 discussion

3. Discussion

  • Discussion - The meaning of the results in relation to your hypothesis/contention/argument is given.

    • These data support the inclusion of KaiC into the RecA/DnaBsuperfamily and have important implications for enzymatic activity of KaiC in the circadian clock mechanism that regulates global changes in gene expression patterns.

  • The end result of the data is summarized and explained in regards to the hypothesis/contention/argument.


4 importance

4. Importance

  • Importance-why the work was done. What is its importance to the reader and the field?

    • These data support the inclusion of KaiC into the RecA/DnaBsuperfamilyand have important implications for enzymatic activity of KaiC in the circadian clock mechanism that regulates global changes in gene expression patterns.

  • The last sentence leaves the impression that this work has “important implications” on the clock model “that regulates global changes in gene expression patterns”.

    • This example could be stronger. For example, assuming space allowed, the author could have provided a specific important implication.


Let s examine several abstracts using color coding to examine the characteristics mentioned above

Let’s examine several abstracts, using color-coding to examine the characteristics mentioned above.


Scientific abstract color coded handout example a

Scientific Abstract: Color-coded (handout “EXAMPLE A”)

Mori et al. Circadian clock protein KaiC forms ATP-dependent hexameric rings and binds DNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 99:17203-8.

KaiC from Synechococcuselongatus PCC 7942 (KaiC) is an essential circadian clock protein in cyanobacteria. Previous sequence analyses suggested its inclusion in the RecA/DnaBsuperfamily. A characteristic of the proteins of this superfamily is that they form homohexameric complexes that bind DNA.We show here that KaiC also forms ring complexes with a central porethat can be visualized by electron microscopy.Acombination of analytical ultracentrifuation and chromatographic analyses demonstratesthat these complexes are hexameric.The association of KaiC molecules into hexamers depends on the presence of ATP.The KaiC sequence does not include the obvious DNA-binding motifs found in RecA or DnaB. Nevertheless, KaiC binds forked DNA substrates.These data support the inclusion of KaiC into the RecA/DnaBsuperfamilyand have important implications for enzymatic activity of KaiC in the circadian clock mechanism that regulates global changes in gene expression patterns.


Social science abstract color coded handout example b

Social Science Abstract: Color-coded (handout “EXAMPLE B”)

Spiritual Education for Hospice Nurses: A Case Study

Hospice care helps those faced with terminal illness to die with dignity and without pain.Spiritual care for patients is an important part of quality hospice care. Because of the nature of their work, hospice nurses are in a key position to provide spiritual care to patients. However, several barriers exist that limit nurses’ ability to provide optimal spiritual care. Spiritual education for nurses has been shown to improve the quality of care they provide to their patients and to improve the well-being of the nurses themselves.The purpose of this case study was to understand the roles of spirituality and spiritual care in the provision of hospice care within a private, religiously affiliated healthcare system in a small city in the southeastern U.S. and to understand the nature of spiritual education provided to hospice nurses there.Data included qualitative interviews of five staff members and educational materials provided to nurses. Data were content-analyzed for emergent themes.Confirming previous research,all participants saw connections among nursing, hospice care, and spiritual care. Reported barriers to nurses’ provision of spiritual care included lack of understanding of patients’ spiritual needs, feeling unprepared to address spiritual needs, lack of communication skills, lack of confidence in discussingspiritual issues, conflicting personal values, and lack of spiritual self-care.Results supported previous findings that learning ways to overcome barriers improved nurses’ ability to perform their jobs and increased their personal well-being and job satisfaction. Recommendations for improving education for hospice nurses within this healthcare system are provided.


Writing an abstract for a work in progress

Writing an Abstract for a Work in Progress

  • Report what data you have. The more actual data the better.

  • For work that hasn’t been done, write about how the work will be done and what importance it has.

    • You can talk about the technique, but don’t overdo it. Excessive emphasis on technique can unnecessarily emphasize all that hasn’t been done.

    • Spend more time on background and importance.

  • State clearly what and how experiments will be performed as if it has been done, BUT NEVER, NEVER WRITE RESULTS AND/OR DISCUSSION FOR WORK THAT HASN’T BEEN DONE. This is unethical.

    • In other words, you can say that X was analyzed by Y method even if the work hasn’t been done YET so long as it will be before your talk; but you can’t say X was analyzed by Y method, which then gave you Z.

  • Be conservative in your estimates of how much work will be done. Never overstate your case.


Science work in progress abstract handout example c

Science Work-in-Progress Abstract (handout “EXAMPLE C”)

Curtis et al. An Endogenous Lipid Chemoattractant During Development of Myxococcusxanthus

The mechanism of cellular aggregation during fruiting body development has not been fully

elucidated. One model of aggregation involves chemotaxis towards a chemical attractant. It has

been previously shown that the phospholipiddihexadecanoylphosphotidylethanolamine (di

16:1w5c PE) serves as a chemoattractant during development, and that the fatty acid 16:1w5c is

present in the phospholipid profile of M. xanthus at physiological relevant concentrations, yet

the exact lipid species containing this fatty acid is not known. Of further interest is the

complexity of the organism's phospholipid profile. M. xanthus has at least seven different

phosphatidylethanolamine species and ten unique fatty acid chains. This remarkable variety of

phospholipids has an equally remarkable biochemical synthesis system.Whereas Escherichia coli

has only one enzyme (plsB) to transfer an acyl group to the sn-1 position of glycerol-3-phosphate,

and one enzyme (plsC) for the sn-2 position, M. xanthus has two putative enzymes for the sn-1

position and five putative enzymes for the sn-2.To investigate the relationship between these

acyltransferases and the phospholipid profile, knockout mutations were made for some of the

genes and the phospholipid profiles of the mutants were analyzed by fast-atom bombardment

mass spectrometry to elucidate the fatty acid subset of each acyltransferase. The purpose of this

experiment is to generate a mutant defective in producing this lipid chemoattractant and

determine if it is the aggregation signal.If this lipid serves as the aggregation signal, then

removing the signal should arrest fruiting body development at the aggregation stage.


Please note the following

Please note the following:

  • Notice the bulk of the abstract is introduction.

  • Also notice that work was stated without results:

    • To investigate the relationship between these acyltransferases and the phospholipid profile, knockout mutations were made for some of the genes and the phospholipid profiles of the mutants were analyzed by fast-atom bombardment mass spectrometry to elucidate the fatty acid subset of each acyltransferase.

  • Then the purpose of the work was stated and concluded with the importance and a little bit of speculation:

    • The purpose of this experiment is to generate a mutant defective in producing this lipid chemoattractant and determine if it is the aggregation signal. If this lipid serves as the aggregation signal, then removing the signal should arrest fruiting body development at the aggregation stage.

  • Eventually this work was completed, but in the time between abstract submission and the talk given. It is important that the work stated be completed before the talk. Otherwise, you promise on something and don’t deliver. This is also unethical.


Humanities work in progress abstract handout example d

Humanities Work-in-Progress Abstract (handout “EXAMPLE D”)

The Dawning of a (Somewhat) New Devil: The All-too-human Dialogical and

Diabolical Malefactor

This paper will examine the text "Dyalogue, et ungmerveilleuxparlement," a quarto

pamphlet first printed in French in 1522.It is an attack on certain Lutheran and papist

ideas that, on its first page, actually contains a printed image of the devil along with

two traveling companions. The text is somewhat of a puzzle in that it is anonymous.

Aside from this basic mystery, my paper will attempt to gauge the ideology not only

behind the anti-clerical sentiments but, more importantly, behind the representation

of the devil - his darkness, his clothing, his manners and his wittiness. One can

almost certainly point to a direct relation between the appearance and personality of

this devil and the medieval stage. The academic dialogue, mentioned in the title,

certainly also has its place in this characterization.This pamphlet has never received

any critical study or attention even though it stands in the gap between medieval

and Reformation portrayals of the devil.I want to know whether or not this devil is a

character that the audience would have recognized as such. Exactly what, if

anything, is new about this devil?This paper will examine the textual descriptions of

the devil, his own words within the text, and the image at the beginning in order to

arrive at the answers to these questions.


Some final notes on style

Some Final Notes on Style

  • Abstract should be ONE well-developed paragraph.

  • Remember you are writing for an educated, but general,audience.

  • Give your abstract a title! When submitting to the CURO Symposium, make sure the first letter of every word in the title is capitalized, except for articles and conjuntions (e.g. Violence, Subalternity, and El Corrido Along the US/Mexican Border)

  • ONE space between sentences.

  • Avoid long-winded, complex sentences.

  • Avoid excessive use of jargon. Define abbreviations and acronyms.

  • Avoid judgmental language – just state the facts.

  • Use correct spelling and grammar with no typos.*

  • Stick to the 250-word limit.*

    • * failing to do either guarantees your abstract will be rejected.


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