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Writing accessible abstracts. Alicia Cresswell Writing Development Centre. Structure of session. What is an abstract? Types of abstract Content, audience and purpose Audience of conference abstracts Structure of the abstract Evaluating abstracts Further reading and resources.

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writing accessible abstracts

Writing accessible abstracts

Alicia Cresswell

Writing Development Centre

structure of session
Structure of session
  • What is an abstract?
  • Types of abstract
  • Content, audience and purpose
  • Audience of conference abstracts
  • Structure of the abstract
  • Evaluating abstracts
  • Further reading and resources
awareness raising task
Awareness-raising task

Thinking of your abstract as

an advertisement for your research

(see handout)

types of abstracts
Types of abstracts
  • Summary abstracts of completed work (theses, journal articles)
  • Projections of research to be done (e.g. in applications for funding)
  • Conference abstracts (research is in progress or has been completed)
conference abstracts know you audience
Conference abstracts: Know you audience
  • Peer reviewers: Abstract should convince them that the work to be presented
      • is of a high standard
      • makes a distinct contribution
      • supports the conference objectives
  • Conference delegates: Abstract will help them to decide which presentations to attend.
abstract structure
Abstract structure
  • A good abstract will answer four questions:
    • Why? The first section puts the study in the context of current knowledge and gives the purpose of the work.
    • How? This section explains how the research was conducted.
    • What? The main findings of the study are presented in brief.
    • So what? The abstract concludes with a brief explanation of the implications or applications of the study.
evaluating abstracts practice
Evaluating abstracts: Practice

You are the organisers of a regional postgraduate conference.

Consider these abstracts from the perspective of the conference delegates.

Comment on the clarity, effectiveness and interest of each abstract.

evaluate this abstract
Evaluate this abstract

Consolation as possible expression of sympathetic concern among chimpanzees


Chimpanzees are known to spontaneously provide contact comfort to recent victims of aggression, a behavior known as consolation. Similar behavior in human children is attributed to empathic or sympathetic concern. In line with this empathy hypothesis, chimpanzee consolation has been shown to reduce the recipient's state of arousal, hence to likely alleviate distress. Other predictions from the empathy hypothesis have rarely been tested, however, owing to small sample sizes in previous studies. An exceptionally large database of spontaneous consolation in two outdoor-housed groups of chimpanzees lends further support to the empathy hypothesis in that consolation occurred disproportionally between individuals that are socially close (i.e., kin and affiliation partners) and was more typical of females than males, which differences are also known of human empathy. These effects were demonstrated using generalized linear mixed models, which control multiple variables at once. An exception to the above pattern was formed by the highest-ranking males, which frequently offered consolation to victims of aggression, probably as part of their general policing function in chimpanzee society. Consolation occurred more frequently in the absence of reconciliation between former opponents, suggesting that actors are sensitive to the contact need of victims of aggression, which may be greater if the aggressor ignores them. That consolation is an integrated part of close mutual relationships is supported by the tendency for it being reciprocated.

evaluate this abstract1
Evaluate this abstract

FRET-based aptamer probe for rapid angiogenin detection


A sensitive method for rapid angiogenin (Ang) detection based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) has been described. A dual-labeled probe based on high affinity aptamer for Ang was constructed. As donor and acceptor, 6-carboxyfluorescein (FAM) and 6-carboxy-tetramethylrhodamine (TMR) were labeled at 5'- and 3'-termini of the aptamer probe, respectively. The dual-labeled probe showed obvious fluorescence changes due to the specific binding between aptamer and Ang. By monitoring the fluorescence intensity of donor and acceptor, quantitative Ang detection could be achieved. This assay is highly specific and sensitive, with a detection limit of 2.0 x 10(-10) mol L(-1) and a linear range of 5.0 x 10(-10) to 4.0 x 10(-8) mol L(-1) Ang. Ang in serum samples of health and lung cancer were also detected.

evaluate this abstract2
Evaluate this abstract

Extreme polyploidy in a large bacterium


Cells rely on diffusion to move metabolites and biomolecules. Diffusion is highly efficient but only over short distances. Although eukaryotic cells have broken free of diffusion-dictated constraints on cell size, most bacteria and archaea are forced to remain small. Exceptions to this rule are found among the bacterial symbionts of surgeonfish; Epulopiscium spp. are cigar-shaped cells that reach lengths in excess of 600 μm. A large Epulopiscium contains thousands of times more DNA than a bacterium such as Escherichia coli, but the composition of this DNA is not well understood. Here, we present evidence that Epulopiscium contains tens of thousands of copies of its genome. Using quantitative, single-cell PCR assays targeting single-copy genes, we have determined that copy number is positively correlated with Epulopiscium cell size. Although other bacteria are known to possess multiple genomes, polyploidy of the magnitude observed in Epulopiscium is unprecedented. The arrangement of genomes around the cell periphery may permit regional responses to local stimuli, thus allowing Epulopiscium to maintain its unusually large size. Surveys of the sequences of single-copy genes (dnaA, recA, and ftsZ) revealed genetic homogeneity within a cell consistent with only a small amount (≈1%) of the parental DNA being transferred to the next generation. The results also suggest that the abundance of genome copies in Epulopiscium may allow for an unstable genetic feature, a long mononucleotide tract, in an essential gene. With the evolution of extreme polyploidy and large cell size, Epulopiscium has acquired some of the advantages of eukaryotic cells.

evaluate this abstract3
Evaluate this abstract

Loss of microRNA cluster miR-29a/b-1 in sporadic Alzheimer's disease correlates with increased BACE1/β-secretase expression


Although the role of APP and PSEN genes in genetic Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases is well established, fairly little is known about the molecular mechanisms affecting Aβ generation in sporadic AD. Deficiency in Aβ clearance is certainly a possibility, but increased expression of proteins like APP or BACE1/β-secretase may also be associated with the disease. We therefore investigated changes in microRNA (miRNA) expression profiles of sporadic AD patients and found that several miRNAs potentially involved in the regulation of APP and BACE1 expression appeared to be decreased in diseased brain. We show here that miR-29a, -29b-1, and -9 can regulate BACE1 expression in vitro. The miR-29a/b-1 cluster was significantly (and AD-dementia-specific) decreased in AD patients displaying abnormally high BACE1 protein. Similar correlations between expression of this cluster and BACE1 were found during brain development and in primary neuronal cultures. Finally, we provide evidence for a potential causal relationship between miR-29a/b-1 expression and Aβ generation in a cell culture model. We propose that loss of specific miRNAs can contribute to increased BACE1 and Aβ levels in sporadic AD.

evaluate this abstract4
Evaluate this abstract

Twelve type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci identified through large-scale association analysis


By combining genome-wide association data from 8,130 individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and 38,987 controls of European descent and following up previously unidentified meta-analysis signals in a further 34,412 cases and 59,925 controls, we identified 12 new T2D association signals with combined P < 5 × 10−8. These include a second independent signal at the KCNQ1 locus; the first report, to our knowledge, of an X-chromosomal association (near DUSP9); and a further instance of overlap between loci implicated in monogenic and multifactorial forms of diabetes (at HNF1A). The identified loci affect both beta-cell function and insulin action, and, overall, T2D association signals show evidence of enrichment for genes involved in cell cycle regulation. We also show that a high proportion of T2D susceptibility loci harbor independent association signals influencing apparently unrelated complex traits.

evaluate this abstract5
Evaluate this abstract

Protein and gene model inference based on statistical modeling in k-partite graphs


One of the major goals of proteomics is the comprehensive and accurate description of a proteome. Shotgun proteomics, the method of choice for the analysis of complex protein mixtures, requires that experimentally observed peptides are mapped back to the proteins they were derived from. This process is also known as protein inference. We present Markovian Inference of Proteins and Gene Models (MIPGEM), a statistical model based on clearly stated assumptions to address the problem of protein and gene model inference for shotgun proteomics data. In particular, we are dealing with dependencies among peptides and proteins using a Markovian assumption on k-partite graphs. We are also addressing the problems of shared peptides and ambiguous proteins by scoring the encoding gene models. Empirical results on two control datasets with synthetic mixtures of proteins and on complex protein samples of Saccharomycescerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster, and Arabidopsis thaliana suggest that the results with MIPGEM are competitive with existing tools for protein inference.

evaluate this abstract6
Evaluate this abstract

Multiple common variants for celiac disease influencing immune gene expression


We performed a second-generation genome-wide association study of 4,533 individuals with celiac disease (cases) and 10,750 control subjects. We genotyped 113 selected SNPs with PGWAS < 10−4 and 18 SNPs from 14 known loci in a further 4,918 cases and 5,684 controls. Variants from 13 new regions reached genome-wide significance (Pcombined < 5 × 10−8); most contain genes with immune functions (BACH2, CCR4, CD80, CIITA-SOCS1-CLEC16A, ICOSLG and ZMIZ1), with ETS1, RUNX3, THEMIS and TNFRSF14 having key roles in thymic T-cell selection. There was evidence to suggest associations for a further 13 regions. In an expression quantitative trait meta-analysis of 1,469 whole blood samples, 20 of 38 (52.6%) tested loci had celiac risk variants correlated (P < 0.0028, FDR 5%) with cis gene expression.

further reading
Further reading

Fraser, J., Fuller, L. and Hutber, G. (2009) Creating effective conference abstracts and posters in Biomedicine: 500 tips for success. Abingdon: Radcliffe Publishing.

Rudestam, K. E. & Newton, R. R. (2007) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process (3rd edition). London: Sage.

Swales, J. M. and Feak, C. B. (2009) Abstracts and the writing of abstracts.Michigan: Michigan University Press.

online resources
Online resources

Writing Development Centre Online Resources


Academic Phrasebank


one to one support
One-to-one support

Book online at:



Writing Development Centre

Level 2, Robinson Library

Telephone: 0191 222 7659 or 0191 222 5650

E-mail: wdc@ncl.ac.uk

Website: www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc