The importance of an impactful abstract

  • Together, the abstract and title fully represent the article. They are the main advertisements for the paper.
  • Especially important for non-open-access publications, they should give enough detail for readers to decide whether or not to read the whole paper.
  • The objective is to make every word count!

Make a great first impression with your title. The title of a research article needs to be informative and specific. It clearly articulates what the study is about. Indexing services depend on accurate titles, as they extract keywords for cross-referencing. Using words or phrases likely to be used in searches for information helps to make the article retrievable. If possible, make the title punchy. Avoid jargon and abbreviations. Studies show that articles with short titles attract higher views and citations.

Abstract versus introduction

What’s the difference? The abstract is the opportunity to describe the research in 200 words. It’s concise and direct. The introduction section of a paper is more detailed.

Typically, simple language is clearer and more precise than complex language.

It explains why the research was conducted, the aims and hypothesis; it lays the foundation for the rest of the paper. Introductions should also cite literature in the same field.

Get to the point

Abstracts should be brief and clear so use your words wisely. Don’t cram too much in. The abstract should stand alone without the rest of the manuscript.

Summarise the research objectives or research question, methods, any remarkable results, and a conclusion statement. An abstract doesn’t usually include references, figures, or tables.

Keep it simple!

Typically, simple language is clearer and more precise than complex language. One idea or piece of information per sentence is sufficient. Here are some tips to help keep your writing concise:
To add impact, where possible use the active voice, not passive voice, eg,

Wordy (passive): At dinner, six shrimp were eaten by Greg.
Concise (active): Greg ate six shrimp at dinner.

Convey only one idea per sentence. Long sentences may confuse the reader. Delete unnecessary or vague words – either remove altogether or replace with more specific words. Today, the average length of sentences in scientific writing is about 12–17 words.

Many authors write the abstract last, to ensure it reflects the content accurately. While it’s great to make the abstract interesting, above all it should be accurate. Don’t promise what you don’t deliver!

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