How to write a scientific abstract


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How to write a scientific abstract

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How to write a scientific abstract

  1. 1. HOW TO WRITE A SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT ABSTRACT: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A SCIENTIFIC PAPER? The Abstract sells your work. An Abstract is a short summary of your research. On-line search databases typicallycontain only abstracts. Although writing an efficient abstract is hard work, it will repayyou. If done well, it makes the reader want to learn more about your work. The major difficulty is that it must make sense all by itself. Therefore, it is vital to write a complete but short, concise and powerful descriptionof your work to entice potential readers into obtaining and reading the full paper. Despite the fact that an abstract is quite brief, it must do almost as much work asthe multi-page paper that follows it. See your Abstract as a Marketing Strategy. What is your competitive advantage? What makes your paper unique? Think about your abstract as a Marketing strategy. It is the way to convince peoplethat your work (you full paper) is valuable, innovator and singular. Catch people attention: Motivation! Key element: Your results! Implementation: Your conclusions! Choose the right words. Simplify. How do you start? These are the basic components of a scientific abstract: 1) Motivation. Why do we care about the problem and the results? What practical, scientific or theoretical gap is your research filling? This sectionshould include the importance of your work, the difficulty of the area, and the impactit might have if successful. 1
  2. 2. 2) Problem statement. What problem are you trying to solve? What is the scope of your work (a generalized approach or for a specific situation)?Motivation first: when the problem is not obviously "interesting".Problem statement first: when your work is a progress on a problem that is widelyrecognized as important. Eg: Abstract I (1) Motivation South African grasslands support a rich flora that is attracting growing conservation Why do we care? interest. Fire has long been used to manage grasslands for livestock production. However, Problem statement there is very little information on the effects of fire on forb diversity to help guide What is the problem? conservation management. We studied plant diversity at scales of 1 and 100 m2 in three long-term burning experiments in mesic, montane and semi-arid grasslands, respectively, to explore forb responses to different fire regimes. Though the dominant grasses were strongly influenced by season and frequency of fire, forb di versity showed no consistent trends. Ordination results showed that forb composition varied less with fire treatment than with local site conditions. Forbs in all three grasslands seem remarkably resilient to fire. However, all three sites showed large compositional changes if fires were excluded for about 10 or more years, with the replacement of many species by a suite of, mostly, woody species. Patterns of beta- diversity sampled in the montane grassland, showed somewhat different patterns, with species turnover increasing with inter-fire interval. Our results indicate that most forb species tolerate a wider range of season and frequency of fires than the dominant grasses. However, to accommodate those species with low tolerance of frequent fires, parts of the landscape will require less frequent fires. Abstract II (2) Problem statement Application of organic waste materials such as food processing and serving industry cooking What is the problem? oil waste (OFW) can recycle soil nitrate nitrogen (NO3–N), which is otherwise prone to leaching after the harvest of crop. Nitrogen (N) recycling will not only reduce the amount of N fertilizer application for corn crop production but is also expected to mitigate green Motivation Why do we care? house gas (GHG) emissions by saving energy to be used for the production of the same amount of industrial fertilizer N required for the growth of corn crop. Application of OFW at 10 Mg solid ha−1 y−1 conserved 68 kg N ha−1 y−1 which ultimately saved 134 L diesel ha−1 y−1, which would otherwise be used for the production of fertilizer N as urea. Average fossil energy substitution value (FESV) of N conserved/recycled was calculated to be 93 US$ ha−1 y−1, which is about 13 million US$y−1. Potential amount of GHG mitigation through the application of OFW to agricultural soils in Canada is estimated to be 57 Gg CO2Eq y−1. (1) Uyes, R., Bond, W. and Everson, T. (2004). The effect of different fire regimes on plant diversity in southern African grasslands. Biological Conservation. Vol 118 (4) 489-499 (2) Rashid, M., Voroney, R. and Khalid, M. (2010). Application of food industry waste to agricultural soils mitigates green house gas emissions. Bioresource Technology. Vol 10 (2) 485-490 3) Methods/procedure/approach. What did you actually do to get your results? How the data were collected, compiled and state statistical significance(s). Did you use simulation, analytic models or analysis of laboratory or field data? What was the extent of your work? Did you use one program/model/ onemethodology or a hundred programs/methods? Mention any new tools developed. What important variables did you control, ignore or measure? 2
  3. 3. 4) Results/findings/product. What is the answer? At the end, what did you learn/invent/create? Put the result here, in numbers. You should not provide numbers that can be easilymisinterpreted. Avoid vague word as "very", "small", or "significant." 5) Conclusion/implications. What are the implications of your answer? What are the larger implications of your findings? Are your results general,potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case? Eg: Abstract III Problem statement Selective harvesting of timber can lead to population declines in some primate species. As frugivorous primates are important seed dispersers in tropical forests, the reduction of their populations may affect the ecological sustainability of selectively logged forests. This paper is the Motivation first to quantify the importance of timber tree species in the diet and nutritional ecology of a Methods/ primate species. We studied spider monkeys (Ateles chamek) inhabiting a certified forestry procedure/approach concession in Bolivia where post-logging population declines of this species have been recorded. We show that spider monkeys occupying unlogged areas obtained approximately 50% of their total intake of macro-nutrients from timber tree species and exhibited a distinct preference for Results/ f indings/product foraging within trees that were of harvestable size. Timber tree species dominated the spider monkeys’ diet both during peak fruiting periods and during periods of fruit scarcity. We estimate that under current timber extraction intensities spider monkeys lose significant proportions of their food sources. Our results indicate that further extraction limits could be considered Conclusion/ for Ficus boliviana, Spondias mombin and Pouteria nemorosa. We suggest that to ensure long- implications term ecological sustainability of certified forestry concessions, the importance of timber tree species in the ecology of seed dispersers needs to be taken into account. Felton, A.M., Felton, A., Foley, W.J. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2010). The role of timber tree species in the nutritional ecology of spider monkeys in a certified logging concession, Bolivia. Forest Ecology and Management. Vol. 259 (8) 1642-1649 Other points: Pay attention to the word count limitation. It is common an Abstract word limitof 150 to 200 words. Avoid expressions as "might", "could", "may", and "seem". 3
  4. 4. Read papers of your specialty to see what kind of abstract is used. The moreimportant component for certain field of research can differ from the others. Try tofollow the abstracts of the same field that your research. - What are the verbs usual used? - What are the expressions/jargon used? Be careful not to use too much jargon. Think of a half-dozen search keywords that people may look for. They will putyour paper up at the top of a search result listing. Avoid using bibliographic references in the Abstract unless they are essential tounderstanding the study. However, if your article follows directly from a publishedwork, do cite the paper in the Abstract. If you are not familiarly with the idiom used to write your abstract: - Show it to more than one person fluent speaker of that idiom; - Sometimes the right word makes all the difference. Search for synonymieson the web (,,, Verify: Abstract IV Waterlogged archaeological woodsuffers from microbial degradation. Sections from 92 archaeological samples from seven marine and terrestrial sites in Sweden were investigated using light- and electron microscopy to determine the major forms of microbial decay. Decay was related to sample age, wood species and environmental factors. The results confirmed earlier observations that erosion bacteria were the main degraders of archaeological waterlogged soft- and hardwoods, whereas soft rot and tunnelling bacterial decay were less frequently observed. Characteristic slime material, derived from attack by erosion bacteria and left behind in the cell lumen, may affect the penetration of consolidants used to conserve waterlogged archaeological wood. Advanced decay by erosion bacteria had only a slight effect on the original colour, form and appearance of the wood. Different oxygen levels influence the type of microbes and the extent of decay. Examining the decay can reveal a great deal about the past history of a site and provide valuable information to archaeologists. Bjordal, C.G., Nilsson, T. and Daniel, G. (1999). Microbial decay of waterlogged archaeological wood found in Sweden Applicable to archaeology and conservation. International Biodeterioration & Biodegredation. Vol 43 (1-2) 63-73 - Subdivide on its five components. - Identify the keywords. - Identify the jargon. - Did you understand what you read? What would you change? 4
  5. 5. Checklist. After you wrote your abstract, verify: did you tell exactly what you did and howyou did it? Show the abstract to someone that is not familiarly with your project. Thatperson should be able to answer the follow questions after read your abstract: - What is the motive behind this work? - What was the problem that they were trying to solve? - How did they do to test the hypothesis? - What were the results? - What is the conclusion and possible application of the results? - Do you want to read the full paper? Resources: 5