THE ART OF WRITING A SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT<br />Introduction<br />A<br />n abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose and its quality. Most of the studies are indexed according to the abstracts, keywords and authors. Abstract writing is a challenge and is the first impression of the work being published, reviewed or which has been published. “First Impression is the last Impression” implies to abstract writing. One can be sensitized in few minutes about the quality and nature of work done. A good abstract is concise and informative piece of words presented in a scientific manner. Often conference organizers, publishers and reviewers ask for the abstract first before proceeding to the full article. The abstract should provide the context or background for the study and should state the study’s purpose, basic procedures (selection of study subjects or laboratory animals, observational and analytical methods), main findings (giving specific effect sizes and their statistical significance, if possible), principal conclusions, and funding source(s). It should emphasize new and important aspects of the study or observations. While writing an abstract, more time should be spent on presenting the main idea of the work done rather than criticizing the ideas and methods adopted by others for the same work. Always keep in mind that the abstract should be written in such a way that it grasps the attention of the reader.<br />Qualities of a good abstract<br />
Clear and concise, explain abbreviations at their first occurrence
Make short sentences
Brevity shows that it contains essential information
Word limit of 150 – 200 commonly used (not to exceed 250 in some journals)
Justified according to the nature of work done
Stands on its own and follow the IMRAD pattern (explained later in the text)
A good abstract is written for the work which has been done. It should not be written for ongoing work
Adheres strictly to abstract guidelines and deadlines
Types of abstract<br />Descriptive: A descriptive abstract outlines the topics covered in a piece of writing. It is like a table of contents in paragraph form. <br />Example of descriptive abstract:<br />HOMOEOPATHIC PERSPECTIVE OF THYROID DISORDERS<br />R. K. Manchanda1, Archana Narang2,<br />Saurav Arora3, Latika Nagpal3<br />Abstract<br />Homoeopathy is a unique system of medicine based on individualization and symptom similarity of the patient. It treats every sickness of a man as a whole and individualized entity. The homoeopathic literature is loaded with vast examples of thyroid diseases and their cure with homoeopathy. There are numerous examples of clinical and therapeutic studies done on thyroid disorders but there are few peer reviewed controlled design studies in Homoeopathy. Homoeopathic medicines play an important role in immuno modulation at the cellular level and can cure cases of sub clinical & mild hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Homoeopathic Medicines due to their infinitesimal light isotopic forms are capable of penetrating the Hypothalamus-Pituitary Axis. The need of the hour is to carry out scientific, evidence based studies and case documentation to prove the potential role of homeopathy in reversing the functional & immune disturbances of thyroid gland.<br />Keywords: Homoeopathy and thyroid disorders, research in homoeopathy, autoimmune thyroiditis, goiter, immuno-modulation<br />Informative: An informative abstract provides detail about the substance of a piece of writing because readers will sometimes rely on the abstract alone for information. Informative abstracts typically follow this format:<br />Introduction (to identifying problem or the subject undertaken for the writing with bibliographic citation or other identification of the document). Background of the statement can also be added in one or two lines (I)<br />Material and methods (M)<br />Results in a concise and brief manner (R)<br />Analysis (A)<br />Discussion and Conclusion(s) (main points only) (D)<br />One can remember the simple pneumonic for this “IMRAD”<br />Example of informative abstract:<br />PREVALENCE OF THYROID DISORDERS IN SCHOOL CHILDREN IN DELHI – POST IODIZATION SCENARIO<br />An epidemiological survey conducted by SHMC & Hospital and Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences, Delhi, India, under the first phase of EMR project on “Effects of Homoeopathic treatment on natural history of autoimmune thyroiditis” by AYUSH<br />V. K. Chauhan1, R. K. Manchanda2, Archana Narang1*, Saurav Arora3, <br />Latika Nagpal3 , R. K. Marwaha4<br />Abstract<br />Introduction: Optimal thyroid function is essential for normal growth and development in young population. Autoimmune thyroiditis is becoming increasingly prevalent in children as evident from goiter surveys.<br />Material & Methods: Screening of 4543 children between 6-18 years of age from different schools of Delhi was done during the first phase of research study under EMR project by AYUSH for thyroid function status - clinically, serologically & ultrasonographically.<br />Result: Data of 4506 children has been analyzed & it has been found that goiter is prevalent at mild endemic level in children (17%) even after two decades of iodization. Significant increase in anti TPO ab positivity (6.39%) and thyroid dysfunction (11.92%) was found in school children.<br />Conclusion: Significant increase in overall anti TPO ab positivity and thyroid dysfunction raises suspicion about the role of prolonged iodine supplementation.<br />Keywords: anti thyro-peroxidase antibody (anti TPO ab), free T3 (FT3), free T4 (FT4), goiter, Iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs), subclinical hypothyroidism, thyroid autoimmunity, universal salt iodization (USI).<br />Decreased Intensity of Japanese Encephalitis Virus Infection in Chick<br />Chorioallantoic Membrane Under Influence of Ultradiluted Belladonna Extract<br />1Bhaswati Bandyopadhyay, 2Satadal Das, 1Milan Sengupta, 3Chandan Saha,<br />4Kartick Chandra Das, 4Debabrata Sarkar and 5Chaturbhuj Nayak<br />1Department of Microbiology, Virology Unit, School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata-700073, India<br />2Department of Pathology and Microbiology, D.N. De H. Medical College,<br />West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata-700046, India<br />3Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology,<br />School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata-700073, India<br />4Drug Proving Research Centre, CCRH, Government of India,<br />Kolkata-700 046, India<br />5Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health, CCRH, Government of India, JLN Anudandhan Bhawan,<br />61-65 Intitutional Area, Janakpuri, New Delhi 110058<br />Abstract<br />Problem statement: No specific antiviral therapy is currently available despite an emergence and resurgence of Japanese encephalitis in South-East Asian Countries. There are only few recent studies, which were aimed to treat Japanese encephalitis with newer drugs. There is thus a real need for study on antiviral agents that can reduce the toll of death and neurological sequelae resulting from infection with this virus. Approach: Optimum dilution of the JE virus was determined which could produce significant number of pocks on Chorioallantoic Membrane (CAM). Then Ultradiluted belladonna preparations were used to see their inhibitory action on JE virus infection in CAM. Results: Ultradiluted belladonna showed significantly decreased pock count in CAM in comparison to JE virus control. Conclusion: Ultradiluted belladonna could inhibit JE virus infection in CAM, which may be mediated through glycosidase inhibitory role of calystegines present in belladonna.<br />Key words: Japanese Encephalitis (JE), Chorioallantoic Membrane (CAM), pock, belladonna<br />Requisites of an abstract:<br />
Motivation: The first thing which is needed to carry out a work is motivation. It defines the area and effort one wants to put or search for a quality and purposeful work and writing. Poorly motivated works usually are of low quality and are rejected for most of the time. This portion also emphasize upon the importance of work carried.
Problem statement: The next step after motivation is defining the problem statement we are undertaking, this includes the scope of problem we are trying to solve. The importance of problem must also be defined, as the outcome of the study will largely depend upon the problem(s) we have defined. The problem statement is defined using the tool, “Literature review” aggressively and exhaustively. Previous research and work done also help us to define problem statement in a finer and more descriptive way.
Approach: It is also known as material and methods. This portion is vital to a research as it tells us how the work was carried over and tools used. Material and methods simply implies to the “entire set of things” which were used during the research and “how” they were used. It can range from screening, inclusion of subjects, medicines used, frequency of repetition and follow ups, change of remedy, investigations and procedures followed etc.
Results: Results obtained in the work should be presented and compiled in an easy comprehensible manner. Results can both be presented in running manner and tabulate form. Results must not be confusing and complex. The stress should be given to authentic and obtained result. Results obtained doesn’t mean only the positive outcomes, it is an array of the observations and facts obtained and should be presented in the same way they have appeared, observed or made.
Conclusion: conclusions are the inferences drawn after obtaining the results. Conclusion must be written in an informative and successive manner so that it becomes easy for the reader to make a hierarchy of thoughts regarding the outcomes of the study.
Formatting: One should not complain about the fact that single page is too short to write the whole idea. One should take advantage of the number of word limit given for abstract writing as too short abstract looks as bad as too long. The title should be put in header outside the text. One should use paragraphs and indents to separate blocks of texts with spacing slightly larger than line spacing. The space between lines should be 1.5 – 2.0. Short titles to the paragraphs may be given in informative abstracts which set them apart.
Other considerations: Some journals request that following the abstract 3-10 keywords or short phrases that capture the main topics of the article may be provided and identified by the author. These keywords will assist indexers in cross indexing the article.
“Don’t’s” in an abstract<br />
Avoid using long article like introductory sentences. Introduction must not exceed one or two lines
Details of material and methods adopted (highlight only the details of material and methods adopted). Methods should be provided in generic terms and not much detail which can be explained in final presentation
Descriptive names of institutions, registration numbers, and identification marks, etc.
References, tables and figures are not to be given in abstract
Future tense must not be used in abstract and it should look as if the paper is already written
Avoid using adverbs and adjectives
Avoid identifying yourself all too obviously, like “I have done this”
Conclusion: An abstract is a piece of hard work which makes an article or a research paper easy to comprehend, interesting to read upon and shorter to be indexed in database. Abstract writing is not an easy job. Take time to write the abstract, once you have written it go through it and let others read it. Reread it and go through it after one or two weeks. This will make you learn a lot about your own ideas. The positive criticism from your fellow researchers or colleagues will help in refining your ideas and misunderstanding and ambiguities will get clarified. Abstract should be simple, easy to comprehend, short and concise. <br />References:<br />Koopman, Phil. "
How to Write an Abstract"
http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html, April 2004.<br />Seminar on Scientific and Technical Writing, CCRH headquarters, March 2008<br />Dr Rajni Kant, Assembling and organizing data, Indian Council for Medical Research, March 2008<br />Johan Roorvck, Vincent Van Heuven, Guidelines for writing abstracts, http://www.leidenuiv.nl/hil/abstr.htm , Apr 1999<br />Authors: <br />
Dr. Archana Narang, M.D., Medical officer (Teaching), currently working as Co-Investigator in EMR project of CCRH on Autoimmune thyroiditis in collaboration with Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS). She has many credentials being author and co-author in several national and international publications. You can contact her at - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Saurav Arora, B.H.M.S. (Gold Medalist), currently working as Senior Research Fellow at SHMCH in a project on autoimmune thyroiditis. You can contact him at:- email@example.com,http://cinchonabark.wordpress.com
The art of abstract writing presented here is an endeavor to share the scientific culture amongst research minded fraternity.<br />