Abstracts (undergrad)

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This workshop begins by defining abstracts and their function in academic writing. We distinguish between informative and descriptive abstracts and show samples of each type. After we consider the writing process best used for writing abstracts, we conclude with a discussion of sample abstracts.

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  • In today’s presentation, I am going to describe the two most common types of abstracts and give you some tips on writing them. We will also look at a few examples of abstracts to make sure you understand the basic approaches to writing them.
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  •  You should read this and point out the parts—

    purpose (to investigate the effectiveness of CPR in a specific class for helping students learn to write scientific abstracts)
    methods (comparison of writing quality for abstracts written in with CPR with feedback and abstracts given feedback generated by Teaching Assistants)
    scope (a specific course, two classes, 50 students in one class and 256 in another). Scope includes what sort of setting CPR was examined in, as well as the number of abstracts compared. Notice this abstract does not give results. Its length is about 66 words.
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  • Note how this adds findings but not significance. This is because of the emphasis of the study—answering the basic research questions was more important than any larger significance. The quality of abstracts improved with CPR feedback more than with TA-generated feedback. Students also improved in their ability to review over the course of a semester, as measured by CPR. The total number of words is about 103.
  • A good way to remember what to include in an abstract (and the general organization) is to use IMRAD, which stands for Introduction (the problem the document addresses and any necessary background), Method (how the problem was approached), Results (what the writer concludes or discovers), and Discussion (the significance, application, recommendations, or implications of the results).


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  • Purple Text is Purpose – The purpose is clearly outlined and defined. The author does include extra details such as the dates and what he hopes to achieve (to clarify) but is concise enough
    Blue Text is Scope and Green text is Method – The author describes what is included, what data is analyzed. Additionally he mentions how he does this (part of the method).
    Orange Text is Conclusions. Additionally, this abstract includes some conclusions. Often, results are not included in a descriptive abstract but he does not mention specific results and just offers a general conclusion to his research.
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  • For more help writing an abstract, make an appointment with us at writingcenter.tamu.edu.
  • Abstracts (undergrad)

    1. 1. Writing Abstracts
    2. 2. What Is an Abstract? Summary of a longer document Describes content and scope of the document Highlights major points
    3. 3. Who Is the Audience? Researchers Scholars Conference organizers Conference attendees Readers Author Meier, K. V. Institution Western Ontario University, London, Ontario, Canada. Title A meditation on critical mass in the philosophy of sport. Source Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 1983. 10: 8-20. 38 ref. Abstract The paper explores the contemporary state, in North America, of philosophic interchange among scholars interested in the better understanding of sport. The emergence of scholarly writing in this area, and its development into an academic discipline, is followed by an analysis of the productivity of North American based philosophers of sport and a determination of the publication record in selected journals. Investigations revealed a lack of 'critical mass' - only 46 authors with two or more published works in the philosophy of sport during the years 1963-83. The paper concludes with an assessment of problems of direction, structure and content currently evident in a field which has not become a widely practiced specialty within the discipline of philosophy.
    4. 4. Not All Abstracts Are Alike Check the style guide or the instructions to authors for the conference or publication you are targeting. They may have specific guidelines. http://images.amazon.com/im ages/P/160329024
    5. 5. Descriptive Abstracts Introduce the subject in under 250 words Include the purpose, methods, and scope of the work Omit results, conclusions, recommendations
    6. 6. This study investigated the effectiveness of Calibrated Peer Review (CPR)™ in a senior-level biochemistry class for improving students’ ability to write scientific abstracts. The CPR process for feedback was compared with Teaching Assistant-generated feedback. Statistical analyses of three assignments by 50 students and a separate analysis of the abstract written by 256 students were used to measure differences in writing quality for each type of feedback. From: “Development of Student Writing in Biochemistry Using Calibrated Peer Review,” by Yasha Hartberg, Adelet Baris Gunersel, Nancy Simpson and Valerie Balester, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 2008.
    7. 7. Informative Abstracts Include the purpose, methods, and scope of work Also include results, conclusions, recommendations Range from a paragraph to a page or two, depending upon the length of the original work being abstracted
    8. 8. This study investigated the effectiveness of Calibrated Peer Review (CPR)™ in a senior-level biochemistry class to improve students’ ability to write scientific abstracts. The writing quality of scientific abstracts composed with feedback from CPR was compared with the writing quality of abstracts composed with Teaching Assistant-generated feedback. Statistical analyses of three assignments by 50 students indicated significant differences between CPR and Teaching Assistant feedback on student writing quality. While scores of students who received Teaching Assistant feedback decreased, scores of students who used CPR improved. Students also progressed over the course of a semester in CPR-generated measures of their reviewing abilities. From: “Development of Student Writing in Biochemistry Using Calibrated Peer Review,” by Yasha Hartberg, Adelet Baris Gunersel, Nancy Simpson and Valerie Balester, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 2008.
    9. 9. IMRaD • Introduction • Method • Results, and • Discussion
    10. 10. Abstracts must contain key words about what is essential in the main document. Key words are used to classify abstracts in databases. Effective key words allow researchers to search for your publication easily. Key Words
    11. 11. Checklist Have you included the following?  Subject  Scope  Purpose  Methods  Results  Recommendations, implications, or significance  Key words
    12. 12. This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi‐layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white‐flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti‐poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county‐level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi. Kenneth Tait Andrews, "'Freedom is a constant struggle': The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960‐1984" Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI‐A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998.
    13. 13. Write the Draft 1. Check style guidelines. 2. Re-read the original document. 3. In each major section, highlight key information. 4. Create a single paragraph using your own words. 5. Smooth it out with transitions.
    14. 14. Revise the Draft 7. Be sure you’ve included all necessary parts. Check the abstract against the original for accuracy. 8. Edit for wordiness. Check organization and transitions. 9. Double check guidelines and instructions.
    15. 15. A Good Abstract Is . . . Coherent Comprehensible to a wide audience Direct, concise, and clear
    16. 16. References Phillip Koopman.“How to Write an Abstract.” http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html University of Toronto.“The Abstract.” http://www.io.com/~hcexres/textbook/abstracx.html UWC TAMU. “Abstracts.” http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/how-to/science- technical/abstracts/
    17. 17. For More Help… Visit our website or call us to schedule an appointment. We can help you write an abstract for any context or discipline. 18

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