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How to write an undergraduate research abstract

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Writing a research abstract is about more than summarizing your research results. It's also an opportunity to generate excitement and enthusiasm for your research project. Often, it's the first step toward presenting your research at a conference or symposium. This presentation offers tips for writing a strong undergraduate research abstract.

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How to write an undergraduate research abstract

  1. 1. Writing small, communicating BIG: How to write a research abstract Crystal Snyder September 16, 2014
  2. 2. What is a research abstract, anyway?
  3. 3. What is the purpose of a research abstract? • Generate interest and excitement about your research • Get invited to present your research at a conference • Inform the audience about your topic • Attract an audience to your presentation, where they can learn more about your work
  4. 4. How do I write an effective research abstract? • Follow the instructions! • Know your audience • Be concise • Be interesting • Be informative
  5. 5. Who is this “audience” you speak of? • Usually two audiences: • The conference organizers • The conference attendees • They may or may not be specialists in your field • Always think of your audience first!
  6. 6. Anatomy of a research abstract • Title • Affiliations • Body - Introduction - Technical parts - Conclusion • Usually around 100-300 words, no figures/diagrams allowed
  7. 7. An effective abstract answers four questions: 1. What’s the problem/background to your research? 2. How did you approach the problem? 3. What did you learn? 4. Who cares?* *Hint: This is the question most abstracts miss!
  8. 8. 1 2 3 1 4
  9. 9. How could this abstract be stronger? • could the research question be stated more directly? (i.e. The purpose of the study is to compare…”) •who are the participants? How were they asked (survey? interview?) • if this is for a general audience, do we know what “appraisals” and “regulation strategies” mean? • Who cares? How can this information be used? What future directions does it suggest?
  10. 10. Examples Some examples across other disciplines – for future reference: http://goo.gl/PMRtM
  11. 11. Now we understand structure – what about style? • Remember, it’s a “first impression!” • Make it easy on your audience! • Consider clarity, concision, technical complexity (jargon, acronyms) • Pay attention to spelling and grammar
  12. 12. Tips for writing a strong abstract 1. Tell a story. Stories have both a clear purpose and a clear structure – don’t get hung up on the technical nature of an abstract. At its core, it’s still fundamentally a story about your research.
  13. 13. Tips for writing a strong abstract 2. What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness! If you don’t know what you are trying to say, your audience can have no clearer understanding of it.
  14. 14. Tips for writing a strong abstract 3. Tell them what time it is, not how the watch works Choose your details with care. Remember it’s an abstract – you must decide what is essential information.
  15. 15. Tips for writing a strong abstract 4. This is your abstract.
  16. 16. This is your abstract on jargon.
  17. 17. Example: “The scale of the human socio-economic- complex system is so large that it seriously interferes with the biospheric complex system upon which it is wholly dependant, and cultural evolution has been too slow to deal effectively with the resulting crisis.” —Paul R. Ehrlich is president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. (In SEED Magazine)
  18. 18. Translation: Humans are messing up the planet faster than we’re fixing it.
  19. 19. Tips for writing a strong abstract 4. Make every word do its job! In an abstract, every word counts. Ask yourself how each word and each sentence contributes to the abstract – is every word necessary?
  20. 20. Tips for writing a strong abstract 5. Read it aloud. We write with our eyes; we edit with our ears – if you trip up on a sentence, it probably needs more work.
  21. 21. Tips for writing a strong abstract 6. Have someone else read it. Get technical feedback from someone familiar with your work. Then have someone outside of your discipline read it – is it clear? Do they understand it?
  22. 22. How to make it easier for yourself • Always check the instructions first • Use a template if one is provided • Give yourself enough time • Get help with your writing, if you need it.
  23. 23. Where to go for more help • Your supervisor or mentor • URI staff • U of A Library: Undergraduate Research LibGuide • Student Success Centre (upcoming seminars!) • Centre for Writers •http://theprofessorisin.com/2011/07/12/how-tosday-how-to-write-a-paper- abstract/
  24. 24. 4th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium November 13, 2014 in CCIS Deadline for abstracts: October 3, 2014 Visit www.uri.ualberta.ca to apply
  25. 25. Upcoming events & seminars October 9 – How to apply for undergraduate research funding October 16 – “Talk Nerdy to Me”: Interdisciplinary communication for undergraduate researchers October 23 – How to design a research poster October 27 – Deadline: URI Stipend applications (for Winter 2015) October 30 – Poster design “bootcamp” Visit www.uri.ualberta.ca for details and to register!
  26. 26. For more information Crystal Snyder Undergraduate Research Coordinator, URI cs2@ualberta.ca 780-492-4183 2-701 SUB www.uri.ualberta.ca

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