Final Step: Writing the Abstract:
The abstract is the first thing your readers will look at, but it is the last thing you will write. This is because the abstract is a summary of your paper and uses language taken directly from it.
An abstract is a brief summary which condenses in itself the argument and all the essential information of a paper. An abstract allows the reader to survey the contents of a paper quickly and decide whether to read the full text. It needs to be dense with information but also readable, well-organized, brief, and self-contained. Abstracts are generally 100-250 words long.
An Abstract Must Accurately Reflect the Paper It Summarizes:
An Abstract Must Be Self-contained
An abstract is a stand-alone document. You can not ask your reader to go to the paper itself for an understanding of what you say in your abstract.
Using Hall’s (2002) method of radiographic analysis, we sought to design a system for interpreting panoramic x-rays.
An Abstract Must Be Clear and Concise:
To investigate the relationship between pacifier use and early childhood caries, we conducted a search of four electronic bibliographic databases.
Analysis of a Sample Abstract (Peressini, 2003):
 This evidence-based study of the literature investigated the relationship between pacifier use (with and without sweetening and prolonged or short-term) and early childhood caries (ECC).  The review was based on evidence from 3 main sources: a search of several electronic bibliographic databases, a review of the references from relevant studies for additional potentially relevant articles, and a review of several dental textbooks.  A total of 74 articles were reviewed.  Of these, 8 were deemed relevant and were critically appraised according to a “causation checklist| of 13 items.  The 8 studies assessed were methodologically inconsistent in terms of definitions of ECC, diagnostic criteria for identifying carous lesions, dental examination procedures, interviewing methods, and description of pacifier use.  None of the studies achieved a score greater than 6 and hence none was considered to present strong evidence.  Six studies did not control for confounding variables, and the conclusions they generated were inconsistent.  The evidence from the other 2 studies, which did control for confounding variables, presented slightly stronger evidence, but they indicated no statistical difference in pacifier use between children with and those without ECC; furthermore, the reported odds ratios suggested that pacifier use might have had a mildly protective effect.  Overall, the evidence does not suggest a strong or consistent association between pacifier use and ECC.
 Identifies the nature of the article (evidence-based review of the literature) and the question investigated. Note how concisely Peressini describes the variables for pacifier use.
 Summary of the 3 types of sources used, introduced with a colon and separated with commas. Answers the question: “How did you do your search?”
 Gives the total result of the search.
 Narrows down to the final result of the search and states how the studies were evaluated.
 Overall summary of the assessment of the studies, identifying 5 methodological issues.
 Identifies the overall strength of the studies. Repeating the word ‘none’ reinforces that the overall strength was low.
 Summarizes the main weaknesses of most of the studies.
 This sentence discusses the two best studies and has two parts: the first summarizes their common strengths and the second (beginning with “but”) summarizes their weaknesses, which outnumber the strengths.
 The concluding sentence summarizes the paper’s conclusion. Note the structure: it begins with a summarizing word (“Overall”); reminds the reader that this is an evidence-based review (“the evidence”); uses a verb that offers a judgment (“does not suggest”) and finishes by reminding the reader of the problem being studied (“pacifier use and ECC”).
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