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Part II Writing Skills_3rd year textbook.docx
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PART II Writing Skills

Writing Abstracts

  1. Definitions, purpose and reason for writing abstracts

  2. Qualities of a good abstract

  3. Types of abstracts and steps in writing effective abstracts

  4. Structure of a typical abstract and using key words

  5. Things to avoid and word limits.

  6. Sample abstracts

  7. Tasks and Activities

I. Definitions

1. An abstract is a condensed version of a longer piece of writing that highlights the major points covered, concisely describes the content and scope of the writing, and reviews the writing's contents in abbreviated form.

2. An abstract is a succinct summary of a longer piece of work, usually academic in nature, which is published in isolation from the main text and should therefore stand on its own and be understandable without reference to the longer piece. It should report the latter's essential facts and should not exaggerate or contain material that is not there.

Writing in chemistry is similar to writing in other disciplines in that your paper must have a clear purpose that explains why you are writing, a thesis statement or main idea that defines the problem to be addressed, and background information wherever necessary. In addition, you should include evidence in the form of figures, graphs, and tables to support your argument. Ideally, the abstract can be thought of as one or two sentences from each section of the paper that form a cohesive paragraph that summarizes the entire paper. The abstract should be single spaced unless you receive other instructions from your professor.

When writing an abstract, you should avoid too much experimental detail (e.g. concentration of stock solutions used) or preliminary results (i.e. "raw" data). In addition, make certain that the purpose of the experiment is stated clearly and early in the abstract. Ideally, it should be stated in the first or second sentence.

Purpose

Its purpose is to act as a reference tool (for example in a library abstracting service), enabling the reader to decide whether or not to read the full text.

Reasons

Two common reasons for writing an abstract are to summarize a longer piece of work published as a journal article, thesis, book or web page, an existing article for the purposes of a journal, or to submit an application to write a paper for a conference.

II. Qualities of a Good Abstract

An effective abstract has the following qualities:

  • uses one or more well developed paragraphs: these are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone.

  • uses an introduction/body/conclusion structure which presents the article, paper, or report's purpose, results, conclusions, and recommendations in that order.

  • follows strictly the chronology of the article, paper, or report.

  • provides logical connections (or transitions) between the information included.

  • adds no new information, but simply summarizes the report.

  • is understandable to a wide audience.

  • often uses passive verbs to downplay the author and emphasize the information. Check with your teacher if you're unsure whether or not to use passive voice.

III. Two types of abstracts are typically used:

  1. Descriptive Abstracts

  • tell readers what information the report, article, or paper contains.

  • include the purpose, methods, and scope of the report, article, or paper.

  • do not provide results, conclusions, or recommendations.

  • are always very short, usually under 100 words.

  • introduce the subject to readers, who must then read the report, article, or paper to find out the author's results, conclusions, or recommendations.

Proceed in the following way:

  • Make a list of all the topics covered in the research paper that need to be talked about.

  • Descriptive abstracts are short! No more than 100 words.

  • Simply introduce the subject to the reader.

  • Revise your abstract a few times to make sure it is clear and concise and that it reads in the same voice as the paper.

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