A researcher must be adept in preparing abstracts of scientific articles to make his literature collection easy and comprehensive. The art of abstracting is an intellectual and highly skillful job.
Abstract is a concise representation of the contents of a publication or an article, accompanied by adequate bibliographical descriptions to enable the publication or the article to be traced.
1. Purpose of an abstract is
(a) to help workers in the subject of. the article to decide whether the contents of the paper are such that they desire to read it in full.
(b) to give readers for whom the paper is of ” fringe ” interest as much of information as possible, so that it is unnecessary for them to read the whole paper.
(c) to expedite the work of the abstracting journals by making it possible for them to
reproduce immediately the author’s abstract which will be of great assistance
in the general improvement of information services in the scientific field.
The abstract should contain brief and factual summary of the contents and conclusions of a paper, should refer to any new information provided and give an indication of its relevance. New information should include observed facts, essential points of new method or treatment of newly designed apparatus etc.
Reference should be made to new materials, such as new compounds, new species or varieties or forms etc and new numerical data, such as physical constants.
3 . Presentation
(a) The abstract should be written in complete sentences using standard terms avoiding unnecessary contractions.
(b) It should be assumed that the reader has some knowledge of the subject discussed and that he may not refer to the actual paper summarized.
(c) It should be intelligible in itself without reference to the original paper.
(d) Specific references and citations should, in general, not be included in abstracts.
(e) The abstract should be as concise as possible and only in exceptional case should it exceed 200 words.
(f) The International Conference on Science Abstracting recommended that abstracts should be published in at least one or more widely used languages to enhance its international utility.
As abstract should fully identify original document, the bibliographic citation generally precedes the abstract proper. In some cases the abstract might precede the bibliographic citation. (1) Author/s, (2) Address of the author, (3) Title of the communication which includes sub-title, if any, (4) Locus – Title of the periodical, series, year, volume, issue number, page. Standard recommendations of bibliographic reference are followed while giving the citation.
A typical abstract may be considered to be of two main parts 1. citation and 2. the abstract proper.
The citation is the title of the document which is abstracted. The abstractor describes the aboutness of the document in such a way that it is easy to locate. A uniform format is to be followed for this.
The citation is title of the document at which is abstracted, The abstractor describes the about ness of the document in such a way that it is easy to locate. A uniform format is to be followed for this, with all bibliographic description.
The second part of the abstract is the abstract proper. It includes purpose, methodology, results and conclusion. Though complete standardization of this part is not feasible certain ground rule and principles can be followed. These are
The abstract should -
- indicate the exact boundary of the subject
– give, new thought embodied in the document
– provide most factual data
– avoid phrases such ‘ the paper deals with’ or ‘ paper briefly discusses ‘ so that economy of words is achieved.
– abbreviate wherever possible such as “K” for potassium Dis for disease.
– be written to form completely connected sentences and not as a list of headings.
The abstract should not –
– include any information which is conveyed by the title of the article.
- mention the details of sample used for study
- exceed 3 percent of the length of the paper and barring exceptional cases, it should not exceed 200 words.
Types of Abstracts
Different types of abstracts are being recognized on the basis of the information that they contain and the person who prepared them.
A. By the type of information
1. Titular Abstract
Titular abstract also known as title only abstract is the author’s title used without amplification to describe the contents of a document. Most titular abstracts are subject – oriented rather than findings -oriented.
2. Indicative / Descriptive Abstract
An indicative abstract points out what is in the original document, without attempting to substitute the original. This helps the reader to decide whether the original document should be read.
This embodies a general statement of the nature and scope of a document and characteristically do not contain qualitative and quantitative data. It provides clues to the reader whether the sought information is contained in the original article or not. It serves as a guide and is not a substitute for the original document. It often contains statements, such as “procedures… are given”, “effects…are discussed”, “a method… is described”, “diagrams…are included”, The length of this type of abstracts can be from 75 to 150 words. The indicative abstract has been proven to be an effective tool for providing current awareness services where the original documents are readily available.
Annotation is the amplified title of the author by adding a few words.
4. Mini-abstract or Micro-abstract
Mini-abstract or Micro-abstract is the highly condensed indicative abstract which provides only a line or two about the document.
5. Informative, Informational or Comprehensive Abstract
An informative abstract yields all basic pertinent information and facts so that it is not necessary to read the whole document. Also it summarizes all relevant arguments, data and conclusions. In certain eases, it might serve as an adequate substitute for the original for obtaining specific information. It is of 150 to 250 words.
6. Evaluative Abstract
Evaluative abstract, in addition to the summary of the principal arguments will comment on the worth of the original.
7. Selective Abstract
In this type of abstracts the information is condensed as per the needs of the user for example – executives, research managers etc.
B. By computer
Auto-abstracts is produced by a computer analysis of the frequency of the use of significant words in a document and of the frequency with which these “high frequency” words appear in the same sentence.
2. Telegraphic abstract or Standardized or Encoded abstract
Telegraphic abstract or Standardized or Encoded abstract is produced by selecting significant words from the document, assigning role indicators ( code symbols ) and punctuation symbols which separate and group the word into various meaningful units.
3. Statistical or numerical abstracts
Statistical or numerical abstracts presents data in tabular or numerical form. This technique is also applicable to scientific papers in which the author summarizes results in a data table, which can be reproduced with the citation to form an abstract.
C. By the type of writer of the abstract
1. Author abstract
Author abstract is the abstract prepared by the author of the document and forms a part of the original paper. This may be an indicative or informative abstract depending upon the nature of publication and the publisher.
2. Synopsis or homotopic abstract
Synopsis or homotopic abstract is a term adopted by the Royal Society of London and by the International Conference on Science Abstracting of UNESCO to describe an author’s summary of a scientific paper which is published simultaneously with the paper, after the editorial scrutiny. This term is now replaced by ‘Abstract’.
3. Subject Expert’s Abstract
Subject Expert’s Abstract is an informative or indicative abstract prepared by a peer in the specific discipline of the document either by education or by specialization and experience.
4. Professional abstractor prepared abstract
Professional abstractor prepared abstract is prepared by a individual who has high education and experience in some or all of the disciplines in which documents are abstracted. These abstracts may be of informative or indicative types depending upon the editorial policy of the secondary periodical and the nature of the document.
Techniques of abstracting
Abstracting is an intellectual process which demands the knowledge of the reader’s needs and also capacity to determine the nature of original document. Abstract is the result of analytico -synthetic processing of a document, which involves identification of the important information, organization of the information and writing. Learning the technique of abstracting is considered as on-the-job training. It is acquired with practice and experience. Generally accepted rules for good writing are applicable for writing abstracts also. Clarity, brevity and admittance of all the important information are the criteria for abstract writing. The rules for making author’s abstract hold good for general abstract writing.
Directions for Abstractors
Most of the abstracting periodicals have developed their own style manuals and guides, depending upon their specific needs. The assigned writer of an abstract is confronted by a document whose contents are unknown to him before scanning.
The following sequence may prove useful in identifying the key information.
– Generally the introduction indicates the objectives of the author in writing the paper.
– Read author’s abstract and use it only if it is found suitable .
– Review the summary and conclusions of the paper.
– Scan the text for methodology of the work, data and for additional information
– Jot down marginal notes and mark the important phrases and passages.
– Draft the abstract, read and further modify it until you are satisfied.
-Provide bibliographic description as per the policy of the secondary publication.
The abstract should contain the purpose, methodology ( only if it is new, ) results either positive or negative and conclusions.
The following criteria may be followed for determining the type of abstract to be prepared.
- Original articles from periodicals, conference proceedings and patents should be provided with informative abstracts
- Documents containing secondary information -reviews, technical reports, standards should be given indicative or descriptive abstract. Mathematical articles and Thesis are also given the same treatment.
- Short communications - letters to the editor, research communications etc are of two types. One the preliminary report where further work on the subject’ is in progress and the other, the complete report on a single aspect of subject. Indicative abstract may be provided for the former type and an informative abstract for the latter category of articles.
- When the title of the article is self evident of the subject of study and the results obtained, the title will serve the purpose of abstract. In such cases, a citation will be sufficient.
While writing an abstract the following points should be kept in mind
- Write in fluent, easy-to-read prose and strive for simplicity and general understandability.
– Be exact, concise, and unambiguous. Avoid general statements where you can be specific
- Condense but, as a general rule, do not personally interpret the author’s remarks.
– Be consistent in tone and emphasis while the document is being abstracted.
– Use short sentences, but with some variety in length and structure to avoid monotony.
– Use complete sentences and constructions.
- Place general statements, where needed, toward the end of the abstract.
-Use active-voice verbs instead of passive ones. “A exceeds B” makes a better reading than “B is exceeded by A”.
– The noun form of verbs makes dull rending. “Separating butadiene from butanes” reads better in an abstract than “the separation of butadiene from butanes”.
-Use the past tense to describe the specific activities that the author is reporting, since these are already in the past. However, the conclusion that he draws from these activities are therefore prevail in the present, accordingly they should be written in the present tense.
-Use short, simple, concrete, familiar words.
- Try to avoid trade jargon and colloquialisms.
- Avoid both over using and awkward omission of articles.
- Use well-known abbreviations and symbols in the field, e.g. NaCl (in Chemistry ), DNA and RNA (in Biology), TLC (in Analytical Chemistry) etc.
- When using abbreviations for units in combination with a number, omit periods and write the number as a numeral, e.g. 3 ft, 150 yd etc.
Quick Links to Related Articles : Browse to Bottom for More !