Tips on Writing an Abstract

by Ann Marie Kupinski, PhD, RVT Karmody Vascular Laboratory Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY

The following is a brief outline to help in the preparation of an abstract. There is no magic formula but these suggestions should result in a clear and concise abstract. Even though the content of an abstract may be important, if it is poorly written, it will not be accepted by the sponsoring organization. Every society will have it’s own specific requirements. Please be sure to read all instructions thoroughly prior to the start of writing the abstract for a particular meeting. The suggestions listed below may need to be adjusted depending on any special instructions provided by the sponsoring society.

  • The title should be brief usually containing fewer than 80 characters. It should represent the main focus of the work. Lengthy descriptions should be avoided. Expressions such as “Studies on…”, “Further investigations of…” or “Preliminary observations …” should not be used.
  • Following the title, the authors are listed. Here is another place to be concise. It is impossible to list every member of a laboratory or practice. Each author listed should have a vital role in the topic being presented.
  • A good abstract is probably more difficult to write than a good paper. The body of the abstract typically should be between 150-300 words and is usually written as a single paragraph. An author needs to write as if they are paying for every word! The abstract should begin with one or two sentences as an introduction to the topic. It has to function as a “hook” to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read on. The purpose of the study or report needs to be clearly stated.
  • The description of the methods should be kept to a minimum and should be specific. If the topic involves a unique methodology or is linked to a particular technique, then more of a description is required.
  • The results section should be the most extensive. Results should be presented in a sentence format. Tables, figures, and graphs are best left to the results section of a manuscript. Many societies and journals prohibit illustrations within an abstract. Make sure to indicate statistical significance in terms of p values, etc., following comparative data.
  • The discussion of the results should be limited to two or three sentences. References to previously published material are usually not allowed in an abstract. The final sentence should sum of the major conclusion of the study and give the “take home” message to the reader.