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First impressions are very important. If your paper makes a bad initial impression, there is a very strong chance that the reader will quickly stop reading. It will also have a negative effect on referees - if they struggle to read your Abstract, they will expect the rest of the paper to be difficult too, and may only to look for evidence that confirms this initial impression, even if the rest of the paper is in fact quite readable.


What key skills are needed when writing an Abstract?


The key skills are to write an Abstract in a way that will enable:


• editors to make a quick decision on whether the paper is relevant to their journal (without having to read the whole paper) and is thus worth submitting to referees who will then judge the paper in its entirety


• a reader to identify quickly what the paper is about, to judge how relevant it is to their interests, and so to decide whether they should buy / read the whole paper or not. This process is sometimes known as ‘screening’.


• writing very clear and short sentences (max. 25 words, unless the sentence contains a list)


How should I structure my Abstract?


An Abstract generally answers at least the first three of the following questions, and generally in the following order. You can use the answers to these questions to structure your Abstract.


• Why did I carry out this project? Why am I writing this paper?


• What did I do, and how?


• What were my results? What was new compared to previous research?


• What are the implications of my findings? What are my conclusions and/or recommendations?


How should I begin my Abstract?


When you read an advertisement for a product it never begins The objective of this advertisement is to convince you to buy … Instead advertisers go straight to the point. Abstracts are like advertisements for your paper.

当你读一则产品广告的时候,广告绝不会像这样开始“这则广告的目的是说服你购买….” 广告人通常直接切入主题。摘要就是论文的广告。

You want your abstract to stand out so that there will be a better chance someone will notice it and read it. If you begin your abstract with commonly used phrases (by both native and non-native English speakers) such as This paper deals with …The aim of this paper … This article explores … We report … you are not differentiating yourself from the others. In fact, some journals advise against using such expressions.

想要您的论文摘要脱颖而出,让更多的读者注意到和阅读您的论文, 如果你论文一些常用的短语开始,比如:This paper deals with …The aim of this paper … This article explores … We report …,您的论文摘要就很难脱颖而出。事实上,有些杂志建议不要用这样的表达方式。

Below are two examples taken from abstracts in very different fields.



Original: In this paper we present the design and development of a highly innovative software application //, Transpeach, which allows mobile phone users to use their own native language when speaking to someone of another native language. The prototype version enables a Japanese mobile phone user …

Revised: To extend automatic translation from written to oral communication we developed Transpeach. This software allows, for instance, a Japanese mobile phone user to talk to a Greek counterpart in Greek, likewise the Greek’s words are automatically translated into Japanese.


Original: We present a procedure for the analysis of the content of // organic materials present in archaeological samples. The procedure allows the identification of a wide variety of materials within the same micro sample.

Revised:  Archaeological samples used for identifying organic materials are by necessity extremely small. We have found a way, which we believe is the first of its kind, to accurately identify glycerolipids, natural waxes, proteinaceous, resinous and polysaccharide materials within the same micro sample.

What should I not mention in my Abstract?


You should try to avoid:


• background information that is too generalist for your readers


• claims that are not supported in the paper


• terms that are too technical or too generic - this will depend on your audience


• definitions of key terms


• mathematical equations


• generic quantifications (e.g. many, several, few, a wide variety) and the overuse or unjustified use of subjective adjectives (e.g. innovative, interesting, fundamental).


• unnecessary details that would be better located in your Introduction, such as the name of your institute, place names that readers will not have heard of.


• references to other papers. However, if your whole paper is based on an  extending or refuting a finding given by one specific author, then you will need to mention this author’s name.


How can I assess the quality of my Abstract?


To make a self-assessment of your Abstract, you can ask yourself the following questions.


1.Have I followed the journal’s instructions to authors? Have I followed the right structure (i.e. structured, unstructured) and style (we vs passive)?


2.Have I covered the relevant points from those below?


background / context背景

research problem / aim - the gap I plan to fill研究问题/目的—我计划填补的methods研究方法


implications and/or conclusions 发现/结论

3.Have I chosen my keywords carefully so that readers can locate my Abstract?


4.Whenever I have given my readers information, will it be 100% clear to them why they are being given this information?


5.Can I make my Abstract less redundant? If I tried to reduce it by 25% would I really lose any key content?


6.Have I used tenses correctly? present simple (established knowledge), present perfect (past to present background information), past simple (my  contribution) 我的时态用对了吗?一般现在时(现有知识),现在完成时(过去到现在的背景信息),一般过去时(我的贡献)

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