Drafting Papers: The Abstract 2

Providing all the critical information in the Abstract can often seem difficult, since many points could usually be included, but word limits are generally very tight.

Fortunately, jotting down a summary of the rationale, objectives, what was done, findings and their implications is also helpful when writing Abstracts. Indeed, if one or more of these aspects are not included, the resulting Abstract will be uninformative. In extreme cases one sometimes sees poor abstracts such as the following:

 We have examined effects of wolf urine on distributions of deer grazing. The results show that it strongly influences the plants deer choose to graze. We discuss the implications of these findings.

This does not mention the location of the trials, the treatment(s), or the implications that urine (and presumably volatiles in it) could provide effective crop protection from grazing deer. Failing to mention these points will seriously damage chances of the paper being accepted. The results could be interesting, but it is impossible to tell from this Abstract. Thus, the whole paper must be read to find out if it is worth reading, but many readers (including potentially the editor or referees of the target journal) will not bother.

The Abstract could be greatly improved, simply by mentioning (in order) the rationale, the objective(s), what was done, the main findings and their implications (with a little modification), as follows:

 First the rationale. . .

 Substantial proportions of crops in northern Sucrosia are lost to grazing by deer (Cervus unreal) roaming from neighboring hills. Current methods for deterring the deer have been criticized for being inhumane, expensive and/or ineffective. It has been postulated that applications of synthesized volatiles from urine of wolf (subspecies imaginary) could be cheaper and more effective than current methods, but first it is necessary to determine whether wolf urine is an effective deterrent.

 Then the objectives and what was done. . .

To test the hypothesis that wolf (subspecies imaginary) urine is an effective deterrent, duplicate sets of three enclosures containing grass meadow surrounding plots of wheat, maize and pea crops were established. Wolf urine was applied around the perimeters of the plots in one set of enclosures, but not the other. Matched herds of deer were then introduced to each enclosure, and the proportions of the crops consumed in the plots surrounded by wolf urine and the other (control) plots were observed.

 Then the findings. . .

The deer rapidly consumed the crops in the control plots, but completely avoided plots that wolf urine had been applied around.

 And finally the implications. . .

The results indicate that urine of wolf subspecies imaginary is an effective deer deterrent.

The resulting Abstract is already much more informative. All that remains to be done is to link the statements, and add a little detail, as follows:

 Substantial proportions of crops in northern Sucrosia are lost to grazing by deer (Cervus imaginary) roaming from neighboring hills. Current methods for deterring the deer have been criticized for being inhumane, expensive and/or ineffective. It has been postulated that applications of synthesized volatiles from wolf (Canis lupis subspecies imaginary) urine could be cheaper and more effective than current methods, since the deer are believed to have a strong aversion to sites marked by the wolf. However, first it is necessary to determine whether wolf urine really is an effective deterrent. Therefore, duplicate sets of three enclosures containing grass meadow surrounding plots of wheat, maize and pea crops were established. Wolf urine was applied around the perimeters of the plots in one set of enclosures, but not the other. Matched herds of deer were then introduced to each enclosure, and the proportions of the crops consumed in the plots surrounded by wolf urine and the control plots were observed. The deer rapidly consumed the crops in the control plots, but completely avoided the treated plots for two days. The results indicate that volatiles in wolf urine are effective deer deterrents, and if they are identified and synthesized they may provide cheap, potent crop protection from roaming deer.

It should be stressed that this study is purely illustrative, it does not necessarily reflect interactions in any real area.


 Note:

This hypothetical case study are fictitious; it does not necessarily reflect real situations in any way. In addition, the example is ecological, partly because ecological examples are easier to understand for scientists generally than (for instance) quantum mechanical modeling.

Read the 1st part about drafting “the Title” here

Read the 3rd part about drafting “the Introduction” here


 Reference:

Blackwell, J., & Martin, J. (2011). A scientific approach to scientific writing (pp.16-17). Springer Science & Business Media.

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