Fellows Research Day - Writing a Good Abstract

Updated:Oct 14,2013

Writing a Good Abstract
Title:
To the extent the data will permit, make the title dynamic and conclusive, rather than descriptive:

For example: "Hypoxia inhibits Kv1.5 channels in rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells" is preferable to "Effects of hypoxia on Kv1.5 channels."
Structure:
A good abstract should have the following identifiable sections: Background, Hypothesis, Methods, Results and Conclusions.
Category:
Be sure you select the correct category – basic science or clinical science. While selecting a category is often an afterthought, this determines which team grades the abstract. If you select the appropriate category, you're more likely to be graded by peers with similar interests and who are familiar with you or your work.
Common Mistakes:
1.     Failure to state the hypothesis. We advise formal statement such as, "We assessed the hypothesis that..."
2.     Failure to state a conclusion. We encourage a final sentence that says: "In conclusion, ..."
3.     Failure to state sample size. The reviewers want to assess the quality of the data -- they need a mean SEM and a sample size.
4.     Excessive use of abbreviations. All but the most standard abbreviations should be defined and most abstracts should have < 3 abbreviations.
Traps To Avoid:
1.     Typographical errors are extremely irritating to most reviewers.
2.     Don't cite references in the abstract.
3.     Provide some context/statement of relevance that provides the rationale for your study.
4.     Don't use complex graphics. Simple line or bar graphs work best. Make sure the font is adequate on each axis to be seen. Check a printed version of the abstract before submission.
5.     Don't leave abstract writing until the 11th hour -- this increases stress and leads to errors.
6.     Work that is duplicative is not well received.
How To Avoid Rejection:
Show your abstract to a colleague prior to submission -- incorporate their suggestions. It's best to take your toughest knocks at home!