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Abstract Writing Workshop

[month] [date], [year]


Overview

 Abstracts—The Basics
 Before Writing an Abstract—Considerations
 Writing an Abstract—The Process:
 Draft
 Review
 Revision
 Final proofread
 A Few Reminders…

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Abstracts—The Basics

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The Basics: What an Abstract Is/Isn’t

 What is an abstract?

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The Basics: What an Abstract Is/Isn’t (cont.)

 An abstract is:
 A brief summary (written according to specific
submission guidelines) of a longer work:
– A presentation/poster for conference
– A paper for a journal

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The Basics: What an Abstract Is/Isn’t (cont.)

 An abstract is not:
 Your presentation/poster or paper (however well done
it may be)
 An outline of your presentation/poster or paper
 A rough draft of your presentation/poster or paper
 A summary of your presentation/poster or paper— if it
is NOT written according to submission guidelines
provided

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The Basics: Audience

 Who reads abstracts?

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The Basics: Audience (cont.)

 Abstracts are read by:


 Reviewers (conference heads, review committee
members, journal editors, etc.); and, once accepted—
 Other researchers/people in your field
– Conference attendees
– Journal readers

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Abstracts: Purpose

 What purpose(s) do abstracts serve?

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Abstracts: Purpose (cont.)

 Abstracts—
 Help reviewers decide whether a presentation (or
paper) would be a good fit for the conference (or
journal)
 Help conference attendees (readers) decide whether
they want to see/read the presentation/poster (or
paper)
 Enhance people’s understanding of a presentation (or
paper) by highlighting the most important points

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Abstracts: The Bigger Picture

 And if your abstract is accepted, then what?


 Then it becomes part of “the bigger picture”—earning
you the opportunity to present at a conference or
publish in a journal.
 What are the benefits of presenting or
publishing?

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Abstracts: The Bigger Picture (cont.)

 Benefits of presenting/publishing:
 Informing your peers of the important work your are
doing
 Contributing to the evidence-based bank of
knowledge in your field
 Increasing your/your organization’s (and your donor’s)
visibility and credibility
 What may be some benefits unique to
presenting at conferences?

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Abstracts: The Bigger Picture (cont.)

 Benefits that may be unique to presenting at


conferences:
 Increases visibility on literal/physical level
 Has more immediate impact
 Setting offers more opportunity for
dialogue/exchange, networking, building new
alliances and partnerships
 May be especially well-suited to sharing best
practices, innovations still under development and
new thinking/emerging

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Abstracts: Submission Guidelines

 What an abstract should look like depends


on the abstract submission guidelines
provided by the journal/conference. It may—
 Be 150 to 350 words in length
 Be structured or unstructured
– If structured, headings to include may vary
 Use any font type and point/size (typically Arial or
Times New Roman, 12 point)
 Contain references, graphics, etc. (but typically not)

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Abstracts: Take-Away Message

There is no one way to do an abstract. What’s


“right” for a particular abstract depends largely
on the abstract submission guidelines provided
by the particular conference/journal.

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Abstracts: Making Them Good!

 What makes a good abstract?

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 A good abstract—
 Is well-written
 Is audience-friendly
 Sparks interest!
 Follows the abstract submission guidelines
provided by journal/conference

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 What makes an abstract well-written?

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 A well-written abstract:
 Is clear/concise, focused, well-organized, etc.
 Is factually sound
 Is specific rather than vague
 Reflects the overall idea of the paper/presentation

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 What makes a piece of writing audience-


friendly?

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 An audience-friendly abstract:
 Can be understood by an external audience,
preferably in one quick read-through
 Incorporates standard terminology (“key words”)
 Avoids confusing terms, jargon, overuse of
abbreviations
 Provides adequate context (who, what, where, when,
etc.) for reader to make sense of program/study

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Abstracts: Making Them Good! (cont.)

 Why is it important for your abstract to be


understandable in one quick read-through?

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Abstracts: Take-Away Message

If your abstract is hard to understand, the reviewer


is not likely to choose it—no matter how great
your program/study is. Your abstract should
make it easy for the reviewer to understand and
appreciate your good work.

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Before Writing an Abstract—
Considerations

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Considerations—Is the Timing Right?

 What are some things you should think


about BEFORE you start on an abstract?

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Considerations—Is the Timing Right? (cont.)

 Make sure that you should submit an


abstract at this time…
 Is it a good “fit” for this journal/conference?
 Is it ready to be shared?
 Do you have adequate resources available?

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Considerations—Is the Timing Right? (cont.)

“If I had more time, I would have written


something shorter.”

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Considerations—Take-Away Message

Don’t be fooled by their size! Although short,


abstracts are not easy to write. They take
considerable time and effort. Think seriously
before jumping in.

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Considerations—Submission Guidelines

 Review the abstract submission guidelines


provided—
 For developing these abstracts:
– What is the word limit?
– What headings should be used?
– Other abstract specifications?

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Considerations—Submission Guidelines
(cont.)
 Review the abstract submission guidelines
provided (cont.)—
• What “track” (and theme, if applicable) does it fit
under?
• Choose the one that best reflects what your presentation can
and will deliver.

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Considerations—Submission Guidelines
(cont.)
 Review the abstract submission guidelines
provided (cont.)—
 For submitting these abstracts:
– What other information should be submitted along
with the abstract?
– How/to whom/by whom/when should it be
submitted?

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Considerations—Take-Away Message

Don’t wait until the last minute to find out all that is
involved in the abstract submission process. You
don’t want any big surprises as you are nearing
the deadline.

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Considerations—Authorship
 Determining authorship (whose names are
included and in what order) can be very tricky.
 It is NOT intuitive (e.g., the person who does the most
work is not necessarily listed first)
 Mistakes can have serious consequences for you and
your organization
 There may be limits or other specifications indicated
in the submission guidelines

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Considerations—Authorship (cont.)
 Some tips for determining authorship:
 Review/discuss contractual agreement with
partners/donors
– Identify any other acknowledgements required
 Draft a tentative list and have all parties sign-off on it

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Considerations—Final Review/Approval

 Work with your supervisor, program head,


director, etc., to determine:
 The need for final review/approval of the abstract
 Who should give it

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Writing an Abstract—
The Process

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Writing an Abstract—The Process:

 Draft
 Review
 Revision
 Final proofread

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract

 Build time into your process for a DRAFT


 This means:
 Making your best attempt at a submission-worthy
abstract (rather than a rough outline)*
 Following the abstract submission guidelines (e.g.,
sticking to word limit) `
 Including a title and the required headings
 Listing authors (indicate if review/approval is pending)
 Identifying track/theme, if applicable

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract (cont.)

 Title—

Which of these titles is more effective and why?

On-the-job training (OJT) to improve health post nurses’


provision of IUD services in rural Kenya

Strengthening family planning skills of health workers in


low-resource settings

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract (cont.)

 Title—

Which of these titles is more effective and why?

Results of an analysis of pre-service education in Indonesia

Recommendations for strengthening midwifery education


systems in Indonesia: Results of an analysis

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract (cont.)

 An effective title—
 Is specific
 Provides context
 Gives a clear idea of the overall point of the paper
 Uses terms the reader will understand

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract (cont.)
 Content—
 Background (sometimes: Context, Objective,
Rationale, Purpose)
 Methods (sometimes: Design, Materials and
Methods, Interventions)
 Results (sometimes: Outcomes, Results and
Discussion)
 Conclusions (sometimes: Implications, Lessons
Learned)

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract—Background

 Content—
 Background – What problem does your project seek
to address, and what was the project aim? (For a
study: What research question does your study seek
to answer, and what was the study aim?)
 Methods
 Results
 Conclusions

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract—Methods

 Content—
 Background
 Methods – What interventions were implemented to
address this problem/situation? (For a study: What
materials and methods were used to find the
answer?)
 Results

 Conclusions

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract—Results

 Content—
 Background
 Methods
 Results – What happened as a result of what was
done? (For a study: What were the exact findings?)
 Conclusions

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The Process: Drafting an Abstract—Conclusions

 Content—
 Background
 Methods
 Results
 Conclusions – Based on the results, what are the
next steps/recommendations or overall implications
for this or similar programs/studies?

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Let’s take a closer look at the example…

 Overall, is the example:


 Well-written?
 Audience-friendly?
 Interesting?

 How could it be improved?

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The Process: Review of the Abstract

 Build time into your process for REVIEW


 This means having someone else look at
your draft critically, from the perspective of
an “outsider,” helping to ensure that it is:
 Appropriate and relevant to journal/conference call for
abstracts
 Responsive to abstract submission guidelines
 Well-written, audience-friendly, etc.

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The Process: Review of the Abstract (cont.)

 The ideal “outsider” reviewer:


 Is familiar with, but not directly involved in, your
study/project
 Is familiar with journal/conference call for abstracts
(provide them with a hard copy of or link to abstract
submission guidelines)
 Has time available

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The Process: Review of the Abstract (cont.)

Selected “team” reviewers (coauthors,


program colleagues, supervisors) should
also review the abstract to confirm that it is:
 Factually accurate
 Responsive to partner/donor agreements
 Organizationally appropriate/strategic

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The Process: Review of the Abstract (cont.)

 Tips for reviewers:


 Be familiar with the call for abstracts and abstract
submission guidelines
 Comment on at least one strength
 Identify errors and correct them if possible
 Identify weakness and make specific suggestions for
addressing them
 BLAME IT ON SOMEONE ELSE!

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The Process: Revision of the Abstract

 Build time into your process for REVISION


 This means:
 Reviewing/evaluating reviewer feedback
 Asking the reviewer for clarification (and even getting
a second opinion), if needed
 Making changes, if needed

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The Process: Final Proofread and Final Approval

 Build time into your process for a FINAL


PROOFREAD
 This means:
 Running spell-check – a very important but easy-to-
forget step!
 Having someone else do a quick read-through to find
typos
 Get final review/approval (if applicable) and
submit!
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A few reminders…
 Review the abstract submission guidelines well
before getting started
 Print them out and keep them handy throughout the
process
 Schedule enough time for all parts of the abstract
development process
 KEEP IN MIND the abstract’s purpose and audience
 Have someone review your draft critically and
provide feedback
 Look to your colleagues as resources
 Don’t forget the final proofread!
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