In this next module, we're going to talk about writing the abstract. This will be a short module, because after you finish writing your paper, it should be fairly easy to write your abstract. In fact, the word abstract means literally to pull out. So what you're going to do to write your abstract is to pull out snippets from the rest of your paper. It gives readers an overview of the main story of your paper. If you're writing the abstract last, it should be fairly easy to write because you're just highlighting bits and pieces from each section. It's usually short, which means you can use your skills in cutting clutter to make sure you fit within the word limits. Like tables and figures, the abstract has to stand on its own. And it's the part that most often is, people read. Sometimes people only read the abstracts and not the full text. One major caution I have on the abstract. One mistake I see commonly is that authors often write abstracts prior to writing the paper. Because maybe they want to present some data at a conference. So they rummage through their data quickly and throw together some abstract, just so they can present it at a conference. Then months later, when they actually would go to write up the paper, they're like, I already wrote that abstract. Great, I can just plug that abstract in my paper, and I'm going to start my whole paper there. Once you have something written, it feels like, wow, I've already got this written, I should use it. Why waste work? The problem with this is when you threw that abstract together months before. You probably hadn't nailed down all of the data analysis and the tables, and figures, and the story of your paper. It was probably very preliminary. That abstract that you wrote months ago is simply not going to fit into your final analysis. My recommendation is throw it in the garbage and start over. Start over on the abstract using the material in your newly written paper. Don't just try to modify it, that abstract that's months old. Again, it's really easy to write an abstract after you've written the paper, so I recommend always writing the abstract, last. Just throw out any old abstracts you might have hanging around. What should go in your abstract? Again, it's essentially just pulling out little bits from the rest of your paper. It's good to start with a one-sentence statements of some background. Give the reader some context, maybe motivate the importance of the work. Then, you're going to explicitly state the research aim or question, just like you did at the end of the introduction section. You're going to use that exact phraseology. We asked whether, we hypothesized that or we speculated that. Then you're going to give a quick summary of the experiments that you did. Obviously, you're not going to have room for a lot details, but give an overview of the methods. You can pull all these pieces right out of the method section, but make it minimal. Then you're going to give a couple of key results and just a few important numbers. Not too many. Then you're going to have a brief conclusion. You're going to answer the question that you asked or the hypothesis that you were testing in your study. You're going to give some kind of take home message about whether or not your hypothesis was proven. For example, did you find that breast cancer and smoking are associated? And then one more thing that I think is very important to put in. You need to have as Mimi Zeiger puts it, some kind of implication, speculation, or recommendation. So what that means is that, there's one sentence at the end of your abstract where you're going to go a little beyond, and give readers the why should I care? What's the implication, why does this research matter? I'm often scanning abstracts for articles to write about for the lay public, and I need to quickly discern the real world relevance of that research. So make sure you put that implication, speculation, or recommendation in at the end of your abstract. Now, abstracts come in two forms. They may either be structured where the journal says, hey, we want you to have something for each of these specific pieces with subheadings. Like, introduction, results, methods, the subheadings are fairly obvious. Or you may have a free form abstract, the structured ones are obviously a lot easier to write, I'm just going to through one example of a structured abstract. This is from that same BMJ Christmas issue study on email spam to academics. So it's a structured abstract so they go through the background, the objectives. The aim of the study was to assess the amount, relevance, content, and suppressibility of academic spam invitations to attend conferences, or submit manuscripts. So we're getting both the background and the questions asked. We get several pieces on the experiments done. What type of study was it? What was the setting? Who were the participants? These were five intrepid academics, just the five people who got together. Then we get some details about the main outcome measures. That's important but that's also part of the experiments done. Then we get the results found. At baseline, recipients received an average of 312 spam invitations each month. Unsubscribing reduced the frequency of the invitations by 39% after one month, but by only 19% after one year. So the suppressibility is not so good. Overall, 16% of spam invitations were duplicates and 83% had little or no relevance to the recipients. So we're getting to the amount and relevance of the email spam. And then the content, spam invitations were characterized by inventive language, flattery and exuberance. And they were sometimes baffling and amusing. Those were the main results, addressing all of the content relevancy, suppressibility and amount that they laid out as their objectives for this study. And then we get a big pictured conclusion, academic spam is common, repetitive, often irrelevant and difficult to avoid or prevent. So that's their take home message. That's one example of an abstract, but they're all going to be, hopefully, it's easy to write.